Agent mishandles home inspection

Q: Before we bought our home, our agent assured us that she would hire a home inspector and handle all the details. We were first-time buyers and had no idea how the inspection process works. We were not told when the inspection would take place, and we never got to meet the inspector. What's more, we never received a copy of the report. Instead, our agent simply told us that "everything checked out." So we trusted her and bought the home.

Since then, we've paid more than $30,000 to repair the roof, the well, the septic system and dry rot damage in the subfloor. The sellers won't take responsibility for all of these undisclosed problems, and our agent says, "The buyer must beware." We feel totally used and want to know if this is the way unsuspecting buyers are routinely treated by real estate agents?

A: Your experience is frustrating and unfair, but it is definitely not the norm. Your agent had a responsibility to represent your financial interests but clearly did not do so. Not only was the home inspection process derailed, but your agent was sorely out-of-line when quoting the old "buyer beware" caveat. That attitude has no place in today's real estate market, where total disclosure is the name of the game.

Your agent should have invited you to attend your home inspection, to meet your inspector, and to discuss the inspection findings at that time. Above all, you should have received a copy of the inspection report long before the deal closed. What is the point of an inspection if you don't receive the information provided by the inspector?

In addition to a home inspection, there should have been specialty inspections by a septic contractor, a well contractor and a pest control operator. Finally, it should have been up to you to determine which conditions were matters of concern. It was not up to your agent to decide for you which conditions supposedly "checked out."

In all of these respects, you were denied the advice, support, guidance and disclosure one rightfully expects from an ethical and reliable agent. For these reasons, your agent should be held to account for the repair costs you have incurred.

Q: When I bought my home, the inspector advised me to consult the building department to verify final approval of the construction. Unfortunately, I neglected to do this. After the sale, I learned that final signoff on the property never took place. The seller and the agents didn't disclose this because no one knew, so now I'm stuck with a home that was never approved for occupancy. Who is liable in this situation?

A: If the home inspector advised you to check for permits, you should have followed that recommendation. Therefore, the liability is your own. However, the original builder may still bear some liability, depending upon the age of the building. Regardless of liability, you'll need to call the local building department for a final inspection. At that point, you'll learn what they require for final approval. You may even get lucky and receive a signoff without having to perform major corrective work.

• 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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