Sellers can be ... let’s say, “flexible,” with the truth. A creative omission here, a slight exaggeration there, and before they know it, they’ve told more porkers than Pinocchio. The more desperate they are to sell, the more likely they are to gloss over the cracks.
Even more problematic than the seller, though, is the buyer! Once a buyer falls in love with a property, they actively collude in the whole fairy-tale process, swallowing whatever the seller says without thinking to question it.
“Subway trains don’t pass underneath?” asks the buyer, as the veritable earthquake passing below them jiggles them all around.
“Oh, no,” says the seller. “That’s just something I ate.”
“Phew, I was worried for a moment there.”
Here is a list of common untruths you should look out for:
“My neighbors are wonderful!”
Really? Why not check it out for yourself? Knock on the wonderful neighbor’s door. Tell them you are thinking of buying the house next door and ask them what they think of the neighborhood. If you get the door slammed in your face, you can assume by “wonderful” the seller meant, “It will be wonderful to get away from those creeps.”
You could also check out RottenNeighbor.com. If you find them on there, you know you’re heading for trouble.
“The roof leaked once, but we fixed it.” You “fixed” it, eh? What exactly does that mean? Did you have the roof replaced? Patch the leaky area? Or did you just stick a bucket under it? The seller may not even think they are lying here, but if the repairs have been done in some half-baked way, you need to know. Get a professional home inspection.
“I’ve only seen one termite on the deck.” Termites, bats, rats and carpenter ants are not conducive to a happy home. And they’re not included in a typical home inspection. If there's any hint that there might be problems with pests, you should get an insect inspection. These creatures are not wandering hobos dropping in on a house for a look around then moving on their merry way. They come in groups.
“There’s no radon — ever.” Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Bearing this in mind, it is sensible to request a radon test whatever the seller tells you. If you know the area is subject to radon gas, you should definitely do it. To find out about radon gas levels in your area, contact your local Environmental Protection Agency office.
“I didn’t know I should have told you about the foreclosure.”
Get title insurance. Judgments, tax and mechanical liens are covered by title insurance.
“The planes from the airport don’t fly over this house.”
You can find this out for sure by contacting the FAA. Alternatively, you can stick around for a while. If one flies over, watch as the seller’s face turns beet red.
“Of course we had a permit to build the new addition.” One-family house owners can do all the work themselves, even the plumbing and electrical wiring. But 90 percent of homeowners don’t bother to get the needed permits. If you are worried that something might be amiss, check with the building department.
“There’s never been any flooding.”
Most older homes do have some flooding in the basement when there is excessive rain, so it is quite possible a seller could lie to you about this. One thing you can do to find out if the area is susceptible to flooding is to check the water tables at the town hall.
“They can’t build on that lot across the street.” Why can’t they? If the lot is too small, they might get a variance. Talk to the planning board to find out.My mother bought a house in Florida and now all of a sudden someone’s building high school across the street!
Here’s a concise list of important things you should do:
Get a professional home inspection.Qualified home inspectors routinely uncover problems with houses that you can’t see. The most common problems involve plumbing, cooling and heating systems, leaky roofs, kitchen appliances and cracked foundations.
Spring for extra inspections.
These include insects, radon, leaky underground tanks and bad well-water.
Get title insurance. If you’re financing, you can’t close without it. It protects you from forgery, fraud, encumbrances, judgments and permit violations. You pay for insurance once only when you buy and the policy is good forever.
Visit the property during rush hour and on Friday or Saturday night.
It’s the only way to see what the next-door kids are like, how traffic is on the weekends, and how noisy it really gets around the neighbor’s pool.Get a signed disclosure form from the seller or the broker representing the seller. If they don’t disclose the defect, they’re subject to suit.Do a final walk-through inspection. Revisiting the property before closing ensures that it’s in the condition you required in your offer and that any stipulated repairs have been completed. Make the final walk-through no sooner than five days before you intend to close, and make sure the right to do so is included in your offer to purchase.
I know this all sounds very tedious and not at all what you want to spend your time doing, but these few simple steps can save you countless hours of misery down the road. Picture yourself 10 years from now, lying on a damp bed with termites dancing a jig on your chest. The skyscraper across the street casts a dark shadow over your room, so dark you can see yourself glowing green from all the radon gas you’ve inhaled. Your nasty neighbor sits grinning at the foot of your bed, peppering you with pellets from his BB gun.
Heh! It could happen.