“Sellers almost always ask, ‘Will I get a copy of the report?” and I always reply, ‘That’s not my decision to make. My report is the property of my client,’” says Matt Steinhausen, an independent home inspector since 1999 in Lincoln, Nebraska, who holds an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
This response may irk you, but when it comes to the inspection, what you know can hurt you as a seller. In many cases you’d be better off not requesting the report at all. Before you demand to view it out of curiosity or the desire to control negotiations, hear what longtime inspectors and real estate experts have to say on the matter.
Whoever paid for the inspection gets the report
Before closing, 95% of buyers will hire a home inspector to visually examine a house for any issues that could impact its value, safety, or inhabitability. The buyer’s agent usually provides a list of inspectors they recommend.
But the inspection and all of its components, including the report, are part of a legal business relationship between the buyer and the home inspector alone. As the seller, you’re not a part of that legal business relationship, even though it’s your house in the middle of it all. The bottom line is: If the buyer pays for the inspection, it’s theirs to share or not share.
This setup enables home inspectors to provide an impartial, unbiased assessment of a home for their buyer clients. “Except for some extraordinary exceptions, I never share an inspection report with anyone other than my client and their representatives,” Steinhausen explains.
Sellers will only get a copy of the inspection report if they’re paying for part of it (which can happen through shared closing costs).
What about proof of defects?
During typical negotiations over the inspection, the buyer will request that the seller repair specific defects or offer a credit to remedy issues identified in the report. Common complaints may include an out-of-date electrical panel, damaged siding, or non-GFCI outlet. “In that case, I recommend to my clients that only the portion of the report describing the defect in question be shared with a seller,” Steinhausen says.
In fact, buyers have an obligation to provide sellers with evidence of any defects that an inspector discovers if those defects need to be repaired prior to closing, or if they might affect the purchase price. According to Steinhausen: “In the age of electronic communication and cutting and pasting text digitally, it’s easy to share pertinent portions of the inspection report without having to provide the entire document.”
If you want a full copy, you’ll need to request it
If you’re set on seeing the full results of the inspection, your agent can ask the buyer’s agent for a copy of the inspection report. The buyer’s agent will need to consult with their client and obtain approval. “The only way we can get [the inspection report] is for the buyer to give the OK,” says Joshua Hagan, a top-selling real estate agent in Bella Vista, Arkansas. To be clear, it is within the buyer’s right to refuse your request.
Careful what you wish for
While you have every right to be curious and anxious to see that inspection report, it’s not always advisable that you make that request.
“Typically, I will advise my seller clients to not ask for the report,” says Hagan. Here’s why: If your contract with the buyer falls apart, you may be required to disclose any issues found in the report with future buyers. “I feel it’s in their best interest for the seller not to be exposed to that,” Hagan says.
In addition, sharing the inspection report with a seller or their agent is often a buyer’s attempt to make the home appear defective, Steinhausen says. This type of scenario can open a can of worms.
“Sometimes sharing a report can antagonize a homeowner, which usually isn’t a good thing,” Steinhausen says. Regardless of how factually accurate his report is, when homeowners and sellers agents try to discredit the report’s accuracy or downplay a buyer’s concerns, both parties wind up at odds.
“When that happens, it makes buyers anxious,” he says. “And when the buyer is anxious and the seller is antagonized, the deal is on shaky ground and could easily fall apart.”
When the request makes sense
Sellers often ask for a copy of a home inspection report after a deal has fallen apart completely. This happened to one of Hagan’s clients. The buyer backed out of the deal, even after the seller agreed to fix all the items that the buyer had requested. The buyer’s agent agreed to provide the seller with a copy of the inspection report so the seller could target any outstanding repairs for the next buyer.
As an inspector, Steinhausen has also encountered situations where a new client asks him to inspect a house shortly after he reviewed it for someone else who ultimately decided not to buy it. In that type of scenario, Steinhausen offers to contact his former client to ask if they’d be willing to share the report.
“Sometimes the new client will pay the old client a portion of the inspection fee to view the report,” he says. “In that case, I facilitate the transaction and provide the report, but I make no money on it.”
Gain control with a pre-listing inspection
If you’re the type of person who hates surprises and needs to be in the loop to sleep at night, you can order a pre-listing inspection for about $330 to get ahead of any pressing repairs. With a pre-listing inspection, you’ll be the one arranging for and paying for the report. The report results, in that case, are yours to review and act on.
Hagan says he finds this helpful with out-of-state sellers, especially if they haven’t been inside the property for sale for years. “That way when we put it on the market, we let the buyer see the [inspection report] along with everything that’s fixed,” he says. This gives the seller a sense of control because they can select the inspector and feel as if they have a level of trust with that person.
While this doesn’t negate the buyer from requesting a separate inspection, Steinhausen said that in many cases, the buyer has been satisfied with his work and not requested another inspection of their own.
Bring up lingering concerns to your agent
If you’re concerned about whether you’ll get a copy of the home inspection report as a seller, get your real estate agent’s opinion on whether you should ask for it. If the buyer comes up with a list of repair requests, keep in mind that it might be best to handle those fixes on a need-to-know basis rather than go through the report line by line.
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