When it comes to home inspections, your real estate agent undoubtedly has a lot more experience than you do. A home inspection is one of the things real estate agents deal with every week. You only encounter them occasionally. But is this enough reason to trust the recommendation of your real estate agent on which home inspector to use when you are about to buy a house?
The standard rule for taking advice from people is to ask how any adverse effects that result from following their advice will affect the person. If there is any direct impact on the person, their advice is often worth more. But if they can walk away and leave you with the mess created by following their advice, you should take a long hard look at what they are saying.
But do real estate agents suggest home inspectors to their clients? If they do, what are their criteria for selecting these preferred home inspectors? Are there severe risks to accepting the agent’s recommendations? And how do you find a home inspector who will protect your best interests?
The problem with using your agent’s recommended Home Inspector
Many agents routinely introduce their clients to a list of their preferred home inspectors. They will recommend these individuals based on the agent’s track record of working with the home inspectors. And as Alltrade Properties explains, buyers are encouraged to choose one of the agent’s suggested inspectors because doing so is supposed to help the buyer.
However, there are reasons to have reservations about an agent’s recommendations because:
- First, real estate agents do not disclose the criteria they use for short-listing the home inspectors on their list. Buyers have no way of knowing if the selection process is impartial or if the agent is recommending people who will protect their commissions.
- Secondly, real estate agents have an interest in seeing the purchase go through without hitches. The average estate agent commission on a home sale is 6% of the property’s sales price. On a $350,000 home, the commission would be $21,000; that is a lot of money.
- Thirdly, because of the money involved, agents have an incentive to cooperate with home inspectors to facilitate the speedy sale’s completion. This sort of arrangement would see the agent referring buyers to the home inspector in exchange for the inspector giving the home a clean bill of health.
Can you sue your real estate agent if they do this?
You may think that if you discover that your real estate agents were cooperating with the home inspector they recommended to you, you would be able to sue them. But real estate agents are aware of this possibility and take measures to protect themselves. That is why the estate agent will show you a list of home inspectors instead of recommending just one.
By showing you a list of at least three recommended inspectors, the agent successfully shields himself or herself from liability for the referral. While appearing to give you the power to make an informed choice, the agent narrows your options to home inspectors they vet. The agent also ensures you don’t choose a home inspector who could hurt the sale.
How to find an independent Home Inspector
Not every home inspector will agree to work with estate agents to adjust home inspection reports to favor the agent. And interestingly, real estate agents often know the home inspectors who will not and will actively try to steer you away from such inspectors. Estate agents often refer to these home inspectors as “deal killers” and will make disparaging comments about them, like:
- That inspector is too expensive, and they take too long.
- They are incompetent; that’s why they charge low fees.
- The inspector is tough, and we don’t work with him or her.
If you suggest using an independent home inspector and your agent raises objections that should make you suspicious. Instead of going along with the agent’s suggestions, employ an inspector who has the following credentials:
- The home inspector must be independent, in that they do not solicit real estate agents for client leads. How will you know that a home inspector does not solicit referrals from estate agents? Agents usually do not recommend them; estate agents may even be hostile to them.
- The agent must have the most up-to-date equipment and expertise for a thorough assessment of every part of the home. Home inspectors who work with estate agents don’t need to be comprehensive, since they don’t serve the buyer’s interests.
- They will go beyond the minimum reporting standards as recommended by their state. You can get this information by comparing the inspector’s sample home inspection report with sample reports from one of your agent’s recommended inspectors.
- They will not necessarily be the cheapest home inspection companies around. A home inspector that cooperates with your estate agent won’t want to set their fees too high. Because that will make you ask questions and start to look elsewhere.