Shhhh….don’t tell anyone…but I’ll be the first to admit that a Home Inspection, for the most part, isn’t much of a spectator sport. Watching an inspector run water from the kitchen sink faucet or repeatedly flush a toilet, shine their flashlight into closets, ascend into an attic space or disappear into the dark recesses of a crawl space, and plug a little test device into electrical outlets isn’t very…exciting. But the fact is that all of these activities are akin to the routine pop fly ball of a baseball game or a one yard gain on a run up the middle of football game. They aren’t usually the most interesting plays of the game, but if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss the bases-loaded home run or the 98 yard pass play for a touchdown. However, and at any time, the routine play can readily turn into a game-changer. Sure, you can wait till later and watch the highlight reel of a game…or read the Summary of a Home Inspection report…but you won’t have any good feel for the flow of the game. The same applies to a Home Inspection; one needs to observe the entire game, or at least be within earshot of the announcer, to have a good understanding of what led to the final outcome.
The answer to the initial subject question is necessarily, or should be, divided into two parts when referring to the typical Home Inspection. Why? Because there are typically two real estate agents involved in a real estate transaction. One real estate agent represents the selling party (the selling, or listing, agent)…and another represents the buying party (the buyers agent). In some instances, a single agent might represent both parties; this is commonly referred to as dual agency. For the purpose of this article, let us assume there are two agents involved in the real estate transaction and let us further assume that the transaction involves residential real estate.
Having been directly involved in thousands and thousands…and thousands… of Home Inspections, I have been in a position to directly observe the interactions between a large number of real estate agents and their respective clients. Most often, I interact directly with both the buyers and with their agents. I’m fortunate enough that my inspection schedule is typically and mostly full of inspections for clients that are represented by entirely professional, ethical real estate agents.
Let’s examine whether or not the buyers real estate agent should attend their clients Home Inspection. The answer, in my professional opinion, is…You Betcha! For anyone not familiar with that term, or who may not have any friends, family, or acquaintances in Minnesota, that means…Absolutely Yes!
I am going to preface the following comments with this…in over 15 years of providing professional Home Inspections, I have come to know, way down deep in my very soul, that a top-notch, professional, reliable and interested real estate agent will always…let me repeat, always…attend the Home Inspection with their clients. Why? Because the agents presence during that critical event is directly indicative of their professionalism and commitment to their client. How can an agent adequately represent the best interest of their clients if they don’t attend their clients Home Inspection? The fact is…they can’t. It’s my experience that if a professional agent can’t make it to the inspection for some reason (let’s face it, we all have emergencies every now and again), then they provide for one of the licensed associates to attend in their place.
The reason it’s so important for a buyers agent to attend is so that they can hear and see, first hand, any items that the Home Inspector is going to include in the report, This is important because there is almost always another round of negotiations subsequent to the completion of the Home Inspection and the buyers agent needs to fully understand the potential ramifications of the reported issues to fairly and adequately represent the buyer.
It’s been related to me, that a potential reason for a buyers agent not attending a Home Inspection is because of a perceived increase in liability for the agent. An agent once told me that if an issue later arises as the result of a Home Inspection, that it can be disclaimed by the agent because they weren’t there during the inspection. I don’t buy that notion as a reason not to attend the inspection. I do, however, advise agents to maintain a low profile during the inspection and let the inspector do the inspectin’. I advise them to let the Inspector assume the liability for reporting on the physical condition of the property….understand the issues, represent the client…but let the Home Inspector do the reporting.
Let’s now examine whether or not the sellers agent should attend the Home Inspection. In my opinion and simply stated, the answer is a resounding…NO! Why not? Because it is important that the results of the Home Inspection, that is to say the information that is ultimately going to be conveyed to the buyer by the Home Inspector, is confidential. It is the client that makes the determination as to what information is to be shared with whom and when it is to be shared. The client is paying for the Home Inspection report and they own it. Home Inspectors in states that have adopted licensing requirements, as well as Inspectors that operate under the Standards of Practice of the majority of professional Home inspection organizations, are not allowed to share any inspection details, with any third party, without the express permission of their client. It’s rare that the client wants to share that information before they have received the final report and have had an opportunity to assess its contents for themselves. In my experience, the vast majority of real estate agents understand this concept. However, and giving credit where credit is due, there are some circumstances where the listing agent is present because the seller (the homeowner) has mandated that they be present whenever anyone is inside of their home. In those types of unavoidable situations, the amount of verbally shared information between the client and the Inspector is typically minimal and may have to be communicated in…Shhhh…whispers.