I’ve written about buyers attending the home inspection and I’ve written about buyer’s agents attending the home inspection. I’ve never written about home sellers attending the home inspection because I thought this was a no-brainer, but I recently learned that there are many real estate agents that feel the seller should be present during the home inspection.
When the buyers aren’t there, no problem.
If the buyers aren’t going to attend the inspection, I have no problem with the seller being home for the inspection. In fact, sometimes it’s nice to have someone to talk to instead of just talking to myself. I can ask the seller about mysterious stains, I can ask why they installed something this way when it’s usually done that way… come to think of it, when it’s just me and the seller present, I ask a ton of questions. I get to know the sellers a little, and I often get a call from them later when they’re ready to have their next house inspected. I’m all for it.
But when the buyer attends…
On the other hand, if the buyers are going to attend the inspection, which is what happens with the majority of my business, I would much prefer that the seller take off.
On the rare occasions when the seller is present, it can make for an uncomfortable inspection for both the buyers and sellers. It’s tough for a seller to have some stranger walking through their house pointing out defects. Many sellers get angry or defensive, and oftentimes can’t help themselves from butting in with defensive comments or challenging me. I stand behind my recommendations and opinions, but it’s a huge waste of my client’s time if I have to spend half of my time at the inspection talking to the seller.
I typically show up to inspections about fifteen to twenty minutes early, often before the seller has left yet. If I get the impression that the seller isn’t planning on leaving, I’ll usually ask a few pointed questions. “So, are you planning to stick around for this inspection?” If the answer is yes, I’ll say “Ok… did you know the buyers are coming too?” At this point, the seller typically gets a shocked look and says they had no idea that the buyers would be coming, and they rush to get out of the house.
On the rare occasion that the seller plans on staying, I feel out the situation. If the seller says they’ll leave me and my clients alone, great. If the seller answers the door with a scowl and tells me they’re not going anywhere, I politely tell them that I respect the fact that it’s their house and they can do what they want, but I would prefer they leave. If they still don’t want to, that’s their business, but most buyers are very uncomfortable with the seller being home for the inspection. The sellers should be gone during the home inspection for all the same reasons that sellers are gone for any showings.
The most common reason I’ve heard for people that do want the sellers present is so that they can answer any questions that the home inspector has about the house. I have a very simple solution: have the sellers leave a phone number. Done and done.
Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections