Angry letter from seller

It’s been a nice run, but I just got my first angry letter from a seller who’s home did not sell because of my inspection report. (I’ve done about 125 inspections now.)
I know I don’t have to respond to her since she’s not even supposed to have a copy of the report (only my clients-the buyers- should have seen it), but I thought I might use my reply to her as an opportunity to market, in a way, to the estate agents also involved in this mess (whom she also sent copies of her letter to.)
I also want to step carefully here, and say nothing back to her that she could use against me.
Below is a portion of her letter, and below that is a draft of my reponse. Any meaningful input is appreciated. Thank you fellas.

Part of her letter:
*Upon receiving your report from my realtor, all I can say is that we are both shocked and somewhat put off by your lack of knowledge on how this process normally proceeds. *
*First, you are an inspector and to my knowledge, not a contractor. To tell your client that my home needs $80,000 worth of work is highly unprofessional, unethical, and not to mention far from the truth. *
*Secondly, this home is more than 120 years old. To state that the porch wall is too low, rather than state that the porch wall is as expected for a home of that age. This goes for the sloping of the stairs and the need for handrails as well. *
*You stated that there was an active leak in the upstairs bathroom sink. There is not. Before you went to do your inspection, I had a contractor go there to install the sink stoppers which were not done by the previous contactor. He ran water while installing the stopper which left a little water under the sink. I dried under the sink and ran water for several minutes and there is absolutely no leak. All plumbing was dry as well as the sink cabinet. This should have been easily detected by you. *
*Why would you write that there are ‘one or more electrical receptacles near a water source’ at the garage? I lived in that house for 20 years and there has never been a water source near that garage. *
*To say that a carbon monoxide detector is of serious concern is ridiculous. I have one in each of my rental homes, most do not even have a fireplace (I had one in this home too, which the previous tenants must have taken). In my opinion, that is your job to detect if there is a carbon monoxide leak and suggest to a buyer that they have a CO detector. For your peace of mind, I plugged one in yesterday. *
*You have cost me the sell of this home by scaring buyers into thinking that it needs $80,000 worth of work. I would like to know how you came up with that figure. *
I will kindly wait for your response and am seriously considering filing a complaint with The Professional Licensing Committee.

Draft of my response to her:
*As a home inspector my primary concern is for the safety and well-being of my clients. If I encounter something that is defective, deficient, or could cause injury, I’m obligated to tell them about it. *
*One example from the inspection- there was no handrail at the front steps. It’s true that those were not required in the year 1900 when the home was built. But today they’re strongly recommended if not in place (falls are the leading cause of injury in the home). *
*Obviously, with the home being 120+ years old, there are things about it that are not up to today’s standards. (Homes built 10 years ago aren’t up to today’s standards, for that matter.) Each item in the inspection report had a recommendation for repair; nothing was required. That means you’re allowed to sell a home that has a missing handrail, but it’s not recommended. It’s the same with other items like the GFCI’s and the height of the porch rail. *
*Home inspectors are “generalists”. Though we may not be certified plumbers, electricians, or roofers, we look for things that are, or could be, defective or unsafe conditions. That being said, if an issue is subsequently looked into by a qualified contractor who holds a license to practice in that area, and they decide the issue is not defective or unsafe, then we, the home inspectors, automatically defer to them, since they are the specialist. *
As far as which recommendations are asked to be repaired or further evaluated by the buyers, that’s not what I do. My job is to look over the home and give my client information about the home. Since the buyers are the ones who will be living there, they need to decide, with the guidance of their realtor, which items in the report to talk to the selling side about.

Here’s what my reply would be.

Dear Mr. & Mrs X,
It is my company policy and requirements set for by my state (Ohio has Inspection Licensing) not to discuss my inspection findings and or report with anyone but my clients and those that represent them.

Thank you for your understanding in this matter.


I agree, telling a buyer that the house needs $80,000 worth of repairs is wrong. What they are hearing is, this house needs $80,000 in repairs to make it habitable.


I’m not sure where the $80,000.00 figure came from: You, your client or the seller. If you delivered that number to your client, I think you may be on shaky ground. If it is a number that your client dreamt up then you are in the clear. Personally, I would not try to justify myself to her.


Do NOT reply to them. If they slander/libel you in any way, then you take appropriate action. If you say “Hello” they will use that against you in some way. You can use that letter in part without identifying factors as advertising. The sellers getting the report happens.


Is there some reason the report no longer belongs to your client to distribute as they see fit? Often reports are shared with the seller in order to address the concerns in the report.

As far as the letter goes, it would be hard not to respond, I get that. But in doing so, you run the risk of “stepping in it” and making things really sticky for you in the event they decide to escalate this to a lawyer.

Besides, they are just complaining. There is no cure.


I totally agree, never quote costs. Leave that up to the buyer’s realtor and the buyer. Sellers get mad when the sale falls through because of an inspection report. Give that can of worms, $$$, to someone else. I’m a retired contractor, active inspector, and even I don’t quote costs relative to an inspection!

Consider adding some stock disclaimers or explanations; such that building practices change over time and that some findings are reported as suggested upgrades, maintenance items, or safety issues (gfci, porch rail height, CO & smoke detectors, etc). The buyer and seller know that it’s an old house and expect to find issues. Your job is to point them out and not make any judgements.

Another thought; During the walk through at the end of the inspection, I often point out what I consider to be potential “deal breakers”. If there is a long list of findings, but one or two items of importance, I point it out that way. Deal breakers have to be big; structural issues, costly repair items, etc. Not all inspectors will agree with this, but it works for me to get the buyer focused on the couple of important items, vs a long list of maintenance and safety items. Just a thought…


JMO- But once a report has been produced/published to whoever, we have no control on who or who should see it and no agreement is going to keep it that way. Now the agreement may have some protection down the road, but until it gets pretty deep legally. No need to even go there yet.

I would never put repair cost estimates in my report or in writing to my client. Just another can of liability worms you just opened up. Now if a client ask me about any replacement cost, I will always tell them “based on what I just had done, it could be between $ and $, but that is just based on my situation”… or " I’m not sure because I haven’t had to do that as of yet… best to get a few estimates"

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In your response letter or your post you never denied that you gave the estimate of $80,000.
So I’ll assume that you did say it.


Don’t go down that “tit for tat” road, it’s a rabbit hole.

If you must respond, use something like Kevin recommended, and just acknowledge you received their feedback.


You can tell the seller that your SOP requires you to report on these conditions and that for liability reasons you must include items that could be a safety hazard. Tell her these are not personal decisions and that you are guided by strict operating protocol.

Follow that up by saying your job is simply to point out areas of concern, not to estimate costs for repairs or dictate what must be fixed before the sale can take place.


Some basic ideas that I follow.

Don’t quote or estimate prices for repairs.
Don’t quote codes, especially on a 120 year old home.
Report safety concerns.
Meet the State standards of Inspection for your State.
Don’t be intimidated by sellers or real estate agents.
Be the best Inspector you can be.


Did you tell the client there was $80k of work? What was the work you so identified?

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I hope you didn’t. The was a case where the new owners sued the home inspector, for being so far off his estimate of repairs, and WON!

He learned a lesson for all of us.


Also, if you quote $$$ and the buyer buys and starts fixing things and the fixes rise above the quoted $$$ you may be asked to pay the difference because you said it could be fixed for $$$.

Larry, anyway you can cite that case. I would like to read about it.

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Not off the top of my head but it was in this forum. So, you can search the forum for it, Scott.

Maybe this one Larry?


I believe so Tom. Thanks!

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This is exactly why I never put anything in writing that remotely suggests what the cost of a repair would be. There are some of those third party software options that offer estimates for repairs in a given area, but I refuse to utilize anything like that. It just opens up a bunch of liability I want nothing to do with.