Here’s the scenario: Your house is on the market and you have interested buyers, but they are concerned about the roof. Maybe your home has a bit of damage from the last storm, but it’s nothing major.
Still, a potential buyer sends a roofer to check things out without your approval. Sending a professional to somehow inspect the condition of your home unannounced may seem a bit bold on the buyer’s part. Can a potential buyer send someone—be it a roofer, inspector, or contractor—to inspect a home or snoop around outside without the seller’s consent?
Here’s what the experts have to say about this sticky situation.
Your rights as a homeowner
Whether or not you’re selling your home, you have certain rights as a property owner. These laws may vary by state, “but generally, anyone coming onto your property without your permission could be considered a trespasser, in accordance with your local statutes,” says Scott Bergmann and Olivia Hunt with Realty ONE Group in Omaha, NE.
If a potential buyer (or an inspector hired by the buyer) wants to stop by and take a peek at your roof or anything else, a written approval from the seller is required, says Hunt.
“Inspecting the house for purchase, formal inspections, and the steps for a resolution to those inspections should always be in writing,” adds Bergmann. “And all parties should have committed to and agreed to the inspections and their resolutions.”
The formality of inspections varies by state, but sellers have the right to approve or deny any inspection requests and resolutions to inspections.
Professionals should know not to trespass
Paul Ryll, a residential appraiser and co-founder of Oscar Mike Mobile Appraisals, won’t go anywhere near a property without permission.
“By law, I am not allowed on the subject’s property without the owner of record’s permission, regardless of the type of appraisal assignment or who my client may be,” says Ryll.
Appraisers and inspectors are responsible for confirming they have permission to be at a house—whether inside or out—with the homeowner.
What if you’re using a dual agent?
A dual agent is an agent that represents both the seller and the buyer in the same real estate transaction. In such a transaction, there may be concern about the dual agent representing both sides fairly. Could the dual agent send the buyer or an inspector to the house without the seller’s approval? The answer is no. A dual agent must follow the rules that govern home inspections.
“Having a dual agent has no bearing in this case as we all have to abide by the law,” says Ryll. “It’s always unlawful to enter a property without the property owner’s permission.”
If an inspector shows up on your doorstep with your agent—and you didn’t give the agent permission—it’s time to revisit your dual agency agreement.
“If you feel as though you are not receiving fiduciary care from your agent, you can always seek out help from your agent’s broker or the local real estate commission,” says Hunt.
What about an inspection during a showing?
The low housing inventory, competitive seller’s market, and limited showings due to COVID-19 restrictions have prompted some buyers to forgo inspections to gain a competitive edge. But waiving an inspection could have costly implications for the buyer.
“Concerned Realtors and inspectors started working toward solutions that made sense for both sides of the transaction. One of those solutions was pre-offer inspections,” says Tiffany Szakal, owner and broker at I Heart GR Real Estate in Grand Rapids, MI.
The agents and inspectors in Szakal’s area often schedule 30-minute inspections within the time frame of a house showing.
“This offers insight on those big-ticket items for a buyer prior to writing an offer,” says Szakal. “Often, the inspector will credit the cost of that 30-minute inspection toward a full inspection after an offer is accepted.”
Still, an inspector can’t come to the showing with a buyer and nose around without permission.
“It’s a matter of coordinating between buyer and seller, but it does happen more often than you’d think,” says Szakal. “The buyer’s agent has to request a showing but note that it is for an inspection in the request.”