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Saturday, 09 September 2006

Thinking of buying a house? The home, and the inspector, may have shortcomings you can't see
The house seemed like a good deal. At least that's what Sandy Quintano thought when she bought her Port Huron home in 2000. However, things started going awry a few months later. The microwave oven kept blowing fuses, and then her new computer wouldn't work...Frank Accavitti Jr., D-Eastpointe, said he proposed the legislation as a consumer-protection measure. The current bill is his third attempt to get legislation passed. If necessary, he said, he'll bring it up a fourth time.



HIDDEN DEFECTS
Thinking of buying a house? The home, and the inspector, may have shortcomings you can't see

By MOLLY MONTAG
Times Herald


 

The house seemed like a good deal. At least that's what Sandy Quintano thought when she bought her Port Huron home in 2000.

However, things started going awry a few months later. The microwave oven kept blowing fuses, and then her new computer wouldn't work.

 

Quintano soon realized the problem was old and faulty wiring in her house. She was surprised, because a home inspector had given the house a clean bill of health before she bought it.

"I'm quite sure, if I would have known, I wouldn't have bought the house," Quintano said. "It's dangerous."

Though the inspector, whose name Quintano does not want to make public, was a member of a national trade organization, he was not licensed to work in the state. Michigan doesn't license or regulate home inspectors.

Legislation that would require state licensing and set inspection standards has made the House floor, but similar bills have failed in the past.

Unfortunately, lack of industry regulation means a home purchase, even with an inspection, still is Caveat emptor- buyer beware.

Costly surprises

Quintano found her home inspector through her real estate agent. At first, she thought the inspector was doing a fine job, but grew worried when he said he only would be doing a visual inspection.

According to National Association of Home Inspectors Inc. standard practices, inspectors are not required to move furniture, lift floor or ceiling covers or inspect anything not readily accessible.

"They can only look at what they can see," Quintano said. "They're not going to pull back any carpeting to see what's underneath."

The inspection report suggested Quintano clean her gutters, install new roofing on the detached garage, fix water lines and replace a kitchen window. It noted new copper plumbing and good wiring. The inspector visually showed Quintano new wiring in the basement rafters.

After she bought the house, Quintano's friend showed her that the new wiring only was in the basement's rafters. Going up into every wall, to every outlet in the house, Quintano said, was old wiring. Some of the outlets aren't grounded. Nobody's sure how old the wiring is, but the house was built in 1918.

"I don't know if the wiring is that old, but it's very old," she said. "It's the old kind with cloth around it."

For the past six years, Quintano's brother has been fixing the wiring. At $20 an hour plus the cost of materials, it's cheaper than hiring someone else, but still isn't inexpensive.

"Gradually, I've been having my brother replace all the wiring in the house, going room by room," she said. "It's costing me a lot of money."

You should know

Organizations such as the National Association for Home Inspectors and the American Society of Home Inspectors have members who agree to comply with a set of standards.

Inspectors who violate the code of ethics or standards can have their membership revoked, but that wouldn't stop them from working in Michigan, Adrianne Fjerstad, NAHI membership director, said.

Without state licensing or standards, Fjerstad said it's up to buyers to find a reputable inspector.

"It means they're going to be a lot more careful about whom they want to hire," she said. "They're going to want to do a little more background research."

Proposed legislation regulating and licensing the trade in Michigan has reached the House floor.

Frank Accavitti Jr., D-Eastpointe, said he proposed the legislation as a consumer-protection measure. The current bill is his third attempt to get legislation passed. If necessary, he said, he'll bring it up a fourth time.

"This is probably the single most important purchase people make," Accavitti said. "They rely on that home inspector to know if they're making a sound investment or not."

Fort Gratiot inspector Gary Ravin also is in favor of legislation, but wants stricter regulations. He said many Michigan inspectors would like the state to require schooling in electrical, plumbing, heating and structural areas.

"We feel that the home inspectors should have the same qualifications as everyone they're critiquing," he said.

Contact Molly Montag at (810) 989-6275 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

   

By MELISSA WAWZYSKO, Times Herald

LET THE BUYER BEWARE: Sandy Quintano points out a ground-fault interrupter outlet in her kitchen. She says the GFI outlet was not installed properly and that the inspector she hired to go through the house before she bought it should have seen and warned her about the building's outdated wiring.

WISE CONSUMER

 

ADVICE FOR HIRING INSPECTORS

The Web site insurance.com offers the following advice for hiring a home inspector:

 

  • Ask whether the home inspector is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors, a national organization that enforces a code of conduct and practice standards. ASHI tests applicants and requires that they possess a certain amount of experience before they are granted membership. In addition to ASHI membership, ask your home inspector candidates the following questions:

     

  • If licensing is required in your state, ask if the inspector is licensed to perform inspections.

     

  • Ask how long has the inspector been in business.

     

  • Ask how many inspections the inspector has conducted.

     

  • Ask the inspector if you can accompany him to the inspection.

     

  • Ask for a sample report to inspect for thoroughness.

     

  • Have the inspector supply a list of references and be sure to call several for their opinion of his services.

     

  • Ask whether a home inspector candidate carries errors and omissions insurance or is bonded.
  • http://www.thetimesherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006609090303

     
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