Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: I have several complaints about my home inspector. Throughout the inspection, he was shadowed by the seller and the listing agent, so I could never speak freely with him, even though he was supposed to be working for me. During the inspection, I expressed concern about the air conditioner, but the seller said it had recently been fixed. So the inspector said nothing about it in his report, and now I’m stuck with an A/C system that doesn’t work. Finally, he reviewed the report with the seller and the listing agent, rather than privately with me. And my own agent didn’t even attend the inspection. Is this the way a home inspection is supposed to be? Chuck

Dear Chuck: If handled properly, this is not the way a home inspection should be. Your home inspector is your private consultant. Sellers and their agents are usually entitled to a copy of the inspection report, but they should not dominate the inspection process itself. Most home inspectors have had situations of this kind, with sellers, listing agents, and others following them from beginning to end. It is not an inspector’s favorite way to work, but inspectors try to make the best of it when it can’t be avoided. However, a good inspector always finds a moment to take the buyer aside and explain that a private review of the report can be done when the inspection is over. Your inspector apparently erred in this respect.

As for the air conditioner: Whatever assurances the seller gave your inspector should have had no bearing on the inspection. The inspector should have conducted a standard review of the A/C system and should have operated it to make sure that it was functional. If the seller disclosed having repaired the system, the inspector should have advised you to obtain a copy of the receipt for that work from the seller.

Your agent’s report card also shows low marks. If you had been properly represented, your agent would have been present at the inspection. Your agent’s job was to make sure the seller and the listing agent left you and your inspector alone during the inspection.
You should notify the seller, the agents, and the home inspector of the faulty A/C system and insist that it be repaired. The seller should also provide a copy of the receipt for whatever work was supposedly done.

Dear Barry: We purchased a brand new home about nine years ago. Two years later we noticed hollow sounds when we walked on the tile floors. After another two years, some tiles began buckling up, and more became loose. The builder re-cemented the lifted tiles but loosening continued, and some even cracked. What could be causing this problem, and what is the solution? Janice

Dear Janice: When tiles loosen and pop up, as you describe, a common cause is lack of expansion gaps at the walls. Ceramic tile flooring should be installed with a 1/4 inch gap at each wall to allow for expansion due to changes in moisture and temperature.
Without these gaps, expanding tiles press against the sill plates at the base of each wall. Pressure increases until tiles begin popping up and cracking. To determine if this is the problem in your home, remove some baseboards to see if gaps were provided by the tile installer. If not, the builder needs to do some serious repair or replacement.