Sunday, May 27, 2001

Putting a House Under a Microscope


......................."The whole industry is very erratic," said John H. Moss, a building consultant who owns Inspex Building Inspections in Jersey City. "A prospective buyer should get a home inspector from friends, relatives or a reputable real estate broker or reputable real estate attorney." And according to Mr. Moss, Mr. Dawson and other inspectors, when friends or family do recommend a home inspector, prospective clients should ask about his qualifications and get the names of people for whom he has done inspections. They should also make sure that the inspector will present a detailed report afterward, not just a checklist that can be dashed off in a few minutes.

Mr. Moss added that clients are becoming more sophisticated about home inspections, either because they owned houses previously or because of advice from friends or relatives who had inspections. Many clients, he said, expect both a thorough inspection and a thorough report.

John H. Moss, the owner of Inspex Building Inspections, in his home office in Jersey City
John H. Moss, the owner of Inspex Building Inspections, in his home office in Jersey City
One thing that he and other inspectors are particularly sensitive to in houses built since the 1970's, when fuel was not only expensive but in short supply, is that they are so well insulated and tightly built that they can trap radon. The colorless, odorless radon gas, which can be sucked up into the house from the basement, can increase the risk of lung cancer if it becomes trapped.

Many real estate agents say there has been a big improvement in the professionalism of home inspectors in recent years. "Years ago many of them were hit and miss," said Rosemary Sugrue, a real estate agent in Bayonne, N.J. "Now most of them inspect more things and are truly very good, maybe because they have to be, or risk getting sued."

David M. Hetzel, who owns the Home Inspection Institute of America, a school for home inspectors in Wallingford, Conn., agrees that the industry has cleaned up its act considerably. "Back about 10 years ago it was a seat-of-your-pants kind of industry," he said. "Today it's more ethical."

EXAMPLES of unethical inspectors include those who pay kickbacks to realtors for referrals and those who come up with lists of expensive repairs and who steer customers to their friends or partners to do the work. Another scam involves "home inspectors" whose aim is to talk unwary homeowners into using them to install a new roof or heating system or to make other expensive repairs..............................