My most recent post prompted a question on the LinkedIn ASHI Group Discussion Board from a Massachusetts Home Inspector who wanted to know whether a home inspector could rely on the information provided in the seller’s disclosures or on responses provided by either the seller or the seller’s representative to specific questions about the property.

I guess the easy answer is that, if seller’s disclosures were reliable, there would be no need for home inspections. And a seller’s disclosures could be unreliable for reasons that are completely unrelated to any skullduggery on his part, to his desire to hoodwink or inveigle a buyer. As an example, I have lived in my house for 24 years. If someone asked me what’s wrong with my house, I would have to say “I couldn’t tell you.”

Since I have no intention of selling the house, at least not before the Singularity occurs, issues that might be of considerable concern to a potential buyer never enter my head. And I imagine that most homeowners are as oblivious as I am of these matters and, thus, represent a huge market for pre-listing inspections.

Many sellers, of course, do fail to disclose known material issues with a property and will take considerable pains to prevent the home inspector from discovering them, often by actively concealing them. Thus, when locked doors prevent access to critical areas or furniture seems oddly out of place, alarms should be going off in the inspector’s head because it is a near mortal certainty that something is being concealed. And the home inspector should alert his client accordingly, for his own sake, as well as his client’s. For when that concealed defect eventually surfaces, the seller may be well beyond the reach of the law, leaving the inspector as the default respondent.

So, an inspector would be well advised to follow the skeptic’s creed with regard to any representations made by either a seller or a seller’s representative with respect to the condition of a property that they are inspecting and believe nothing of what he hears and only half of what he sees.

Or as the journalistic bromide has it “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”

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