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RE: stone wall

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This raises a very good point...who does alert the potential buyers to work
(whether permitted or not) that is substandard?  I frequently receive calls
about what a home inspector wrote up and we maintain our position that the
building department is not involved in the sale of homes.  I tell people
that the building department is not going to go out and make someone bring
up to code all the discrepancies a home inspector (HI) wrote up. It's
negotiation time.  Truth be told (in Alaska) HI do not need any
certification and as a result many things get written up that either was to
code at the time it was built and is grand fathered in or just do not make
sense.  Think of it like this:  You, as a potential buyer, hire a home
inspector who provides you with a 2-page list of discrepancies.  Did he or
didn't he (sorry Gail, or her) do a good job?  Did you get your monies
worth?  Hire another HI (perhaps with different expertise) and you'll get a
completely different report.  If something was done to code at the time it
was constructed, unless it is life safety and not grand fathered in, it can
remain as is.  I reviewed a small addition of 20' x 32' after the fact and
after the new owner occupied the house (we received a complaint from the
neighbor or it would not have been an issue).  It was on pier blocks and no
way would it have been allowed.  The HI missed it and the seller did not
disclose any work done without a permit.  But they bought it and now they
must tear it down and do it right or live without it.  Paul is right: hire a
good home inspector, one who has some certification such as ICBO. Also keep
in mind that the tax records may also be an indication if they added square
footage...tax records show 1860 sq ft but your selling it as 2400 sq ft???? 

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Crocker [mailto:paulc(--nospam--at)ckcps.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2003 9:54 AM
To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org'
Subject: RE: stone wall


"Who alerts potential buyers that the work might be substandard?"

That question raises several issues for small structures.  When you look at
purchasing a house, it is a good idea to compare that house as you see it to
the legal description of it.  Differences between the two can be a sign of
unpermitted work that has taken place.  Unfortunately, in some cases a
permit is no guarentee of anything, it is primarily an excuse for the city
to charge you a fee and raise your property taxes.  For small improvement
projects, city review may be limited to a check of appropriateness based on
zoning.  The level of review will depend on your local regulations, of
course, but may not be meaningful for projects that are only a step above
home maintenance.  What if your city exempts decks below a certain size from
permit?  Who is checking on decks that come in a couple square feet under
the threshhold?  All that assume that the work was fairly recent, and not
decades ago when there were fewer (and often more lax) regulations.  It is
well worth the money to hire a good home inspector.  They obviously can't
catch everything, but a good one can find things even a seasoned engineer
might not think of.  I am by no means advocating skipping a permit when one
is required, but you should be aware as a potential buyer that unless you
have firsthand knowledge of the city' inspection regiment at the time work
was done, you shouldn't rely on permitting to alert you of anything.  

Paul Crocker, PE, SE 

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