Should buyer's agents attend property inspections?

  • Buyer's agents work for (not with) their clients.
  • Representing clients means working in their best interests.
  • The property inspection is a major contingency to work through.

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Buyer’s agency creates expectations from and for both parties. Agents need clients to represent (that is how we get paid), and most buyers need guidance to complete a real estate purchase.

Agents and buyers seek a mutually beneficial relationship. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship!

Agency representation involves give and take: What does each side expect, and what are they willing to do to get what they want?

Agents expect to trade their knowledge and time for clients who are willing to do what they need to do to buy real estate.

The buyer wants to hire someone who knows what they are doing, will do what it takes to get them into their next home, will work in their best interests (identifying properties, negotiating the best terms and so on) and will promote and protect their interests every step of the way.

Both want and deserve loyalty.

Once a purchase offer is fully executed, the buyer’s agent assumes the role of director: keeping track of what needs to be done when and providing whatever guidance is needed to complete the tasks required to reach settlement.

The process typically focuses on two major aspects: inspecting the property to make sure that there are minimal surprises (unexpected maintenance can be costly!) and obtaining the financing so that the buyer can complete the purchase.

These are the most likely “deal killers” as sales are contingent on their completion. Contingencies are known events that may occur throughout the buying process that must be satisfied or waived to keep the sale moving, meaning they allow both sides to reconsider their original agreement.

I respectfully suggest that a buyer’s agent must be fully engaged in resolving all contingencies.

The property inspection involves hiring one or more competent people focused on identifying “material defects” (rather than cosmetic or update issues) with the major systems and structure.

Depending on the executed contract, the buyer’s response to the inspection results may include requiring the seller to make repairs and the right to terminate the sale.

Although broker policy may differ, I believe that a buyer’s agent should attend the property inspection to ensure that the inspector clearly explains what he or she is doing and what he or she sees to the buyer and to ensure that the buyer understands the process.

Inspections of “resale” properties usually reveal a list of recommendations that could appear far worse than what they really are, and frankly, I would never assume that even the best inspector can properly portray their findings to most buyers.

The agent is not the inspector and is not expected to act like one — nor should they. To best represent a typical buyer and to be able to best interact with a listing agent if repairs are requested, an agent needs first-hand knowledge.

I have heard a variety of reasons (or excuses) regarding why an agent would consider not attending an inspection. Avoiding liability is one, and I can only wonder how a buyer feels being left on his or her own — especially if problems are found.

Does the agent’s absence really manage potential liability? How does that square with the essence of the agent’s responsibility to their client? Is the agent too busy? Does he or she feel that he or she would be in the way?

At the very least, the client should be told upfront that the agent will not be there rather than face a surprise later.

Here is what I do know: Many buyers feel abandoned, especially if they do not know the inspector. Negotiating repairs, both with a concerned buyer and the listing agent, can be more difficult if the agent is not there to see what the issues are and what the inspector had to say about them.

Given the importance of this contingency, I would never want to miss an inspection. As a listing agent, I fully expect the buyer’s agent to be on-site as an inspection is really a long showing (it is unacceptable to provide access to others without the listing agent’s permission).

Bottom line: What is in the buyer’s best interest?

Andrew Wetzel is an associate broker with Long and Foster Real Estate in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Follow Andrew on Facebook or Twitter

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