As seasoned home inspectors, we often receive questions about the dynamics of the inspection process, particularly regarding the presence of sellers or listing agents and post-inspection communication. It's crucial to navigate these situations with professionalism, adhering to ethical guidelines and legal requirements while ensuring clear and effective communication with clients.

The Role of Ethics in Home Inspections

The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) Code of Ethics mandates inspectors must not disclose inspection results or client information without the client’s approval. The exception to this rule is when immediate safety hazards are observed, such as a natural gas leak, which must be promptly communicated to the occupants for safety reasons. Our primary duty during and after a home inspection is to our client. If the seller or listing agent is present, our ability to communicate findings directly and privately with our client can be significantly limited.

Home inspector inspecting a home

There are situations where sellers may not vacate the property during an inspection, leading to potential conflicts or discomfort for the buyer. Educating sellers about the inspection process, including the need for privacy and access to various parts of the home, is crucial. The optimal situation for a home buyer’s inspection is for the seller to vacate the property, allowing free and uninhibited inspection and discussion of findings. This not only benefits the buyer but also facilitates a smoother transaction process, ultimately aiding the seller in moving closer to settlement.

In accordance with state laws and ASHI’s Code of Ethics, discussions about the inspection or sharing the report are strictly limited to the client and their real estate agent, with prior approval. Discussing or providing a copy of the home inspection report to unauthorized parties may be considered a violation of state law and ASHI’s ethics.

The Home Inspector’s Role

Home inspectors are technical advisors on the condition of the property, not participants in financial negotiations or decisions about the purchase. Providing a summary of key findings is expected, but stepping into negotiation advice or purchase recommendations is beyond the inspector’s professional scope.

Conducting home inspections requires not just technical expertise but also a keen understanding of ethical practices and effective communication. Respecting client confidentiality, ensuring uninhibited access during inspections and staying within the professional boundaries of the role are fundamental. As home inspectors, our commitment is to provide thorough, unbiased and informative inspections, ensuring clients have the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions about their potential new homes.

Author Bio:

Pat Knight

A former home inspector, Pat serves as the Director of Training and Licensing for WIN Home Inspection, Pat has been in the inspection services industry for over 30 years and is an expert in performing and teaching 35+ essential services.