As a home buyer, you may be wondering if you can access previously conducted home inspection reports in public records.
This would be especially useful if you have some concerns about a house that might have been off and on the market several times. If the previous buyers have discovered some major issues and concerns, this will not only save you time but money as well.
So you may be asking, are home inspection reports public record? No, home inspection reports are not public record. Home inspection reports are confidential and owned by the client who hired the home inspector and paid for the home inspection. The client who hired the home inspector can choose to share a copy of the home inspection report with anyone of their choosing.
If you are concerned about a previous homebuyer being spooked by a home inspection report you can reach out to the listing agent to see if they have a copy of the prior inspection report. Although you can’t use the report as part of your own due diligence, it may provide you some valuable information.
That being said, a buying decision should not be based solely on a prior home inspection. Problems addressed in the report may have been corrected or worse inaccurately reported. Home inspections reports are based on the home inspectors’ discretion and knowledge. The findings are dependent on the home inspectors’ knowledge, training, and background.
You should always interview and hire your own home inspector. When you contact a home inspector ask them about their background, training, and certifications. Never select a home inspector on price alone.
Different kinds of information can be kept in public records, and it can be used for gaining additional insight on a particular subject.
Some of these public records also contain real estate information, so it is beneficial to fully and better understand which records are considered public and which are not.
What Is Subject to the Public Record Law?
The exact definition of what a public record is will depend on which state you live in. There is, however, some information that is commonly considered and kept as public. Some examples of such records are:
- Birth records.
- Death records.
- Marriage and divorce records.
- Criminal records.
- Bankruptcy records; and more.
In some states there can be even more public records being kept like:
- Unemployment claims.
- Any licenses or certifications.
- Any Tax information.
- Real estate transactions; and more.
Here is where a lot of us might wonder how much information is being kept publicly when talking real estate and are home inspection reports going to be publicly available for anyone to see?
A lot of people don’t really like the idea of having too much information about them available to everyone. Some records can require a fee to be paid first, but that doesn’t change the fact that anyone can get access to a lot of our personal information.
On the other hand, by using this kind of information we can make an informed decision when doing our due diligence. Until home inspection data becomes public record, there is some helpful information that can be obtained.
Home Inspection vs. Home Appraisal
People often think that because certain data like home sales prices, mortgages, property deeds, etc are readily available through the public records that home inspection reports should be as well. One day it may come to pass but as of now, that’s not the case.
When looking at home inspections and home appraisals it is easy to mix up the two. It is crucial to understand and know that they are fundamentally different.
1. Home Appraisal
If you are selling or buying a home, appraisals are an important part of the whole process.
A home appraisal is an expert’s opinion about the home’s current value. A home appraisal aims to determine if the home’s selling price is in an acceptable range considering the condition of the house, its location, features, and more.
A home appraisal is also used when refinancing an existing mortgage – in this sense, it is used by the bank as a process to make sure it is not giving more money than the total worth of the home. That way, the bank is protecting its interests and making sure it will be able to recover its money back in case of a foreclosure.
A home appraisal is not a public record unless it is financed by the FHA (The Federal Housing Administration) or the VA (US Department of Veteran Affairs) loan.
It belongs only to the person who ordered it and to whoever they choose to share it with. If another appraiser is doing a second appraisal, they will not have access to the previous appraisal reports.
Another thing that needs to be noted is that in some cases the appraisal stays with the property (only if it is financed with an FHA or VA loan). In that case, a specific case number is assigned to the home, which stays with the property for up to six months. If not renewed after six months the case number is canceled.
2. Home Inspection
A home inspection, on the other hand, is a thorough assessment of the condition of the home. The home inspection is carried out by a qualified home inspector. The benefit of such a home inspection is that it protects the buyer from missing out on some potential issues when buying a home.
- The home inspection report can be used as a negotiating tool after performing an inspection.
- The buyer can make a better-educated decision about the condition of the home, its equipment, systems, and more.
- They can negotiate repairs if there are some major points of concern that have been discovered.
- Or they can back out of the deal.
A home inspection report is not public record. It is private and only shared with the person who ordered it and anyone who they choose to show it to.
As a conclusion, a home inspection shouldn’t be confused with a home appraisal, and the inspection report is not public record regardless of how the purchase is being financed, and home inspectors will not share it with anyone besides the person that is paying for it.
Disclosing Previous Home Inspection Findings
It’s not necessarily the home inspection report that has to be divulged. It’s the knowledge obtained from a home inspection report that needs to be.
For instance, let’s assume a home inspector does a pre-listing inspection and discovers that there is foundation damage and then notifies the seller.
The seller then lists the property with this knowledge but does not list it in the real estate property disclosure. This is considered to be illegal, however, proving it in a court of law may be difficult without a copy of the home inspectors report as proof.
Sellers need to, in good faith, disclose any findings of previous home inspection reports. A home inspection report is considered a material fact.
What that means is the seller is legally obliged to share all the material facts that they are aware of about the property at hand. They have to share all the information that they are aware of concerning the current condition of the home, including any inspection findings, other significant damages, zoning, recent repairs, and more.
That same law applies to the real estate broker too. If they are aware of any information about the property, they have to tell the buyer about it.
If for any reason a seller withheld information about any repairs and damages that were known to them they can be held liable.
Property and Land Public Records
One of the first public records was in regards to purchases of land. Even today all the land, public lots, buildings and establishments records are being kept as public records. This is a good thing, though as it protects both the buyer and the sellers and allows for honest transactions.
Doing your due diligence about the history of the home you want to buy is not only smart but necessary. However, not all information about the property and real estate is kept public.
1. Property Deeds Are Usually Public.
Property deeds show the ownership of the property, and it is used for transferring property ownership. They contain information about:
- The description of the real estate.
- The names of both parties (the seller and the buyer).
- Identification of both the seller and the buyer.
2. Property Liens
A property lien is a claim that is placed on a property in case of unpaid bills, taxes, or loans. Property liens are a matter of public record. Usually, liens need to be cleared ideally by the seller before a property can be sold. Taking on somebody else’s debt is not advisable unless it is stated clearly and negotiated.
3. Real Estate Transaction
In some states, they can be public information. The reason for that is security, as this will protect both buyers and sellers from fraudulent and activity. In nearly every locale, you can pull up an entire sales history of the property including each time it sold and for how much.
4. Mortgage Loan Records
Mortgages are public records. This information is held public as it can be useful for any potential buyers and other lenders, or banks. That way, they can protect themselves from unethical actions. Mortgages are also public records in the event that a lender needs to foreclose the property for nonpayment.
5. Legal Description of the Home (Property Survey)
Legal descriptions contain detailed information about the measurements of the property and land, and where it is located.
A property survey includes and documents the boundaries, any rights of passage, and zoning. When buying or selling a home, a land survey needs to be obtained to finalize the deal.
A property survey is important to avoid any potential boundary disputes with neighboring property owners.
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