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updated: 6/27/2014 8:38 AM

Ask the House Detective: Home inspector says nothing about mold

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Q. When we bought our house, the home inspector included pictures of the foundation under the building. In one photo, there are black stains that look like mold, but nothing about mold was mentioned in the report. Now we are also finding mold on the walls in the basement. Why would a home inspector say nothing about mold in his inspection report?

A. There are two probable reasons why your home inspector said nothing about mold in his report:

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• He may have failed to see the mold. In that case, he may not have done a thorough inspection in general, and a second inspection would be advisable to see what other defects were missed.

• Mold inspecting is actually outside the scope of the standards of practice for home inspection. Therefore, many home inspectors simply ignore mold, even when it is obviously visible. In my opinion, that is not a wise or equitable practice. Although a home inspector may not be professionally qualified to identify mold in a definitive sense, saying nothing about an observable condition is professionally negligent.

When mold is apparent in a building, a home inspector can simply state that stains were observed and that further evaluation by a qualified mold specialist is recommended. In that way, the home inspector has provided competent disclosure without exceeding the scope of the profession. Home inspectors who say nothing about visible mold-like conditions are not using good judgment and are not representing the interests of their clients.

Q. We just sold our home and are buying a new spec house. Our agent said it's not necessary to have a new home inspected because of the one-year builder's warranty. She said we should wait about 10 months and then get an inspection before the warranty expires. Does this sound like good advice to you?

Also, do you think the final walk-through inspection with the builder will cover any significant defects? And finally, do people usually have home inspections on new homes?

A. Waiting 10 months to have your new home inspected is not a good idea. When you are in escrow, the builder is motivated to get the sale closed and will be more likely to comply with repair requests now than 10 months after the sale. Therefore, waiting to have a home inspection at a later date is a needless gamble.

Home inspections for new homes are becoming increasingly popular. A truly qualified inspector can find defects in any new home, regardless of the quality of construction or the competence and integrity of the builder. It is simply a law of human nature that anything man-made will not be perfect.

Relying on the final walk-through with the builder, in lieu of a home inspection, is not a good idea. For example, the walk-through inspection will not include a walk on the roof, a crawl through the attic, opening of the electrical panels, testing of outlets, and much more. A disinterested third party with expertise in property inspection is a more reliable way to conduct that final inspection.

• 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.

2014, Action Coast Publishing

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