Buying a home? The number of issues that require your attention before you take possession of the keys may surprise you. Simply extending an offer and signing a sales contract does not come close to the amount of legwork required.
Title issues, escrow and financing are only some of the tasks you encounter on your journey to home ownership. You will want to make sure that the home you purchase doesn't become something out of the movie, "The Money Pit." In order to do that, the home needs an inspection, and the seller needs to tell you if the home has any issues that could affect your decision to buy or has any defects that could affect its value or habitability.
You may wonder what exactly the seller must tell you about the property. This can get tricky since the seller only needs to disclose defects of which he or she is actually aware. Even so, the state of California attempts to help protect potential buyers by requiring the seller to provide you with as much and as specific detail as possible. The seller may need to search the home for specific defects required for disclosure under state law, such as termite damage.
Even though many sellers will hire someone to conduct an inspection of the property in order to protect themselves, this document could also provide you with useful information. You should know that sellers don't necessarily have to fix any problems identified, but that could be a negotiation point. Many sellers will go ahead and fix a problem if it will affect their ability to sell the home.
Disclosures regarding lead-based paint
If the home was built prior to 1978, the seller must also provide you with information regarding whether lead-based paint was used in the home. The Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 requires specific items to be included in such a disclosure.
Other potential hazards and the need for an inspection
Older homes could also have issues regarding the use of asbestos as an insulator. Mold could also present an issue in an older home. Read the seller's disclosures carefully before simply signing off on them. Just as the seller has the right to hire an inspector, so do you. You should take full advantage of this to be sure what you are walking into when you buy the home. You may be able to live with some defects, some you may request the seller to fix and some may be a deal breaker.
If you manage to get through closing and discover that the seller failed to inform you of a substantial defect that affects your ability to live in the home or that reduces its value, don't despair. You may yet have legal options. Discussing the matter with an experienced real estate attorney could give you peace of mind and help relieve your stress associated with discovering that the house was not what you expected. If necessary, legal action may be your next step and having an advocate on your side could prove invaluable.