Q. We are currently buying a home and are troubled about our recent home inspection. Our agent recommended this inspector as the one she always uses, and she advised us not to attend the inspection, saying that most buyers do not attend home inspections. We have since learned that most agents give buyers a list of three home inspectors, advising them to choose one. We would actually like to hire another home inspector for a second opinion, but we don't want to offend our agent. We can't afford to buy a fixer-upper and are wondering what we should do. What do you recommend?
A. Choosing a home inspector can sometimes be a sticky problem, especially when you rely on someone else's choice rather than your own. When referrals come from Realtors, the results can be good or bad, depending on the agent. Some Realtors recommend qualified home inspectors and some do not. Some give a list of three qualified home inspectors, and some give lists of mediocre inspectors. Therefore, whether you were given a list or a single referral is not a determining factor.
The red flag in your situation was your agent's advice not to attend the inspection. No knowledgeable, experienced agent who is honest and ethical would give such misleading advice to a client. Your presence at the inspection was not only a good idea; it was essential. You are on the verge of making an extremely expensive investment. Your home inspector is there to educate you about the condition of the property so you can make a wise purchase decision. What your agent did was to limit your exposure to the information you need from your inspector. Again, this is not something an honest and ethical agent would do.
A second home inspection is definitely a good idea, and you should not worry about whether this is objectionable to your agent. It is her job to protect your financial interests. If she doesn't perform that duty, you need to do it for yourself. If a second inspection reveals defects not found by the first inspector, your agent should reimburse you for the first inspection.
Q. I read an article you wrote in 2007 on the subject of "interior vented fireplaces." You seemed to be suspicious of their inherent safety, and I wonder if you are of the same opinion today.
A. An interior vented fireplace is a gas fixture without a chimney. It vents combustion exhaust directly into the home, rather than to the exterior of the building. Regardless of improvements that may have been made in newer models of ventless gas fireplaces, the opinion in my previous article was based on basic facts that do not change. Combustion exhaust is not healthy to breathe and the moisture from gas combustion can promote the growth of mold.
The manufacturers of interior vented fireplaces claim there is no possible way for the safety backup systems in their products to fail. This defies common sense. The sun has never risen on a man-made device which is that perfect. Everything that is produced by human hands is less that 100 percent foolproof. Therefore, the possibility of failure should not be dismissed.
If you are determined to have one of these fixtures in your home, be sure to install carbon monoxide alarms in your home, and be sure to test them monthly.
• 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.
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