Inspection report not a repair list for sellers
Q: We hired a home inspector to evaluate the home we're buying, but now we're wondering if it was worth the money. The inspector provided a long list of problems, but when we asked the sellers to repair them, they threatened to cancel the escrow. According to the inspection report, all of the items listed need to be repaired, including problems with electrical wiring, the furnace, skylights, gates, walkways and a lot more. What's the good of having a home inspection if we have to buy the house as-is? Shouldn't the sellers repair the defects?
A: The purpose of a home inspection is not to produce a mandatory repair list for the sellers. It is to inform you of the condition of the property by disclosing the visible and accessible defects, even the ones that are routine in nature. This enables you to know what you are buying before you buy it. A common mistake among some homebuyers is to serve the seller with an inspection report as if it were a legal notice of mandated repairs.
This does not mean you can't make reasonable repair requests of a seller. But many of the conditions found by home inspectors involve routine maintenance: items that do not require immediate attention. Repair requests that are commonly accepted by sellers involve safety issues such as electrical defects or problems with gas-burning fixtures, such as water heaters and furnaces. Roofing and plumbing leaks also fall within the purview of reasonable repairs to be requested of sellers. Routine defects, however, such as gate and door adjustments, leveling of walkways, cleaning the roof gutters, or soiled carpets are included in inspection reports for disclosure purposes only, to provide guidelines for future maintenance.
Unfortunately, many transactions fall out of escrow because buyers use a home inspection report as a redress of grievances. A prudent approach is to weigh the importance of every disclosure, with the understanding that there is no such thing as a flawless house.
Q: We are trying to add a gas lighter to our fireplace but have run into a problem. The fireplace already has a gas pipe and valve, but when we installed a new log lighter, the burner would not light, and no gas seems to be coming through. Our home inspector said something is wrong with the gas piping, possibly inside the wall. We're wondering how we can fix this at minimal expense, possibly by doing it ourselves. What do you suggest?
A: When you're dealing with faulty gas piping, safety is more important than cost. Now that your home inspector has done a preliminary evaluation, it's time to let an expert do the rest. Potential causes could be a blocked or disconnected gas line or a faulty valve, possibly within a wall cavity or other concealed portion of the building. This is a job for a licensed plumber, not a handy homeowner. Don't attempt to evaluate or repair faulty gas piping on your own. The additional expense could prevent your whole house from becoming a fireplace.
• 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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