Tuesday, October 20, 2015 / by Bill Berning*
Sellers are required to disclose major defects on a home. But as a buyer, how can you be sure that the home that you are purchasing doesn’t have serious problems?
When you decide to buy a home, getting a home inspection done is a crucial step that can help you to uncover defects with the home. However, there are certain types of defects that occur in homes at much higher rates than others. What should you do if the seller has not disclosed the defects?
As a homebuyer, you know that every home that is for sale isn’t in perfect condition. However, it is your job to uncover whether there are serious defects or not. While laws do require that both real estate agents and sellers disclose serious defects with a property, sometimes this doesn’t happen.
Unfortunately, a homebuyer may not be notified of a serious defect. Matthew Izzi, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law recommends that homeowners be proactive in order to protect themselves. “In order to protect yourself, you may consider having the home separately appraised and thoroughly examined for defects before purchasing the home.” says Izzi. “If you will have the home inspected, be sure to hire an independent professional who is not working in tandem with the seller or their real estate agent.”
Here are some of the most common major defects to watch out for so that you can be proactive in getting estimates on repairs to decide if you still want to go ahead with the purchase.
Resurfacing a roof can be a costly expenditure. The potential repair costs will be increased even more if a roofing contractor discovers that the surface of the roof needs to be removed before the resurfacing. As a sign of potential roof problems, the home inspector should look for wear that is readily apparent, as well as, subtle defects. If a home has roof problems, you’ll want to get an estimate on the costs of repairing the issues before you consider buying the home.
Flooding and Leaks
If the home floods or leaks on a regular basis, there is a likely a structural problem that needs to be addressed. Moisture that enters a home is a major contributor to serious problems such as toxic mold, dry rot, and water damage. These problems can be very costly to repair and may render the home unlivable due to mold and mildew issues.
Some homes are filled with toxins that can lead to serious health problems. As a home buyer, the seller must disclose issues such as lead, mold, radon or asbestos. All four of these conditions require specialists to examine the problem. If you suspect that there is a toxin-related issue, ask your home inspector for recommendations on the right person to call to investigate these problems.
Earthquake Fault Lines
If the home sits on an earthquake fault line, that puts the home at a substantially higher risk of suffering serious damage if an earthquake hits. The easiest way to determine if your home sits on an earthquake fault line is to look at maps that are issued by the United States Geological Survey. The board responsible for earthquake hazard monitoring in your state may also publish its own maps with individual addresses lists.
While some electrical problems may not require disclosure, home sellers must disclose if there are problems with the electrical wiring. Faulty electrical wiring is a serious fire hazard. Problems with the electrical wiring could also indicate that the homeowner or another party did illegal electrical work on the home.
Pest Control Problems
Pest control problems, if severe, can render a home unlivable. If the pest control problem is not brought under control, structural damage may result, as in the case of a termite infestation. You should also watch out for the presence of insects or rodents. Consider calling a pest control service to determine how much it will cost to resolve the problem.
As you research a home, you should also look out for mechanical problems that involve major appliances. The most common systems that may be affected are heating, air conditioners, HVAC systems and kitchen appliances.
All of the defects listed in this article are serious defects that a Realtor or home seller is likely required to report.
The seller must disclose all defects that could affect whether or not the buyer decides to purchase the home. As a real estate agent, the agent is held to even higher standards and is obligated to disclose the defects, even if the seller is not required to do so.
Even if you believe that you have found major defects in a home, it is important to determine if the disclosures are required by law in your area. If you want to find out the exact seller disclosure rules in your state, province, or county, you should look on the Web for the disclosure form. Certain defects, such as disclosing a death on a property, are not covered under the law in certain areas.
“In most states, sellers are required to disclose only what they already know. They are not held responsible if they answer “no” or “unknown” to one or more disclosure questions.” says Sandy Gadow, licensed real estate agent and freelance writer for The Washington Post. “The disclosure paperwork defines the scope of liability for the seller, who “is not liable for any error, inaccuracy, or omission for information that is not within the scope of [his or her] actual knowledge.”
If you have found defects within a home that you’ve purchased or are planning to buy, you may be eligible for damages. Talking with a qualified real estate attorney if you believe that there have been omissions in the information disclosed by the home seller.