Dear Barry,

We’ve never hired a home inspector and have questions about the protocol for an inspection. Some inspectors, we’re told, prefer to work alone, and some agents, they say, discourage buyers from attending. Who typically attends a home inspection, and who decides who can attend? –Jill

Dear Jill,

The variables that affect home inspection attendance are numerous. The bottom line, however, is that buyers, in most cases, hire the inspector as their private consultant. In that light, the buyers should have the first and last word regarding their own attendance. But your questions address a broader range of attendance issues that also need answers.

There are home inspectors who prefer to work alone, but their exclusion of clients is highly unprofessional and should be reconsidered. They should abandon this solitary practice or find another line of work. A consultant cannot consult when no one is there to listen. And mailing a report after the inspection does not provide adequate explanation of inspection findings.

Attendance arrangements are usually handled by real estate agents, but circumstances often override their preferences. In some cases, buyers cannot attend because they live out of the area or are unable to get time off from work. In those instances, inspectors may be accompanied by one or both agents or may simply be left alone.

In most cases, buyers attend all or part of the inspection. This may occur with or without the sellers and agents present, or it may include an entourage of buyers, sellers, agents and contractors — and possibly relatives and friends of all or some of the above.

The question of seller attendance is one that involves numerous answers and complexities. Although buyers have the right to insist on their own presence at the inspection, they cannot forbid sellers from remaining in their own home when the inspection is taking place. Some sellers willingly leave for a few hours; some remain home without involving themselves in the inspection; and still others become actively involved in the process, engaging the buyers in lengthy conversations or shadowing the inspector every step of the way.

A priority of many agents is to prevent direct communications between buyers and sellers, especially during the home inspection. This is done to prevent emotional exchanges that might adversely affect the outcome of the sale. In some cases, the oppositional chemistries of buyers and sellers make this a wise precaution. Often, however, full attendance at the inspection promotes amicable exchanges and fosters goodwill among all parties. Each case is distinct and hinges on individual personalities, rather than strict protocol.

When reviewing the findings at the end of the inspection, buyers often prefer a private consultation with the inspector, without the sellers being present. In some instances, sellers instinctively understand this and offer the buyers and their inspector a private meeting environment in some area of the house. In other cases, the buyers might meet the inspector and agent at a local restaurant or real estate office for a review of the report. Occasionally, sellers will attend the review, and this arrangement can be productive or otherwise, depending on the temperaments involved.

The worst of all arrangements is when agents advise their buyers not to attend the inspection and appoint themselves as emissaries between buyers and home inspectors. Agents who even suggest such arrangements are not acting in the best interests of their clients. Buyers who have such agents should seek better representation.

As a buyer, keep in mind that the inspector is your private consulting advocate. The home inspection is your show, paid for by you, and presented for your exclusive benefit. Find a home inspector with a reputation for thoroughness, and don’t let anyone else set the rules of engagement.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

 

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