Home inspectors: What they wish agents knew
Home inspectors don't want to be "the bad guy." They offer tips for agents to help their clients through the inspection process.
- Conducting an informal walkthrough ahead of the home inspection can help agents gather info and set expectations with their buyer or seller.
- Agents should avoid minimizing problems or providing cost estimates for repairs, as some issues are more complex than they may appear.
The home inspection can be one of the most nerve-wracking steps toward a sale. Deals can fall through or concessions can skyrocket with just a few sentences from someone who's gotten up-close-and-personal with a home’s crawl space.
But even a home inspection that reveals problems doesn’t always spell doom for a deal. “Any house is a good investment if you know what's wrong with it and you get it at the right price,” says Don Grossarth, owner of Oregon NW Home Inspection in Portland. And home inspectors say the best agents are those who can smooth the way and reduce the chance of nasty surprises — especially if they do these things:
Do your own mini-inspection
Stained ceilings, blackened electrical outlets and water damage in bathrooms don't require a licensed inspector to observe. Whether representing a buyer or seller, being aware of a home’s problem areas helps agents set expectations for their client. When working with a buyer, pointing any issues out ahead of time and sharing those observations with the home inspector can help ensure the best possible result.
“Sometimes I get there and there is a lot of obvious mold in the house or the roof is obviously leaking,” says Mariann Balmann, owner of Coastal Inspections in New Jersey. “It’s so clear as day and they feel like it’s a deal breaker and I’m the bad guy.” If an agent sees signs of deferred maintenance, “at least explain to the buyer there’s probably going to be some issues when the home inspector comes.”
Other things to look for are cracks — which may be nothing or may be a serious and expensive problem — or doors or windows that don’t shut correctly. If everyone knows going into the inspection what the potential issues might be, inspection findings are less likely to be a deal-breaking shock.
Newer agents sometimes try to minimize the costs of needed repairs, leading to frustration and disappointment, says Toby Karlquist with The Inspector in Phoenix. “I’ve been in older homes that need a new electrical panel and hear an agent make off-the-cuff comments where they make it sound like it’s not a big deal. I have to jump in and say, ‘Well, maybe. But I’d get a couple of quotes.'”
Give them space
Agents should help their sellers understand how to prepare the home to avoid problems on inspection day. “The most important thing is that the seller’s house is ready for us to inspect,” Grossarth says. “When people are moving they put stuff in the garage. But we need to be able to get to the electrical panel, the crawlspace, the attic.”
During the inspection, it’s best for sellers to stay away, if possible. Grossarth says he prefers buyers also hang back for most of the process and come for just the last 30 minutes. “We can give them the best inspection if I can focus on the house,” he explains. At the end, he likes to walk buyers through the highlights of his findings. It’s also a great time for agents to listen and learn for themselves things to look for.
Give them time
A home inspector should give you a pretty good estimate of how long they will need to be in the home. Don’t try to rush them or get impatient if they go over by a few minutes — it’s their reputation and often they are liable for missed problems.
It can be frustrating to watch buyers get cold feet after a home inspection — and in a sellers market, to forgo inspection entirely. But handled correctly, an inspection can help build trust and cement a relationship with clients.
Make a connection
Need quick advice about a home? Developing a good working relationship with an inspector means that they will answer when you call. Like the right home, the partnership is worth the investment.