A home inspector who wonders if he or she should disclose inspection findings with anyone other than the client should wonder no more. Home inspectors should deliver their findings and subsequent reports to only their clients — usually the buyers or client real estate agents — and whomever else the client allows the report to be shared with. Disclosure of findings with anyone else, especially, the seller can have unintended consequences.
Sharing findings with sellers — whether in casual conversation, spirited debate or by written report — or even having sellers in the room listening to the inspection report presentation, has its pitfalls.
There are good reasons not to share a home inspection report with the seller or others. Sellers might feel insulted and get defensive about their homes’ defects. Yet, home inspectors are trained to find and report on those defects. Sellers might even get angry. At the very least, they could try to discuss the issues, taking up the inspectors’ valuable time. In the end, the inspector has to file the report, identifying the defects of the home, anyway.
Handling disclosure requests
While there don’t seem to be any statutes or specific rules addressing whether home inspectors can share report results with people other than clients, standard inspection agreements tend to note the home inspector will deliver the report only to the client and the client’s Realtor, according to experienced home inspector Randy West, who addressed the topic of sharing inspection results in an article published June 17, 2016 in the Daily Courier, a Prescott, Ariz., online newspaper.
The mention in inspection agreements is enough, according to West, to simply say you’re not allowed to discuss findings with anyone but the client.
West and other home inspectors will often go the extra step to make that policy clearer. West says he isn’t able to discuss his findings with sellers, and they should not ask him what he found when he’s getting ready to leave a home inspection. In fact, he talks with buyers and their agents about how it’s not a good idea to have sellers at the inspection presentation because it will take extra time and could lead to unpleasant discussion.
There are, however, exceptions to the no-share policy. If an inspector finds an immediate safety concern, it’s best to mention it to the seller. Detecting carbon monoxide in the furnace supply air is one example. A seller who might live in the house for any amount of time after the inspection should know about the problem for safety reasons, West noted.
There may also be state requirements regarding the disclosure of information with the seller. In Wisconsin, for example, the home inspector is required to release a copy of the home inspection report to the seller if the seller asks for it. Home inspectors who are not sure of their state’s requirements should always defer to the agent representing their client in the transaction.
Recommendations for fixing what you find
Negotiating repairs that are part of the report findings also are not part of the home inspector’s domain. That negotiating is between the buyer and seller. Sellers might approach inspectors about whether the sellers should fix defects in their homes. West wrote a column in the same newspaper in 2009, in which he wrote that he recommends the sellers wait until buyers request that they fix things in the home. After all, according to West, the buyer might prefer that something in the home is not fixed. Replacing an old appliance with a new one might not be an appliance that the buyer wants, for example.
Another reason not to help the seller decide whether or not to fix things is home inspectors don’t usually know the whole story about the deal. The bottom line is that’s a discussion the seller should have with his or her real estate agent.