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posted: 4/5/2013 4:39 AM

Agent tells buyers not to attend home inspection

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Q. We are in escrow to buy a home, and we hired the home inspector who was chosen by our real estate agent. When we asked if we could attend the inspection, our agent said this was not necessary and that most homebuyers don't. Not knowing any better, we agreed and waited for the inspection report.

Since then, we've read articles that say an agent should give buyers a list of home inspectors from which to make their own choice. Now we want to hire an inspector of our own to do a second inspection, but we don't want to offend our agent. At the same time, we don't want to buy a money pit because we didn't get a good inspection. What do you advise?

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A. Choosing your inspector, rather than allowing you to choose for yourselves, may or may not have been a bad thing. Some agents choose inspectors who are competent and highly qualified, while others choose inspectors whose work is substandard. Likewise, there are agents who give their clients a list of competent home inspectors, while others provide lists of less qualified inspectors.

Your agent's big mistake was advising you not to attend the inspection. Agents who are honest and ethical do not give that kind of misleading advice to clients. Your presence at the home inspection was more than just a good idea. It was essential.

You are on the verge of making an extremely high-cost investment. The home inspector was there for one purpose -- to educate you about the condition of the property so that you could make a prudent purchase decision.

In advising you not to attend the inspection, your agent limited your exposure to the information you needed from your inspector. Again, that is not something that an ethical agent would do.

A second inspection by a home inspector of your choice is not a bad idea, and you shouldn't worry about whether this is objectionable to your agent. It was his or her job to protect your financial interests. If your agent is not performing that duty, then you should do it for yourselves.

Q. I paid a plumber to inspect my home before I bought it, and he said everything was OK. No leaks or any other issues were found. But since moving in, I've had several problems with the toilets and drains. Is the plumber liable for the repairs?

A. Whether the plumber is liable depends on the kinds of plumbing problems involved. If the defects were apparent at the time of the inspection, then the plumber should make the necessary repairs. You should call him and request he reinspect the problem areas.

Before buying your home, you should have hired a home inspector, not just a plumbing inspector. There are many issues besides plumbing that should have been considered when you were buying the home.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Action Coast Publishing

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