HIQA: Is it OK for the listing agent to attend the buyer’s home inspection walk-through?

DDHI Home Inspector Q & A

Recently I was scheduled to inspect a home for a client (home buyer). Her real estate agent contacted me before the inspection and asked the following question:

“Is it OK for the listing agent to attend the walk-through with our client at the end of the inspection?”

It is a great question, and it comes up occasionally. The answer to this question, though, is a bit more complex than you might think. Let me explain…

If it was up to me

From my perspective, I am perfectly fine with the listing agent (the seller’s real estate agent) attending the walk-through. Provided, of course, that they are professional and respectful, and do not interfere with my presentation. It does not happen very often that the listing agent attends since they are usually forwarded a copy of the home inspection report anyway. When they do ask to attend, it is usually so they can see first-hand what I am pointing out and understand why it is an issue, effectively communicate this to their client (the seller), and help facilitate repairs if the seller agrees. 99% of the time the listing agent is there for those reasons. They listen and observe, take notes, are pleasant, and appreciate being able to tag along.

It is very rare, but it can happen that the listing agent behaves rather unprofessionally at the walk-through. They repeatedly interrupt my presentation, argue with me about my findings, try to downplay my explanations, intimidate my client, and are generally a giant pain in the butt. Those agents I definitely do not want to be present at the walk-through. If this happens, either I or the client’s agent will politely ask them to leave.

Regardless of their disposition, the decision of whether the listing agent can be present is actually not up to me. It is up to my client, the home buyer. Here’s why.

It is up to the client

When the client hires me to inspect a house, I have a fiduciary duty to them. They trust (and pay) me to act in their best interest: Perform a thorough inspection, gather information, and present that information to them in form of an inspection report and a walk-through if they are present. I cannot distribute that information to anybody else without their permission. This means the decision of whether the listing agent can be present is actually up to my client.

When this question comes up, I explain this to my client and tell them that it is fine with me but it is really up to them. Most importantly, do they feel comfortable with the listing agent around? Some clients might feel uncomfortable with this. They might feel that they cannot be as open with asking questions, voicing concerns, or communicating their feelings.

It does not matter whether the listing agent is the nicest and most professional agent in the world: If the client is more comfortable without them present, then everybody has to accept and respect their decision.  I certainly do.

Another option

I will even go out of my way and offer my client another option: First I will do the walk-through as planned with only my client and their agent so we call can talk freely and comfortably. Then, if the client gives me explicit permission to do so, I will perform another walk-through with the listing agent and point out the main issues. Yes, it takes a little more of my time. This way, though, everybody is happy and people really appreciate me going above and beyond.