Buyers disappointed with home inspector

Q: When we purchased our home, the home inspector didn't want us to attend the inspection. He simply mailed us the report. Since moving in, we've found defects that were not listed in the report, and now we feel that our presence at the inspection should have been allowed. Among the undisclosed problems were ungrounded outlets and several venting problems affecting furnace safety (discovered by the man from the gas company). I guess not being allowed at the inspection should have been a red flag. What are your thoughts on this?

A: Refusal to permit buyer participation at a home inspection is definitely a red flag: in fact, it's inexcusable. No home inspector with a healthy understanding of the profession would deny homebuyers the right to attend their own inspection. The buyers are paying for the service and have every right to be present during the process. Inspectors who limit buyer participation have no concept of the service business they are in and should either reevaluate their professional function or find another way to make a living. It's a matter of attitude: realizing that the purpose of the inspection is to provide buyers with a thorough understanding of the condition of the property being purchased. A home inspector should be the buyers' private consultant and advocate. That's the essential approach. Otherwise, all other aspects of the inspection become suspect, particularly the thoroughness of disclosure. Unfortunately, you have learned this lesson the hard way, having now discovered undisclosed defects in your home.

The ungrounded outlets should have been tested and reported, as part of common procedure for a qualified home inspector. Failure to have done so was evidence of professional negligence. Additionally, evaluating the condition and performance of the furnace was also part of common practice for a qualified inspector, as these can significantly affect the safety of occupants in a home.

An important question in your situation is, "Were you represented by a licensed real estate agent?" Real estate professionals typically arrange for their buyers either to attend the home inspection or at least to meet with the inspector at the end of the inspection for a full review of the findings and the opportunity to ask questions. Lack of adequate representation, or no representation at all, can adversely affect the outcome of a real estate purchase.

A question of even greater importance is, "How many additional defects remain undisclosed?" This uncertainty can only be resolved by having another home inspection, performed by the most thorough, experienced, and well-reputed home inspector you can find. Call a few real estate offices in your area and ask who is known for meticulous investigative detail. Find someone who has many years of experience in the business, who is a member of a recognized home inspector association, and who welcomes you with open arms to the inspection.

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

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