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Dealing with defects in real estate transactions

Real estate transactions can be tricky, and there's always a potential to find out that the home you purchased was not what you expected. Today, people can avoid trouble from purchases by opting for agreements in which they have an opportunity to have an inspection and then to accept the state of the home, to reject it or to seek repairs.

In the past, the risk of defects in a home fell on the buyer, but since that was seen as unfair, the laws changed. Now, in contracts where the seller agrees to provide a Seller's Property Disclosure, the seller needs to disclose known defects to the potential buyer. Buyers are expected to use an inspection to look for damage, and the seller is supposed to disclose this disclosure form any and all defects on the property that he or she knows about.  

The Seller's Property Disclosure form is optional, so buyers should insist that the contract requires the seller to provide one.

If a seller isn't truthful in a Seller's Property Disclosure form, then there could be a major issue. In fact, the buyer could turn around and sue the seller over a defect if it's discovered that the seller didn't disclose it and was aware of it today or in the past. The disclosure form actually states that sellers must disclose all latent defects or could face legal liability.

As a buyer, it's on your shoulders to have an inspection and to look for defects obvious to a typical inspection. Once you close the sale, it's your responsibility to take care of defects, not the seller's. It's always in your best interests to have a solid inspection of the property to identify any major issues that need to be repaired and then to buy, negotiate or walk away from the purchase.

Source: The Gazette, "Let the buyer - and seller - beware," Jim Flynn, June 08, 2018

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