Some agents think they are providing customer service when they choose an inspector and set up the buyer’s inspection.
The practice is so common that when I work with other agents, they ask me who my inspector is, or they tell me who theirs is. I don’t have an inspector.
Real estate agents who take care of the buyer’s inspection for their client are engaging in a questionable business practice.
The point of a buyer’s inspection is to have a qualified, unbiased third party look at the property and advise the buyers.
I am not qualified to inspect a home. As the agent, I make money only if they buy the home, which creates a conflict of interest.
Buyers don’t always know how to find a home inspector, or how to choose one. I have a list of inspectors that I can recommend, based on feedback I get from my clients and my own observations.
But I believe that the inspection itself is between the buyer and his or her inspector, and that having a home inspection is part of the buyer’s due diligence.
Early on in the homebuying process, I start educating my buyers about home inspections. Sometimes I even give them a list of questions to ask their inspector if I happen to notice some defects. Why is there rust on the water heater? Is the damp basement caused by poor grading or is there some other problem?
I have too much experience as an agent and as a homeowner to ignore potential problems.
Buyers usually give me permission to show up at the end of the inspection, but I always ask. I like to have the opportunity to talk to the inspector to make sure that I understand any issues, because I am the one who will have to explain any defects in writing to the sellers if the buyers ask for repairs.
I will not attend an entire inspection and will generally only offer advice if asked.
There are good inspectors and bad inspectors, and inspectors who overstep their bounds into areas that are beyond their qualifications. Some have faulty instruments that return false readings. Sometimes they make mistakes because they are human beings.
A few weeks ago I asked my peers if they choose the buyer’s inspector. Many of them said they do — they consider it part of the services they provide. Most buyers do not do a good job choosing inspectors, they said, so they just take care of it all for the buyer.
In Minnesota, home inspectors are not regulated. I have been in situations where the buyer’s friend does the inspection and is fairly clueless.
I try not to get too irritated when the inspector comes up with something stupid. I try to get the buyer to choose a qualified inspector from my list of experienced, qualified and ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors)-certified inspectors so that we can avoid stupid. But sometimes stupid happens.
Homebuyers often tell me stories about how their last agent got them to sign this or that, or how the home was inspected but the inspector missed the fact that the furnace wasn’t working properly or that the water heater needed to be replaced.
They tend to blame the agent because the agent chose the inspector. They suggest that they were pushed or coerced during the homebuying process. I don’t want to be that agent.
Done properly, a home inspection protects the homebuyer, the buyer’s agent, the seller and the seller’s agent. Allowing the buyer to do his or her due diligence without interfering is a great way to protect all parties in the transaction.
Last week, a home my clients were hoping to buy did not pass inspection. I took a deep breath, drew up a cancellation for them, and got their earnest money returned. I’d invested a lot of time in the process of finding the home, and I’d written an offer on it on a holiday weekend.
But it isn’t about me. It’s about the buyers. I sleep well at night knowing that my buyers are making decisions based on the information they are getting from their inspector, and that I am not “selling” them on a home that will cost them money and cause them grief for years to come.
Each time I work with buyers, I hear the voice of my inner lawyer asking me questions in a courtroom because I sold a defective house and someone got hurt or died.
Choosing an inspector, setting up the inspection and influencing the inspection helps agents control the process. That makes it go smoother for us, and for the buyer, but that doesn’t mean it is in the buyer’s best interests.
Buyers need to understand what they are getting into, and it isn’t always pretty.
I provide a lot of service to my buyers, but I cannot do their due diligence.
Home inspections should be between the buyer and their inspector, and not an add-on service provided by a real estate agent.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.