Should real estate agents attend all home inspections?
The home-inspection process can be confusing to buyers. One question that comes up a lot is "who's going to be at the inspection." So, real estate agents, should YOU be present?
Most homebuyers understand that they need a home inspection. What they don’t seem to understand is anything other than that.
From how to hire an inspector to what’s involved in an inspection to what not to freak out over in the report, they’re pretty much clueless.
That’s ok, though, because they have you, their real estate agent, to walk them through the process.
One common, yet often unasked question is “Who, aside from the inspector, will be there?”
Oh, to be a fly on the wall when many agents answer this one. We’re willing to wager that there is a lot of silence in response.
As the buyer’s agent, do you make it a point to attend every home inspection?
In a blog post on his site, our friend Bill Gassett claims that “ … of course it only makes sense for everyone involved – the buyer, the buyers [sic] agent and the sellers [sic] agent to be there.”
Perhaps to some agents, that’s true.
There was an interesting conversation in the Raise the Bar in Real Estate Facebook group back in 2015. A buyer’s agent said that the listing agent was insisting on attending the home inspection.
She began her question by stating that the there is no prohibition in her market about listing agents attending home inspections.
She went on to say that “I would prefer to spend the time with the inspector and buyer discussing the condition and any potential issues with the house – without having to worry about being able to speak frankly.”
Makes sense, right? This post garnered 156 comments, both for and against the practice.
Agents who agree that listing agents should attend the home inspection have various reasons for feeling that way. The most popular is that “It’s still the Seller’s home…. they have the right to be present or represented.”
Another made an excellent point: “I’m there to make sure that the inspection doesn’t get turned into a renegotiation tool instead of its intended purpose.”
Those against also had various reasons:
Several agents voiced the last point, which we find curious. Regardless of whether they hear about defects directly from the inspector or from his or her report, they WILL have knowledge of them.
Knowledge that necessitates future disclosure.
Some states’ associations may leave the choice up to the listing agent. An example of this would be the Central Mississippi REALTOR® Association. In 2017, the association published “The Role of the Real Estate Licensee in the Home Inspection Process.”
On the second page, the association quotes “MLS Rules.” One of them is that “Listing agents/brokers (through the seller) determine how showings or inspections are conducted.”
Under these conditions, a buyer’s agent has no choice but to allow the listing agent to be present at the inspection, if he or she wants to be there.
Remember that Raise the Bar in Real Estate Facebook group thread mentioned earlier? A home inspector chimed in about listing agents at inspections and got pummeled by the group.
I found his remarks interesting, however and you might too.
“I (an Inspector) do not allow sellers or listing agents to tag along. I work for the buyers not any agent,” he wrote.
Because the buyer is also the home inspector’s client, it can be argued that the inspector owes a fiduciary duty to the buyer.
In fact, the experts at TheBuildingInspector.net agree.
“We have a fiduciary duty to protect the buyer. That common requirement is written into law and as such, we are both [the buyers’ agent and the home inspector] legally bound to do what we can to protect the buyer from making a significant mistake in purchasing a home.”
Refusing to allow the seller or listing agent to be present protects the buyer, in the opinion of the inspector on Facebook. “I refuse to allow them (seller and/or listing agent) to take my expert advice to my clients and use it against them.”
Sounds like a no-brainer but the internet is littered with buyers complaining about the lack of customer service from their agent, in general, and having to go it alone at the home inspection, specifically.
As a buyer’s agent, it’s your job to help your clients feel comfortable buying a new home.
Agents claim that they’ll never be replaced. Not by technology or iBuyers, because neither of them offers what agents do: relationships.
What type of relationship are you offering if you can’t find the time to walk the buyer through one of the most anxiety-provoking parts of the process?
Yes, you should attend all home inspections with your buyers.
By the way, in some regions, such as Central Mississippi (mentioned earlier) associations prohibit unaccompanied buyers at home inspections.
The aforementioned article claims that “a buyer present without an agent is trespassing,’ unless the seller or listing agent has given written permission.
Even if it’s not considered trespassing in your market, think of the liability you open yourself to by not being with your client each and every time he or she visits the home.
Let’s put the customer service issue aside and consider agent liability when it comes to home inspections.
Attorney Joe Ferry and Nick Gromicko, the founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) co-authored an article that appears on the association’s website.
In it, they claim that “Many real estate agents have been advised never to attend a home inspection, allegedly by real estate attorneys.”
They go on to remind agents that “You are no less likely to be named in a lawsuit by hiding during the inspection, and the reasons for attending the inspection are quite compelling.”
In a nutshell, the reasons they state include:
Oliver E. Frascona, author of “The Digital Paper Trail in Real Estate,” sums it up for agents:
The buyer’s agent, he says, is the ‘All Powerful Expert in Theory.’ In the eyes of the public, the Buyer’s agent is all things to all people.
She is an expert on all matters. When you are a buyer’s agent or assisting a buyer in any form, you must emphatically and repeatedly stress that you are not an expert beyond the scope of your professional real estate duties and license. Do so nicely, in writing.”
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