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Wed, Jan. 29

Column: FSBOs can be risky to sellers, inspectors

According to Prescott Valley Police, burglars posing as potential homebuyers have hit several homes with “for sale by owner” signs posted in the front yard.
PNI photo illustration

According to Prescott Valley Police, burglars posing as potential homebuyers have hit several homes with “for sale by owner” signs posted in the front yard.

There was a front page article in the Aug. 21 Prescott Courier concerning burglars preying on For Sale By Owner (FSBO) homes. The article stated people would knock on the front door and ask to see the home. One thief would distract the owner while another “wanders through the home.” After the suspects leave the owner discovers missing valuables.

This is a risk all FSBO sellers have. If there is no Realtor representing the buyer or seller, the sellers have no idea who is calling or ringing the doorbell. Experienced Realtors will not waste their time showing homes to an unqualified buyer. They will ensure the buyer is serious (ready to buy) and can afford the home (has been to a lender or has enough cash).

I will not inspect For Sale By Owner (FSBO) homes. Buyers can sue a home inspector, and it is not unheard of for Sellers to. I feel this is much more likely if the parties do not have any professional representation and guidance.

An experienced local Realtor has seen dozens or hundreds of home inspection reports. They know the local market, and know their clients. They can advise a buyer what items in an inspection report are ‘common’ for this area, or this age or size home. They will explain to the buyer that a home inspection report is not a list of repairs that the seller has to improve.

I’ve had sellers upset because I reported on safety issues like large openings in deck railings, or lack of GFCI outlets in the kitchen or bathrooms. The sellers feel this is totally unfair because the railing ‘met code’ when the home was built. The sellers feel the railing is “grandfathered” and should not have to be improved.

I am required by Arizona, in the Standards of Professional Practice for Arizona Home Inspectors, to report on these items. The Standards state home inspectors must report on any unsafe condition, and that “The risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation or a change in adopted residential construction standards.”

Home inspectors do not refer to "code." We may not reference any source, but just state that the deck is 30 feet of the ground and children could easily fall through the 12-inch-wide deck openings. We may state that openings should not be more than 4 inches wide according to manufacturer’s specifications, or “industry standards,” or “adopted residential construction standards.”

If a Realtor is involved in the transaction, they will explain to the seller that home inspectors are required to report on unsafe conditions, and that any report by any home inspector will mention these conditions. We are not “picking” on their home, we are complying with state law and providing a valuable service to our clients (the buyers). The home inspectors rarely know what the buyer asked the seller to improve, that advice should come from the Realtor. But we have made the buyers aware of these unsafe conditions, so they can improve them if and when they desire.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. He is state-certified and has performed more than 7,000 home inspections in the Prescott area. West serves on the Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration. Contact him at or visit

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