Q. My agent gave me a list of local home inspectors, but she expressed no preference for any particular one. When I asked her for a definite recommendation, she said her broker had a rule against referring home inspectors, for reasons of liability.
Being from out of town, I have no idea which inspector to choose, and I just wish my agent would give me some direction or advice. What do you suggest?
A. Liability and the fear of it have become defining forces in nearly every field of business, particularly among people in the real estate profession. Even when agents would like to recommend a top-quality home inspector, lawsuit anxieties are there to complicate and cloud the picture.
The reason for this fear is simple; agents can be blamed for errors made by home inspectors they recommend. When a home inspector is sued for professional negligence, agents can also be named as defendants. Realtors hoping to provide qualified inspectors for their clients are therefore faced with a perplexing dilemma: to recommend an inspector of preferred choice or to give you an undefined list of inspectors for your own choosing. Fortunately, there is another alternative.
Rather than giving buyers a list of names and numbers, agents can provide detailed information prepared by the inspectors themselves. To initiate this process, agents could request a resume or flier from each available home inspector. A packet of pertinent qualifications could then be presented to every homebuyer. Fliers would contain details of the inspectors' credentials and levels of experience. Buyers would then have a means of comparing qualifications and could call inspectors for additional information.
By equipping buyers with adequate information furnished by the inspectors themselves, agents can meet the disclosure needs of their clients without recommending anyone in particular and without incurring needless liability. Buyers could then make an educated choice, rather than a shot in the dark.
Before hiring a home inspector, interview all prospects to compare relative qualifications and experience. Request a sample report from each inspector, and try to find someone with many years in the business.
Q. The house I'm buying was just checked by a home inspector. He recommended installing a vapor barrier on the ground surface under the building because there are no vent openings. What exactly is a vapor barrier, and is it required by code?
A. A vapor barrier is a plastic membrane spread over the ground surface beneath a building. Its purpose is to reduce humidity in the crawl space to prevent moisture condensation on the subfloor and framing. When subarea moisture condenses on wood members, fungus infection can cause structural damage. If your foundation area is not adequately vented, a vapor barrier may be the best solution.
According to the building code, a vapor barrier is an alternative means of reducing humidity in the subfloor area. The primary method is to install screened vent openings at the perimeter foundation. In some cases, the layout of a building or the method of construction prevents adequate venting of the subarea. That's when a vapor barrier is specified as an alternative solution.
• 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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