Buyer agent’s duty to attend inspections

QUESTION: I generally act as a buyer’s agent. In most of the transactions I am involved in, I assist my buyer clients in scheduling multiple inspections during the due diligence period. Typically, these include inspections by an appraiser, a licensed home inspector, and a termite inspector. Are there any rules that obligate me to be present for these inspections? Does it make a difference if my buyer-client is planning to be present?

ANSWER: To our knowledge, there are no written rules or guidelines that govern in this area. However, we have posed this question to the legal staff at the North Carolina Real Estate Commission more than once. The Commission’s lawyers have consistently stated that, with two exceptions, the buyer’s agent should be present for these inspections.

The first exception is for those inspections conducted by appraisers. Perhaps because appraisers are themselves licensed, real estate brokers are not expected to attend inspections by appraisers. The other exception is where an inspection will not require access to the interior of the home.

For all other inspections, a buyer’s agent should be present to supervise access to the seller’s property. This is particularly true if the buyer will be present for the inspection. We have been told that if a buyer’s agent is not present any time his buyer client is in the seller’s property, the Real Estate Commission may consider the agent to be in violation of section 6(a)(8) of the Real Estate License Law (“being unworthy or incompetent to act as areal estate broker in a manner as to endanger the interest of the public”).

Even if the buyer is not present for an interior home inspection, the buyer’s agent should attend. In many cases, the home inspector will provide valuable information during the inspection that does not end up in the written report. In some cases, the inspector may need to perform a test that causes damage to the home. In those situations, the presence of the buyer’s agent should assist if there is a subsequent dispute over repairs.

The bottom line: except for inspections by appraisers, if an inspection is being conducted inside the home on the buyer’s behalf, the buyer’s agent has an obligation to be there.

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