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ASK THE INSPECTOR

Seller Need Not Fix Each Item on the Buyer's Repair Wish List

October 08, 2000|BARRY STONE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: My home inspector checked the house I'm buying and reported that the air conditioner is old, with limited remaining life. At first, this did not strike me as a serious problem, so I did not include it in my list of repair requests to the sellers.

But then my homeowners insurance company stated that it regards the old air-conditioning system as a fire hazard because it runs on gas, rather than on electricity. When I tried to ask that this problem be added to the sellers' repair list, my agent said it was too late.

I'm very unhappy about this situation and feel that the seller should replace this antiquated system. What do you recommend?

Answer: As a buyer, you can make any number of repair requests of the sellers, but they are not necessarily obligated to comply. Such requests are usually negotiable and depend in large part on terms of the purchase contract.

If the existing air conditioner is operational, the seller is probably not required to replace it, regardless of its age or condition.

If your contingency period for approving the inspection has not expired, you may be able to add a repair request to your wish list, but the seller may still retain the right to decline.

At that point, you will have to decide whether you still want to buy the house.

Silence Squeaky Floors by Reinforcing Joints

Q: We live in a very nice house with one annoying problem. Our floors creak. Before moving in, we asked our inspector about this, and he said it was not a problem. That's easy for him to say. What can be done to minimize this irritation or eliminate it altogether?

A: Creaking floors are common and are generally not associated with serious building defects. They are typically caused by loose nails holding the subfloor boards or plywood to the wood framing. Loose nails allow the subfloor to lift slightly. When someone steps on one of these loose spots, the nail slides down, then rises, producing unwanted squeaking noise.

The surest way to secure the subfloor to the framing is to reinforce the wood joints with drywall screws. Unfortunately, this involves the expense and inconvenience of having the carpets rolled back, then reinstalled after the corrective work is completed.

Some people have had success by drilling drywall screws through the carpet and padding, which can be done by driving the screws three quarters of the way down and then breaking off the heads. The problem with this method is that carpet fibers can wind around the screws, causing runs. Or the padding can wind around the screws, resulting in clumps.

The best approach, as noted in the previous paragraph, is to have the work done the old fashioned way by a professional carpet layer.

Drip Noise Requires a Follow-Up Check

Q: When we bought our house, the inspector seemed to do a very thorough job. But there's one problem we've noticed since moving in: Whenever we turn on the cold water faucet at our bathroom sink, we hear a dripping sound directly below. Does this sound like a serious problem? How should we proceed? Should we hire another inspector or a plumber?

A: If your inspector is a good one, he will be glad to come back and take a look at your plumbing problem. My advice is to give him a friendly call and ask him to review this condition.

The dripping sound beneath your sink is probably a minor problem for which your inspector can provide a diagnosis. If not, you'll need to call a licensed plumber.

It is not surprising that some conditions escape the attention of even the most thorough inspectors. They have about three hours, more or less, to determine every significant defect in a house. The fact that a competent inspector misses only a few is amazing.

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If you have questions, contact Barry Stone through his Web site at http://www.housedetective.com. Distributed by Access Media Group.

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