The home inspection is one of those necessary evils that can make or break a home sale. Approximately 1 in 20 contracts are canceled, and the leading cause is the home inspection. The home inspection reveals flaws in the home that could be considered a safety hazard, a significant problem, or a simple fix. It can even give you an “out” if there are issues that you feel are dealbreakers and decide not to move forward post-inspection.
As crucial as the inspection is, do you know who attends a home inspection? A home inspector is a given, of course — but who else?
We’re going shed light on the role of the home inspector, as well as who should (and shouldn’t) be present during the inspection. You might be surprised by what you learn!
Who attends a home inspection: the key players
As you look at properties, it’s essential to understand that no home is going to be perfect — even newly constructed homes need an inspection! As you walk through the house, everything may look like it’s in good repair, but the home inspection will uncover any issues that you may overlook or that might not be visible to your eyes. So, who should attend the inspection?
The home inspector
The home inspector is the only person who has to be present — they are conducting the inspection, after all.
In some cases, your real estate agent will hire the inspector and set up the appointment. However, it’s important to remember that you have a say in which home inspector you choose.
The inspector will go through the house and examine the structural integrity of the home, mechanical systems, and so forth.
“The inspector will test every window, check every outlet, test the appliances, walk the roof, go in the attic, go in the crawl space. They’ll look at the electrical panel, run all the faucets. That’s a whole house inspection,” explains Beth Pretty, one of the top real estate agents in Midlothian, Virginia.
She also recommends buyers request another type of inspection — a radon inspection. “Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes up through the ground — you’re breathing it right now.”
The National Research Council published a report that supports the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) claims that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, claiming 15,000 lives each year. Radon is an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas that can increase the risk of getting lung cancer. If a home has a radon level higher than 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), the home needs a radon mitigation system to bring the radon to safe levels.
Other than a whole house and radon inspections, there are different types of home inspections your agent may recommend. Some of these include:
- Chimney inspection
- Roof inspection
- Lead-based paint
- Termite and other pests
- Structural inspection
The buyer or the buyer’s agent
It’s a good idea for the buyer to attend the home inspection because it’ll be the perfect chance to ask the inspector how the home’s various systems work and hear about maintenance. “I always encourage the buyer at the beginning of the inspection to share anything that they have questions about,” Pretty says. Of course, if the buyer isn’t able to attend the inspection for one reason or another, their agent can go for them.
Pretty clarifies, “Who attends a home inspection depends on the state where you’re buying. There are states where Realtors do not attend the inspection — the only person who goes is the inspector, by him or herself. Then there are other states where a licensed Realtor is required to be with the inspector.”
There’s another reason why the buyer’s agent should be present: the agent can use the findings during negotiations. However, instead of asking for a reduced price on the home, Pretty suggests buyers ask for credit toward closing costs.
“If the asking price is lowered by even $5,000, that’s only about $25 less per month toward the mortgage. That’s not very much money to help that buyer fix the issue,” However, if the problems will cost $5,000 to fix and the buyer asks the seller for credit toward their closing costs in lieu of repairs, “the buyer can retain $5,000 of their money to then put toward the repairs, new carpeting, a new deck, decorating or whatever they want to do.”
Who shouldn’t attend a home inspection
Now that we know that the inspector, the buyer, or the buyer’s agent are the key players during a home inspection, let’s take a look at who shouldn’t be at the inspection.
The seller or the listing agent
Although the seller has a right to be at the inspection (it is their home, after all), it’s not a good idea. “The buyer pays for the inspection; therefore, the information the inspector identifies belongs to the buyer — not the seller,” Pretty comments. “Whenever we have a seller insisting on being there, we always explain to them: you can’t follow the inspector around, and you can’t drop in on it — you need to find somewhere to sit.”
Whether or not the listing agent should be present is up for some debate. Some believe that because the listing agent represents the seller, they need to be there to keep overly zealous inspectors in line. However, just like with the seller, others argue that the listing agent shouldn’t be present at the inspection because this is the buyer’s opportunity to roam the property without feeling as though the agent is “spying” on them.
Family and/or friends of the buyer
As a first-time homebuyer, it’s understandable that you’d want to bring someone more knowledgeable along who could spot issues that you can’t. However, it wouldn’t be in your best interest.
“That person feels pressure and the need to find issues. So they go through the house, pulling everything.” Pretty explains. For example, they could make comments about how the walls look dingy or the knobs on the cabinets are dated. These things are minute in the grander scheme of things, plus they’re easy fixes!
A general contractor
You might think it would be useful to have a contractor friend come along because they may spot things that the home inspector could miss. “They’re not an inspector, and they’re not a Realtor. They’re looking for flaws and ways to be a hero for their buyer friend. Sometimes that gets misinterpreted and can cause some problems,” Pretty states.
With that said, Pretty recommends using the contractor friend as a resource by having them go through the inspection report, then discuss the problems, and the costs to repair them. Now you can use as your agent to negotiate on your behalf for that credit toward closing.
Also, when you’re ready to do repairs, you can use a general contractor for minor repairs, but Pretty recommends hiring licensed professionals who specialize in that area. For example, if the electric needs to be re-wired, you should hire a licensed electrician. If the home needs a new HVAC, look for a licensed HVAC technician. “You want them to be licensed because most will provide a warranty,” she notes.
Being prepared and knowing who attends a home inspection
A home inspection is one of the many steps in the homebuying process that you need to count on doing. As a buyer, you will be responsible for paying for the inspection out of pocket right then and there.
“Most inspectors have a policy where they won’t release the report to the buyer until the inspection is paid for,” Pretty mentions. If you want to get an idea about how much it’ll cost, it’s typically calculated based on the age of the home, square footage, and type of inspection you’re requesting.
If you’re still nervous about who should and shouldn’t attend the home inspection, look up the laws in your state. Some states require a licensed agent to be present, while other states do not. However, it’s always in your best interest to be there for the inspection so you can voice any concerns you may have about problems you may notice. What you think is a big deal may not be that big of an issue. Your home inspector will be able to ease your mind.
One final tip: read your purchase contract thoroughly so you know how long you have to complete the inspection. If you complete the inspection before the deadline and there are problems you just don’t want to deal with, you have to keep reading to find out how you go about telling the seller you’re backing out. By following the steps laid out in the contract before the deadline, you should be able to get your earnest money returned to you in full.
Of course, if you love the home and you don’t want to let it go, you have the option of following through with the transaction and have your agent negotiate on your behalf. No matter what you plan to do, discuss your options with your agent because they can give you advice that will make the home inspection process a little less stressful.
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