Allen Norwood

Buyers expected at home inspections

Man, it could get crowded in that dank crawlspace if everybody showed up for the home inspection. Buyers and sellers, agents on both sides. No telling how many would crash through the ceiling drywall from the attic.

Just kidding.

It doesn’t happen that way. Most of the time, it’s the buyer and the buyer’s agent who are on hand. But, occasionally, the number of attendees can grow. I’d never considered that until I started tracking down answers to a reader’s casual question.

Let’s start with basics and a bit of history.

In a nutshell, the inspection report belongs to the person who pays for it. That’s usually the buyer.

North Carolina began testing and licensing home inspectors 20 years ago. From the beginning, inspectors said that they welcomed their customers, or buyers, to be there during inspections. It gives inspectors opportunities to say, “This is important,” or “This might look bad but isn’t a serious issue.”

Lots has changed since I wrote about home inspection licensing back in 1996 – digital pictures enhance today’s reports, for instance — but the message is the same: Customers are welcome.

Those attending shouldn’t get in the way, of course. They should mostly stay out of dangerous spots like crawl spaces and attics. They should be there to take a closer look at something the inspector wants them to see, to ask questions along the way and to go over the final report.

It only makes sense that the buyer would invite the buyer’s agent to provide helpful advice.

Julie Tuggle, who’s with Carolina Buyer’s Agent, said her firm urges clients to be on hand. “We recommend that the buyer show up, at least for the last half hour to go through what (the inspector) has found.” Tuggle’s agents are there, too.

Allen Tate, the region’s largest firm, expects its agents representing buyers to attend inspections with their buyer clients.

Seller’s agents? Well....

Tuggle said listing agents would be welcome if they asked, but they hardly ever do.

Katrina Richards, a regional vice president with Allen Tate and leader of the Ballantyne office, said it’s not customary for listing agents to attend inspections. If the seller specifically asks that the listing agent be there, that request would go through the buyer’s agent. The buyer is in charge, remember.

For inspectors, there are no official guidelines that cover all this. “There’s no protocol,” said Bob Scott of Diamond Home Inspections, a leader among state inspectors since licensing began. “It all depends.”

Again, it depends on the buyer, who’s paying for the inspection. And Scott says, inspections start at about $350, depending on the square footage.

The buyer doesn’t have to share the results of the inspection but, of course, usually does. The inspection adds weight to the request for any repairs. Eventually the report is likely to be shared with everybody on both sides of the transaction.

But the buyer gets to decide when to share. If the seller and seller’s agent are there when Scott completes an inspection, he said, he always asks permission from the buyer before going over the report in front of them. About half of buyers decline, Scott said, but half say yes.

“I ask, ‘You want me to talk about this in front of the listing agent? OK, here we go....’”

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