I was pondering this, while my buyer's inspector was prodding around a property. Moments before, I had talked with the sellers briefly as they packed up their child in order to disappear for a while.
The sellers were very nice people, and I'm sure we would have had fun hanging out and talking about our kids and such while the inspector visited parts of their home they had never likely seen themselves. But they had alternate plans for the morning... and that was cool, too. I knocked out a few emails... and pondered.
Should Sellers attend the Buyer's Inspection?
There are some very good reasons that sellers might want to be there... and a popular reason that the sellers and their agent often skip it... And there are a couple of reasons that buyers would object, and a reason or two that buyers might welcome the sellers at the inspection.
One thing to get out of the way... The inspection is generally the property of the buyer. They don't have to share it with the sellers (except if they are using it to ask for something from the sellers). Since the buyer contracts it and pays for it, they own it and can choose to use or not use the info. I have had buyers sell the inspection, or even give the inspection, to the seller if they chose not to pursue the property. But there isn't a requirement...
Why shouldn't a Seller be at an inspection?
Like I said, from the perspective of the seller (or their agent) the popular reason is "deniability". If they are there, any defect they become aware of has to be disclosed. I have been told by more than one agent that they wouldn't look at any inspection and didn't even want to hear it discussed... especially REO agents.
And if the home in question has deferred maintenance, or is older, there will likely be some things the seller doesn't want to hear. And in some cases, the sellers aren't really prepared to hear that something they have gotten used to is actually a real problem.
From the Buyer's perspective, the seller knowing that the home is in great shape with no real issues can impact their negotiating position for dealing with anything did come up.
But there are reasons a Seller might want to be there...
For a seller with a newer home... especially one in great shape, being there can be a great thing. They get to hear from the inspector that everything looks ok. Even if they don't get the report, they will have an idea of what the buyer is going to hear.
For a seller with an open mind and a little emotional detachment, the inspection can be an eye opener. And if the deal falls through, they will have a very good idea of why. They will also be in a better position to deal with the issues that could derail a future deal.
My favorite reason for a seller to be at the buyer's inspection is that, if the buyer asks for a repair or other concession, they have a much better idea of exactly what the inspector found objectionable.
I have been to a lot of inspections, some as a representative of the buyer, others on behalf of the seller. I have had sellers that attended, and buyers that didn't want to attend. I have had buyer's agents that were shock I was there, and some that were thankful.
What it boils down to is that I feel the seller and their agent need to decide if the seller or the agent should be at the inspection based on the personality of the seller and the condition of the property. They shouldn't let tradition get in the way of the best business decision. And sellers do have a right to have a representative at the inspection. It IS still their property. However, neither the seller, nor their agent has the right to listen in on any private conversation between the buyer, their agent and their inspector...
Overall, it is a great learning opportunity for the seller or their agent.