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Seller Is Nervous That Buyers Want to Bypass Inspection

February 25, 2001|BARRY STONE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: I am presently selling my home and have given full written disclosure of all known defects, such as missing tiles and mildew stains in the bathroom. The buyers want to bypass a home inspection because they need to close escrow by a specific date, but this worries me. What are my liabilities if the house inspection is waived by the buyer and unknown problems are later discovered? I didn't put "sold as is" in my contract and am wondering if something can be added to protect me. What do you advise?

Answer: There is no limit to the kinds of problems likely to be found by a home inspector, and there is no home that is totally free of unrevealed defects.

Every house has flaws that are unknown to the owners. This is universally true, without exception, and examples abound. What homeowner would have knowledge of a faulty flue pipe in the attic, an overheated wire in the electric service panel, a damaged spark arrester on the chimney or an illegal gas connection at the water heater? Such conditions are not within the realm of general homeowner awareness, but are the common findings of home inspectors.

If your buyer opts out on an inspection, here's one way to protect yourself from future liability: Type a short statement, declaring that you have disclosed all defects of which you are aware but that there may be other unknown problems which could be revealed by a professional home inspection. Then state that you strongly urge the buyers hire a home inspector and that you disclaim liability for any undisclosed conditions in the event that they waive that right.

Have this statement reviewed by your attorney to ensure that the wording is as airtight as possible. Then submit it to the escrow officer and refuse to close escrow unless it is signed by all concerned parties.

A Job Perhaps Best Left to the Pros

Q: A home inspector found rotted flooring under my toilet. When the toilet was removed, we found a crack in the drain hardware that holds the toilet in place. Do I need a carpenter, plumber or general contractor to make proper repairs? Would it be possible for me to do the repairs myself?

A: Many homeowners are able to complete basic building and maintenance repairs on their own, and you may be among them. But the lack of general familiarity reflected in your question indicates that you may not possess the construction knowledge needed for this project.

Replacement of the drain flange on the floor is not especially difficult for those with experience in corrective plumbing work. But there are numerous complications to which such repairs are prone. In this case, the old toilet flange might not separate from the drain pipe. And even if it does, the edge of the old pipe could crack or might be incompatible with the new replacement flange.

What's more, as is common with plumbing repairs, you should anticipate at least five consecutive trips to the hardware store as part of the task. To avoid these serial voyages, you must own a fully equipped plumbing truck. If this repair process sounds like more trouble than it's worth, you'd be wise to opt for the services of a licensed plumber.

As to the rotted floor, such damage is the result of fungus. Here again, professional expertise can make a significant difference. If you remove all of the wood that appears damaged, but leave behind any infected spots, continued rot can occur. Hire a licensed pest control operator to ensure that all fungus-infested wood has been removed or effectively treated with the appropriate chemicals.

The choice is yours. You can make the repairs yourself if you have the skills and can put up with the frustrations of homeowner plumbing repairs. Otherwise, I'd assign these processes to qualified professionals.

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

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