What you Need to Know About: Agent’s Visual Inspection Disclosure (AVID)

As one of my favorite brokers once joked, an agent visual inspection disclosure (AVID) is a visual inspection that an agent can do in heels. The point being that both individual sales agents in a transaction (the listing agent represent the seller and the selling agent representing the buyer. If it is dual agency, both individuals must still produce their own visual inspection disclosures, if one individual is representing both parties, you would only expect to see one AVID form) are required to perform a visual inspection of the property, but neither is expected to show up in overalls, ready to crawl through crawlspaces or stick their head in attics or in downspouts.

// This post is a part of our series: Your Guide to a San Francisco Disclosure Package. //

The Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure (AVID) is a *property specific* disclosure. Read it as soon as it is available.

AVID - Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure Form

AVID – Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure Form

Here’s the thing to remember about an agent’s visual inspection: We aren’t licensed contractors, which means we aren’t qualified to diagnose what we see. Our job is to note what we see at the property that is unusual or stands out to us – the idea being that since we see lots of homes as part of our job, the things that stand out might be important things for the buyer or seller to be aware of.

That said, at every risk management seminar I’ve ever been to I’ve pretty much heard the same instructions/advice from a variety of real estate attorneys: describe, don’t diagnose. Which means a good AVID will state things like “cracks visible along wall” instead of something like “hairline cracks caused by settling visible along wall.” An agent isn’t typically qualified to diagnose the underlying cause of a visible issue.

It is also important to remember that an agent doesn’t move furniture, look underneath things, move piles of stuff or otherwise try and take apart the home.

An agent’s visual inspection is not a substitute for an inspection by a contractor or other licensed home professional – it is simply a “once-over” list of things that were readily apparent to the agents involved in a residential real estate transaction. It is also important to remember that if you are purchasing/selling a condo home, the AVID does not include any of the common areas – it covers the condo home itself, not the common areas that accompany ownership of the condo.

What you should know about Agency Disclosure

A disclosure package in San Francisco almost always starts with a “Disclosure Regarding Real Estate Agency Relationship” form like the one pictured in this article. It’s a document that is filled with small type and lots of legal language – in other words, it is a document that tends to make the eyes immediately gloss over, which is unfortunate because of the importance of the agency relationship.

A typical agency relationship in the purchase or sale of a home in San Francisco (or California) follows the three following steps:

  1. Disclosure – this consists of presenting a buyer or seller with information about the three types of agency relationships in California Real Estate – Seller Agency, Buyer Agency, and Dual Agency. It is important to note that disclosure does not create an agency relationship. When a buyer or seller signs this form, they aren’t agreeing to any particular type of agency relationship – they are simply acknowledging that they have been provided with the information about the various types of agency relationships and the differences in each of the three types of agency.
  2. Election – There isn’t usually a form for this, but I’m sure one exists somewhere. Election of agency is typically created through the actions of the parties. In other words, if I tell you I’m going to write an offer with you after you’ve disclosed the various types of agency to me, my actions demonstrate that I have elected to work with you as a (fill in the blank with the appropriate form of agency).
  3. Confirmation – In San Francisco, this final step typically happens in the purchase contract where there is a paragraph that spells out who the brokerages are that are involved in a transaction, and in what capacity they represent the buyer and seller.
Agency Disclosure Picture

A typical Agency Disclosure form in San Francisco

Agency is one of the most important topics in real estate that gets far less attention than it deserves. That said, we’ve written about agency in the past, including the following three articles: