Don't condemn all home inspectors

Q: I am thoroughly disgusted with the home inspection profession. Before buying my home, I hired the inspector who was recommended by my agent. First of all, $500 is a lot of money to pay someone just to flush the toilet and inform me there are rust stains on the bottom of the kitchen sink.

What's more, the inspector referred me to a structural engineer just because of a tilted foundation pier in the crawl space. Couldn't I perform my own basic inspection with some sort of checklist and then call a licensed contractor if a problem was apparent?

A: The best and worst practitioners can be found in every field of work. If an entire profession can be judged by one individual's performance, we could justifiably condemn the value of any occupation. A more qualified home inspector might have disclosed a longer list of defects. On the other hand, this home may have been one of the few with a short list of actual problems.

As for the prospect of doing your own home inspection, that would depend upon whether you are able to evaluate a considerable list of issues, including the wiring in a circuit breaker panel; the functional and physical aspects of plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems; the legal compliance and safety of fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and chimneys; the condition and compliance of the roofing components, the framing and ventilation of an attic; the foundation, framing, drainage and ventilation conditions in the subarea crawl space; as well as plumbing, electrical and heating components in various areas in attics and crawl spaces. Additional examples could fill several pages and still not comprise a complete list.

Despite your recent disappointment, there are many highly qualified home inspectors who can provide detailed, comprehensive defect disclosure for homebuyers. All home inspectors, regardless of competence, receive agent referrals. Therefore, such referrals should not be the beginning and end of your search.

Rather than draw conclusions about the entire home inspection industry, homebuyers should seek an inspector with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness.

Q: We just bought a home with a clay tile roof. Our home inspector reported a few broken tiles and the sellers had these replaced. But then the building was tented for termites, and the people who did the tenting never told us they broke more tiles. When the rains came, we had several leaks.

Shouldn't someone have informed us the roof tiles were broken when the house was tented?

A: Companies that fumigate houses for termites typically include a disclaimer in their contract, stating they are not responsible for broken roof tiles. Essentially, they are informing customers of the likelihood of tile breakage, without accepting liability for roof repairs.

Instead, it would behoove these contractors, as a matter of professional courtesy, to disclose that tiles were in fact broken. Regardless of whether they are responsible for repairs, they could at least let homeowners know repairs are needed.

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