One of the popular questions I get from homeowners after accepting an offer on their home is who will be at the home inspection. If you have not sold a home in a while it is certainly a legitimate question to ask. The answer however, is not clear cut and dry. Let me start by saying that I try to attend every home inspection whether I am representing the buyer or the seller.
Why do I do this for my clients? The answer is pretty simple – it is part of my job! The home inspection is one of the most important hurdles to clear in a real estate transaction. All real estate agents should attend home inspections!
When buying or selling a house, the home inspection is a vital part of the process. What the inspector finds and says during and after the inspection has significant influence on the final sale, so of course it only makes sense for everyone involved – the buyer, the buyers agent and the sellers agent to be there. Yet many times, you will find buyers following the home inspector around with no Realtors in sight.
A good agent is an advocate for his or her client, and therefore should be there at the home inspection to represent that client. Whether the real estate agent chooses to be one step behind the inspector the whole time, or wait quietly in the background to answer the client’s questions, will depend on the agent. But you can always spot a careless or uninvolved Realtor by his or her absence at the inspection.
This applies to both the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. Each has a client to represent and should be present at the home inspection!
Given the fact that more real estate transactions go sour because of some kind of issue, it is important that sellers do what it takes to get ready for the buyers home inspection. In the article, I outline some common issues that should be addressed prior to an inspection taking place.
A Realtor is Supposed to Represent the Client
Although it may not be a subject that many real estate agents want to bring up, in reality it is extremely easy to become a real estate agent. As long as you can read the study material and successfully take the test, you can call yourself a real estate agent. Like with all careers that have a low barrier to entry, the real estate industry attracts both shining stars and real duds.
Some real estate agents are highly dedicated, motivated to excel and constantly striving to better serve their clients. Others are just there for the paycheck, if and when it comes in. Whether they have a second income to rely on, or they just live on the cheap, they only do the bare minimum to be called a Realtor. I like to call this a post and pray real estate agent. They do very little and never go the extra mile.
This is not to say that all Realtors who miss a home inspection are terrible at their job or doing wrong by their client. It could be that they have a scheduling conflict and it is just not possible to be changed. There are times when this happens and it is just better off to get the home inspection done and out of the way, rather than scheduling when the agent can make it.
All this being said, the fact remains that the Realtor – if he or she is truly representing the client – should be at the home inspection if at all possible. There are just too many ways he or she can help the client by being there.
In my professional opinion a buyers agent should be at the home inspection representing their buyer client. Likewise, the sellers agent should also be there to represent the seller during the home inspection.
How can you possibly represent your clients interest in a home inspection if you are not there to hear what has been said by the home inspector? The answer is simple – YOU CAN’T!
Real Estate Agent Liability
For real estate agents that make it a practice of not attending home inspections you are bound to hear the “it creates too much liability excuse.” I am telling you right now that is complete and utter hogwash! The only thing that creates liability at a home inspection is what you say and do as an agent, NOT your attendance there.
Where agents have gotten themselves into hot water in the past is by putting their foot in their mouth when it should remain firmly planted on the ground. It is the real estate agent who thinks they are a know it all that end up getting sued and losing.
How does this happen? How does the agent take on liability? When they become a 2nd home inspector in attendance! The perfect example of this is the buyers agent who points out what they think are flaws in the home instead of letting the inspector do their job. This kind of agent thinks they are being helpful when in fact they could be setting themselves up for a giant lawsuit.
Real Estate agents have been sued in the past and lost because of what they have said at an inspection. It goes down like this – buyers agent points out flaws to buyer. The buyer takes note of said flaws and buys the home anyways. Months later the buyer discovers additional items in the home that are defects. They sue their agent for not pointing them out and take them to court.
Here is what happens in court:
Buyers lawyer – “Ms. Buyers agent were you in attendance at my clients home inspection”?
Buyers agent – “Yes sir I was there”.
Buyers lawyer – ” Did you point out these three defects during the inspection to the buyers”?
Buyers agent – “Yes sir I did.”
Buyer lawyer – “Why did you not point out the fact there was termite damage in the sill plate of the home”?
Buyer agent – “I am not a home inspector sir – that is not part of my job.”
Are you beginning to get the picture of what will end up happening here? Do you see why the buyer will win their suit? Attending the home inspection is not an issue as long as you don’t step out of your area of expertise. Real Estate agents need to keep their dam mouth shut and let the home inspector do their job! Real Estate agents create their own liability by what they say not what they hear.
Keep in mind even the best home inspectors can miss issues in a home. They are there for a limited amount of time and there can be defects that are not easily spotted. The perfect example of this is ice dam problems. A seller could easily conceal ice dam issues and a home inspector might not pick up on it. All the more reason a real estate agent should not be a 2nd home inspector.
Benefits of the Realtor Attending the Home Inspection
One of the primary roles of the agent is to negotiate on behalf of the client. Much of the terms of the final deal will be based on what is found at the home inspection. How can the agent negotiate a home inspection effectively if he or she is not there to hear what the inspector says? Nine times out of ten they can’t!
The home inspector will go all over the home, looking for possible problems, hopefully explaining about proper maintenance to the the buyer, and making notes and decisions based on what is found. How the inspector does his or her job will vary, but you can expect a lot of information to pass between the inspector and the clients.
The clients will often know nothing about home inspections or about buying and selling real estate. The information that the inspector relays to them may be understood accurately, but often it is not. By the end of the inspection, the buyer will often have misunderstandings about the severity of issues, and inaccurate views on how the inspection should affect the transaction. This can be especially true if it is a first time home buyer.
Some buyers are also notorious for exaggerating home inspection issues. I will give you the perfect example of how things get twisted. During the course of the home inspection the inspector has a look at the roof and tells a buyer it is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. The inspector tells the buyer that there is about three to five years of life left in the roof.
You would not believe how many times over the years a buyer has turned three years of life left into the roof needs to be replaced right now and I want you to pay for it Mr. Seller. This situation is far more common when the sellers agent is not there to hear exactly what the home inspector has represented to the buyer.
It is the buyer’s agents job to help the client understand the inspection and the expectations of what should take place after the inspection. The Realtor may ask the inspector questions about the statements he or she makes for clarification. The Realtor can also help the client understand what really does need to be fixed, what issues will affect the price of the home and how those issues compare to other similar homes in the area.
Keep in mind that the buyer could be asking for the moon when it isn’t justified. There are two sides to the fence in a real estate sale. This is why it is imperative that a seller’s real estate agent attends the inspection. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at inspections where the smallest issues where blown out of proportion by a buyer. This is much harder to do when the seller has their own representative in attendance.
The Home Inspection Report
Another additional benefit of being in attendance at the home inspection is knowing exactly how large the issues are with the home. I have been on numerous inspections over the years where the issues discovered were relatively minor. By looking at some of the inspection reports you might think it was a totally different home that was inspected. Sometimes the inspection reports can be downright ominous!
I have seen home inspection reports that could scare away even the most hardened buyers. There is a lot of liability on a home inspectors part. Many of their reports make the items discovered seem far worse than they really are. This is called CYA – cover your ass!
There are however some concerning home inspection problems that should never be overlooked. These are the items that nearly every home buyer will want corrected. It is important for sellers to understand these issues and deal with them so the transaction continues smoothly.
A good home inspection report will detail all of the issues discovered both on the interior and exterior of the home. I have found the best home inspection reports will include color pictures of the issues so all the parties involved can easily identify the problems. This becomes especially helpful when a seller asks a contractor to look over the problems for correction.
There Are Good and Bad Inspectors
Just like there are good and bad real estate agents, there are also good and bad home inspectors. If the Realtor is experienced – and has bothered to attend some home inspections – he or she will be able to recognize a good home inspector and interpret for the client accordingly.
Some home inspectors are great about keeping things in proportion, about educating the clients and about delivering clear, accurate assessments on the state of the house. But there are also inspectors that love to be drama queens. They tend to blow things out of proportion, and may even enjoy the startled looks on the faces of the clients when they imply that the house may fall down or is a money pit.
Having the agent there to bring a bit of levelheadedness to the situation is only beneficial for the clients, buyer and seller. There are shady things that go on in every industry and the home inspection business is no different.
One of the things that buyers need to be cognizant of is the home inspector who will blow the smallest defects out of proportion. While this type of inspector is in the minority, their goal is to make you so frightened to buy the home that you back out.
Why do they do this? Simple – to get a second home inspection out of a buyer! Just think of how much more money the inspector makes if he gets to charge each client twice.
Most of the issues with home inspectors stem from their communication methods not actually discovering issues that should be dealt with. I will give you an example of what I mean. Let’s assume for a minute that a home has a “double tapped breaker” in the electric panel. This is a common issue found during many home inspections. It is when two wires are found in one breaker. Here is an example of two inspectors discussing the same issue with their client.
Inspector A – Whoa I just found a double tapped breaker in the panel. Mam you better get this addressed right away! This is an extreme safety issue that creates a serious fire hazard. In fact you should get this checked out right away by an electrician.
Inspector B – Mam I want to point out to you that there is a double tapped breaker in the electrical panel. Not to worry as this is something that is super common. This in fact is something I see routinely all the time while inspecting homes. It is something you should address but it’s nothing to worry about. It is very easy to get corrected.
If you are a first time home buyer and a laymen when it comes to buying homes how issues are relayed can make or break a purchase. Both inspectors have explained this issue but in very different fashions. Home inspector B is not an alarmist. Inspector A however, will make most buyers feel very uncomfortable about what is a very minor issue.
Now take this same example and multiply it by every issue found in the home. Are you beginning to see how the inspectors delivery can impact a real estate transaction? Some of the best home inspectors I have found are certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors or ASHI for short.
Doing the Job Right
Any agent that wants to be a true representative of his or her client needs to be there when the inspection happens. There are too many benefits to do otherwise. A real estate agents job does not end at the home inspection. Both the buyers agent and the sellers agent will end up negotiating items from the home inspection. It is pretty difficult to do this well if you were not there to begin with.
For those agents who are reading and saying to yourselves it is just not a custom in my area to attend home inspections why not step out of your comfort zone. How about going above and beyond expectations. What do you think would happen if you started doing this as a valued added service when other real estate agents were not? If you are thinking you would get more business you are correct!