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

Home Inspector vs. Roofing Contractor

Dear Barry: I am presently buying my first home and am bothered by a difference of opinion between my home inspector and the seller’s roofing contractor. My home inspector has 20 years of experience. He found the shingles to be worn and brittle, with two years of remaining life. But the seller’s roofing contractor says the roof has five years of life. My agent says we should get a third opinion, but I’m thinking of canceling the deal. Why can’t the experts agree on the condition of the roof?  Mikel

Dear Mikel: No one can assign an exact amount of remaining life for roof shingles. It is a subjective assessment, not an exact, scientific prediction. Whether two years or five years, the point is the same: The shingles show significant signs of aging and wear and have limited remaining life. They will soon need replacement.

If you really want the house, try to negotiate a cash credit for roof replacement as part of the deal. That would be reasonable for a roof with 2 to 5 years of remaining life. The amount of the credit should be based on a labor and material estimate from a licensed roofing contractor. For that purpose, it would be wise to take your agent’s advice regarding a third opinion from another contractor.

White-Washing Moldy Walls

Dear Barry: I recently had a flood problem in one of the apartments that I manage. The unit was vacant, and several weeks passed before the moisture condition was addressed. Now there is mold on much of the drywall. Everyone I ask has a different opinion about mold. Some say I should hire a contractor who specializes in flood damage. Others say I should get a professional mold inspection first. And one person says I should simply clean the mold with bleach and repaint the walls. What do you say?  Don

Dear Don: The problem with mold today is that is can no longer be viewed as purely pragmatic issue. The overriding consideration has become liability. The days when mold could be washed with bleach and covered with paint are over.  Mold is now a legal problem, as well as a health consideration.

At the same time, the health affects of mold cannot be dismissed. Some people have been severely harmed by mold exposure. On the other hand, there are cases where moldy walls could be washed and painted with no adverse health consequences to anyone. But much more is at stake than the likelihood of health problems. For example, what happens when a future occupant of the building learns that there once was mold in the building and demands documentation to verify that the mold was tested and that removal was done in accordance with environmental standards and with follow-up air-testing. In that case, you would wish that you had done more than apply bleach and paint.

This is the situation that now exists because of past lawsuits and widely publicized hysteria about the dangers of mold. It is from this standpoint that one must consider matters of mold, especially with rental property.

On this basis, a thorough mold evaluation by a qualified expert is recommended, prior to repairing and refinishing the interior of the apartment.

Mortgage Company Requires Flood Insurance

Dear Barry: I am presently in escrow to buy a home, and the mortgage company requires that I buy flood insurance. This must mean that there has been flooding at some time in the past, but I see no evidence of water damage anywhere on the property. So I’m wondering, how serious can the insurance requirement be? Is there any way to find out if the house has been flooded, and if so, what was the extent of the damage?   Kathleen

Dear Kathleen: The requirement for flood insurance does not mean that the house has been flooded in the past. Mortgage companies typically base flood insurance requirements on the location of the property, not on its flood history. If a house is situated in a geological flood plane — that is, if there is the possibility of flooding every100 years — then flood insurance is usually required. In some cases, where only a portion of the property is situated in a flood plane, flood insurance will be required, even if the home itself is on higher ground and not located in the flood plane.

You should check with the county engineering department to determine whether the home you are buying is actually located in a flood zone. In some cases, it is possible to negotiate these insurance requirements with the mortgage company.