Disgruntled buyer condemns home inspectors

Q: Your repeated endorsement of home inspectors should be taken with a large grain of salt. When I bought my home, the inspector approved the roof without ever having looked at it. After moving in, I had two roofing contractors evaluate the roof, and both said it was totaled. I called the inspector back to the house and showed him the damaged shingles and the rotted rafters in the attic. To my surprise he admitted he hadn't crawled in the attic nor walked on the roof during his inspection. He said the seller had assured him the roof was in good condition. I filed a small claims action and recovered all but $500 of the cost of roof replacement. My advice to your readers is to hire plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc., rather than wasting money on home inspectors.

A: Given your recent experience, you certainly can't be blamed for some anger and disillusionment with regard to home inspectors, but don't let one bad apple turn you off to apple pie. If you had hired an incompetent plumber, or if an inept auto mechanic had messed up your transmission, would you disavow the competence of all plumbers and mechanics? Probably not.

A wide range of aptitude and competence can be found in every profession, from the skilled to the inept, and from the exemplary to the reprehensible. Every profession has its individuals who set the standards in their fields and crafts, as well as those who denigrate those standards: some who reinforce and some who diminish the overall reputations of fellow professionals. This is true in all areas of human endeavor, from doctors to mechanics, from teachers to painters, from politicians to home inspectors. Whatever the practice or pursuit, those who conduct themselves with integrity and competence should not be judged by the faulty performances of others.

In the locale where I do business, all home inspectors walk on roofs and crawl through attics as part of their inspection services. In fact, industry standards, as set forth by the American Society of Home Inspectors and similar associations, require that roofs and attics be inspected, as long as those portions of the building are readily accessible.

Accessibility of a roof might be compromised by steepness, height or weather conditions. Accessibility of an attic might be limited by low clearance or storage of personal property. Otherwise, they should be inspected.

The most surprising aspect of your disappointing home inspection was your inspector's reliance on seller disclosure when reporting the condition of the roof. Seller disclosure may serve as a lead to further investigation, but never as a final conclusion to be reported to buyers, nor as an excuse to forego direct inspection.

Next time you buy a home, be sure to research the available home inspectors in your area. Find someone with a well-established reputation for detailed disclosure and professional competence. If you choose carefully, you'll have a much better home inspection experience.

• 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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