by Nick Gromicko, CMI®
In general, you need not sign your pre-inspection agreement if it is obvious from the context that you agree with the terms in it. For instance, if your agreement is on your letterhead or is written in a way that makes clear you drafted it, your signature is not necessary to show your assent. Similarly, if you send the agreement electronically, you have already shown your assent and your signature is not required.
Many people mistakenly believe both parties to a contract must sign the contract for it to be enforceable. That is wrong. The issue is not whether both parties signed the contract, but whether both parties agreed to its terms. A signature may be evidence of an agreement, but an agreement may also be oral or implied by the parties’ behavior.
In other words, an enforceable contract requires a manifestation of mutual assent in the form of an offer by one party and acceptance thereof by the other ... [and] agreement or meeting of the minds of the parties as to all essential elements. Keddie v. Beneficial Insurance, Inc., 580 P.2d at 955 (Nev. 1978). The failure of either party to sign a written memorandum of their agreement is essentially immaterial. Once the parties have agreed upon the essential terms, an enforceable agreement exists, and one party's failure or even intentional refusal to sign the contract does not render it unenforceable. May v. Anderson, 119 P.3d at 1254 (Nev. 2005).
Many inspectors use pre-printed agreements. These are often printed on the inspector’s letterhead or they bear the inspector’s logo. Either way, it is clear from the context that the inspector prepared the agreement and agrees with the terms in it. Therefore, there is no need for the inspector to sign the agreement.
In modern commerce we often form contracts when one party signs a pre-printed document the other party prepared. When you apply for a loan, for example, you sign a pre-printed agreement. The lender doesn’t sign the agreement because the lender’s agreement to the terms is clear.
With all that said, there is no harm in signing an agreement. Moreover, at least two states, Virginia and Illinois, require inspectors to sign their pre-inspection agreements, and while we could argue that the intent of that requirement is to show that the inspector agreed to the terms, the better practice would be for the inspector to sign the document to avoid any problem with the regulatory agency.