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Ask the Inspector

Rethink Deal If Builder Fails to Fix Flaws

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

Question: We are buying a new home and hired a home inspector. Unfortunately, the builder has flatly refused to address any of the problems found by our inspector. He said, "Everything was done to code, and that's the end of it." How does one deal with a builder like this?

Answer: This might be a good time to reconsider your position. If you think negotiating is difficult now, wait until problems develop after the close of escrow. That's when you could be left to deal on your own with any number of recurrent problems. If you look, you'll find another home that's just as good, if not better.

If you choose to stay in the fray, there is recourse by way of state contractor licensing agencies and attorneys. But going that route means protracted aggravation.

It Was a Rush Job, So Have a Second One Done

Q: We recently purchased a 2,500-square-foot home. The inspector we hired spent about an hour reviewing the property. Since this was our first home inspection, we had no idea it was a rush job. Some neighbors said their home inspectors took three to four hours each. Should we be concerned?

A: The best home inspector in the world cannot perform an adequate inspection in only one hour, especially on a large home.

Any home inspector who performs one-hour inspections is misrepresenting the services offered, while shortchanging customers.

Even for a small home, 21/2 to three hours is the minimum time needed for a competent home inspector to perform a thorough evaluation. It is not just possible that some defects were missed, it is an absolute certainty. At this moment, there are problems in your home that remain undisclosed.

If you hire a truly qualified home inspector to reevaluate the property, additional defects will be found. For the sake of safety, peace of mind and financial prudence, it is strongly recommended that this be done. Furthermore, the first inspector should be asked to account for whatever additional findings are brought to light. At the very least, a refund of the inspection fee would be in order.

Disclose Defects Found in Previous Inspection

Q: What happens to a home inspection report when the sales contract is canceled? My home was recently in escrow, but the buyer backed out of the deal after the inspection. When the next buyer comes along, do I have to disclose the findings of that inspection, or is it up to the new buyer to provide his own inspection?

A: The next buyer of your home has the option to hire another home inspector, but this has no bearing whatever on your obligation to disclose. When selling a home, owners are required to provide a list of all known defects. This means divulging every material fact you possess, regardless of where or when that information was obtained.

When your recent transaction was in progress, you had to disclose every pertinent fact you knew at that time. When you received the home inspection report, the level of your knowledge about the condition of your property was significantly increased. Whether that deal was completed is immaterial. You have now acquired new information regarding the physical state of your home. Withholding that information from subsequent buyers would be unethical and a violation of established real estate disclosure standards.

A seller in your situation should also consider legal liability. Discovery of undisclosed defects after the close of escrow would be incriminating if it were learned that the findings of a home inspection report had been withheld.

Regardless of circumstances, the bottom line on seller disclosure is "disclose all that you know, without exception, without dilution, without compromise."

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

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