Helping a client buy a home is done in a series of detailed steps. Once everything has gone according to plan and the offer has been accepted, it’s time for the home inspection. But what should real estate agents know about home inspections?

First, keep in mind, this usually happens 7-10 days after the offer has been accepted, and gives buyers a clear understanding of what exactly they’re getting into. An inspection is performed by a third-party professional who works off of a detailed checklist to make sure all systems and appliances in the home are working correctly. 

The home inspection step is often the last opportunity for a buyer to change their mind without losing any money. Once the inspection deadline has passed, walking away from the contract can be a little more difficult.  

As an agent, it’s important to know that this can be a very stressful time for your client. It is a waiting game, and many buyers make their final decisions based on the results of the inspection. Homebuyers may also have concerns about managing a home inspection during a pandemic. The more you know about this process, the better you’ll be able to serve your clients and help them work through the inspection process. 

What to Expect From a Home Inspection
If you’re working with a first-time home buyer, they’ll probably turn to you to help them understand what to expect from the inspection. Here are a few things you can tell them:

A third-party inspector (typically referred by you, the agent) will schedule a date and time to come and perform a thorough inspection of the property. They’ll start on the outside and walk from room to room, checking for visible signs of damage or causes for concern. Some inspectors will take photos to go along with their notes, both of which will be included in their final report.

Some of the things the inspector will look into include:

  • All electrical systems in the home
  • The foundation
  • The walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Plumbing systems
  • All appliances
  • The heating and AC systems
  • The basement and other structural features of the property

This inspection should take a few hours, and the final report should be back to the buyers in 3-4 days. After a careful review of the report, you can share your professional opinion with your client and help them make their next decisions. 

Go or No-Go
The buyer does not have to attend the inspection, but the agent should. As your client’s representative, it’s imperative that you are present and involved in this stage of the buying process. When you attend the inspection, you can better understand the issues and concerns that the home inspector finds and be able to convey them clearly to the buyer. When you attend a home inspection, you learn more about what the inspectors are looking for. Then, you can use this information to serve your next client better. 

It’s not legally required to attend, and some buyer’s agents choose to step back and not attend the inspection. Some feel that their presence could impact the inspector’s findings and could turn a neutral inspection into an argument about the findings. Every agent has to decide what they (and their client) feel most comfortable with, but attending these inspections gives agents valuable information about the home they’re buying.  

Finding the Right Home Inspector
When it’s time for an inspection, your buyers will look to you first. They’ll expect you to refer them to a trustworthy and competent home inspector who can give them the answers they’re looking for. Traditionally, it’s your responsibility to provide your client with 2-3 inspectors to choose from. If you’re new to the real estate industry and are just starting to build your network, you may want to ask others in the industry about the inspectors they use and trust. You could also search the  National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors to find certified inspectors in your area. 

Over time, you’ll find inspectors that you know and trust and recommend them with confidence to your buyers. 

Reading a Home Inspection Report
Once the inspection report comes back, it’s your job to look over it carefully and explain the findings to your client. The first thing you can explain to your client is that it is the inspector’s job to find something. Remind them not to be discouraged if the report comes back with a handful of findings, as this is expected. The inspector will include findings no matter how big or small. They may include things like a broken window screen, a leaky sink, or a burnt-out lightbulb. These are common and fixable and won’t impact the sale of the home. 

The first thing you want to look for are issues that will be the most expensive, such as structural, electrical, and mechanical issues. These will need to be addressed right away, and if they’re extensive, these could be the issues that cause the buyer to walk away. If the report comes back with issues regarding the roof, foundation, electrical systems, or the HVAC system, it may require a more detailed conversation about how/if to move forward. 

What Happens Next?
If the report comes back satisfactory, you and your client will sit down to discuss the findings. This is the stage where you decide how you want to move forward. If there are no major issues, the buyer can decide to move forward with the sale. The buyer can also request for the issues to be repaired before they sign the contract and move forward with the sale. This is where you, as their agent, will prepare a repair addendum. The sellers will then respond with negotiations and counteroffers until an agreement is made. If there are major issues, the buyer may decide to cancel the purchase contract. 

The Next Steps
Knowing what happens during each stage of the real estate buying process will help you serve your clients better. Continued education for real estate agents in all aspects of the real estate industry is what sets high-performing agents apart from the rest. 

If you want to learn more about the inspection or appraisal processes, check out Mbition’s real estate classes and courses designed to help new and seasoned agents reach next-level success.