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The House Detective: Overreaching advice from home inspector

By Barry Stone, Certified Building Inspector Published: March 29, 2014

DEAR BARRY: I am selling my home, and the buyer’s home inspector recommended replacing the furnace and water heater because of their age. Both are 20 years old and in good working order. Should I replace them even though they are in good condition?

— Paul

DEAR PAUL: When home inspectors evaluate old furnaces and water heaters, it is typical to report that the fixtures may have limited remaining life and to recommend further evaluation by a plumbing and heating contractor. But to advise replacement without specifying actual defects is not a reasonable recommendation. A furnace may be damaged, inoperative, or improperly installed, which would call for further evaluation, repair, or replacement, but age itself is not sufficient cause for replacement.

A 20-year-old water heater is well beyond its expected useful life. A unit of that age may fail very soon. It would not be unreasonable for a homebuyer to request replacement, but that is a negotiable matter. If the fixture is in operable condition and it is not damaged or leaking, it is your choice whether to replace it.

Some home inspectors, especially inexperienced ones, tend to overreach in their recommendations. Most home inspectors would not recommend replacing fixtures that are functiona1.

DEAR BARRY: We bought a foreclosed house that had been abandoned by the previous owner, and we were given a report by a mold inspection company. They had found mold in the bathroom due to plumbing leakage. The leak was fixed, the room was cleaned with mold-killing liquid, and the moldy flooring and cabinet were replaced. Do you think there is a risk of residual mold in the house?

— Gretchen

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