Who should be present at inspections?

Asked by Rick, 20388 Sun Feb 7, 2010

A potential buyer's home inspector informed the buyer of some cracks in the basement walls and recommended having a structural engineer inspect them. The cracks are very small 1/8th inch vertical cracks, so I agreed to pay for a structural engineer to inspect. I'm not crazy about the buyer being present at the inspection, especially because he has yet to sign off that he still wants the house if everything checks out? What's protocol?

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Bill Meyer, Other Pro, Auburn Hills, MI
Wed Feb 10, 2010
The buyer should be present at the inspection, after all, they are the one's paying for the inspection and the inspector works for the buyer to protect their interests. Just as you would want to be present if you were the one purchasing the property. The home inspector is selling peace of mind. By uncovering deficiencies in the home, the buyer knows just what they are getting into, and with information comes the ability to manage the risk. Understanding the scope of repairs a house will need by the buyer will make that buyer better prepared for what they will need to do once they gain possession. By minimizing the surprizes, it will make them a happier home owner.

I have yet to be in a basement where there are no cracks. During settlement of a house, there will always be some movement of the foundation, which will cause hairline cracks in a wall. It sounds as if the inspector is trying to cover himself by deferring to someone with more expertise.

The cracks that one needs to be concerned with are the ones that are larger on one end than the other, or if another crack appears on an adjacent wall (indicating that a corner is settling faster than the walls).
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Aaron Smith, Agent, Washington, DC
Wed Feb 10, 2010
At a Home Inspection, paid for by the buyer, of course the buyer is going to be there! And, if the agent isn't incapacitated, the buyers' agent should be there as well.

If problems are expected to be found, (i.e., in an older, home with lots of 'deferred maintenance') , when it is one of my teams listings, the listing agent is in attendance as well. The reason for this is to be absolutely clear on the deficiencies pointed out by the inspector. Their reports, while comprehensive, are often hard to read; and their literary skills are often lacking as well. Many do not annotate their reports with photos.

The one person who should NOT be there, as a usual thing, is the seller. <Unless he is paying for a pre-contract inspection.> Why? Because any statements that the seller makes to the buyer, particularly if witnessed, might be taken as enforceable.

For example, if the seller were there in the above example (small cracks in basement wall) and the owner said he would take care of it. The owner meant he would paint over them to seal them; whereas the buyer might think he meant rebuilding the basement.

SO, to answer your question, in my opinion, at an inspection; the Buyer, the Buyer;s Agent, and the Listing Agent. The Seller should not be there, but available via phone to answer any specific questions the Listing agent might call with.

However, for this second, structural inspection, I think that you, since you are paying for it, should be there. I am less sure that I would have the buyer there, then the previous letters. NOT that I recommend hiding anything, but, if the cracks turn out to be of serious import, you will have greater worries than this particular contract. It would give you time to consult with your agent as to the best strategy to present the findings in a way to reassure the buyer.; normally, you present the problem AND the solution, at the same time.


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Debra (Debbi…, Agent, Livingston, NJ
Sun Feb 7, 2010
Rick - HI!

You have to deal with this head on. By all means, you want the buyer to be there. Whatever is discovered will have to be disclosed anyway, so having the buyer there , to ask the engineer any quesitons, is good. This gets things out in the open.

This way any concerns will be addressed, and you will be able to move on with the sale.

If, per chance, the buyer walks away............at least you will know what you are dealing with......can take any steps needed for remediation..........and make sure the next buyer is reassured from the beginning.

The home inspection phase of the selling process can be very nerve racking.........just take a deep breath.................let the engineer come in...and let the buyer be present.

I commend you for taking the steps necessary to resolve this issue. I am sure things will progress in a positive way. Remember, there is always a way to correct any deficiency......

Besti wishes, and please let us know how things turn out!
Debbie Rose
Prudential NJ Properties
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Linda Ginex, Agent, Newport Beach, CA
Sun Feb 7, 2010
Protocol is to have the buyer there as well as both agents.

It was nice of you to pay for the inspection. The buyers have a right to do their due diligence so they know what they're spending hundreds of thousands on.

Most likely if it is serious, you'll want to think about paying to have the work done, renegotiate the purchase price, or give them a credit to get it fixed at close of escrow. Keep in mind that if these buyers have a problem with these cracks, most any buyer will too.

Good luck! I hope you two can work it out.
Web Reference:  http://www.lindaginex.com
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Dan Chase, Home Buyer, Texas City, TX
Sun Feb 7, 2010
Look at it from another perspective. The buyer is interested enough to STILL consider your house.

if I was that buyer I would want to be there. That expensive inspector could completely set my mind at ease saying those are normal cracks that once filled with epoxy (or whatever) will never be a concern.

Yes, it is possible that the inspector will say that those cracks suggest a more serious problem that meant your house should be avoided. Do you think that message would be any worse getting it from a report?

The buyer is nervous now. They want a professional to hold their hand and tell them that your house is a good one to buy. If you have an inspector who is plain spoken and can explain how it is or is not a problem well the buyer could be reassured enough to want to buy. I would see the buyer being there able to ask the inspector things as a very good sign.
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