Are you thinking about buying a house without the help of a real estate agent? Do you know what caveat emptor means? It’s a neo-latin phrase meaning “let the buyer beware.” It is a principle of contract law in many places in which the onus is on the buyer to perform due diligence before making a purchase, like real estate. Caveat emptor is an ancient principle intended to resolve disputes from information asymmetry, a term used to describe a transaction where the seller is privileged to information, giving them the advantage over the buyer. That’s why a realtor is so important; they can help you navigate the twists and turns that come along with a real estate transaction. A realtor is the home buyer’s secret weapon and trusted advisor.
While you are previewing homes online and in-person with your real estate agent, be aware of commonly concealed issues sellers try to hide. Be especially vigilant if you are dealing with a foreclosed property, or an estate of a deceased homeowner, as you and your real estate agent will not be working with the people who actually lived there. If the property is listed “as is”, a home inspection can put your mind at ease.
Here are common issues that often result in a buyer beware (caveat emptor) conclusion:
Aging Systems. Be sure to check inside and out. Start with the sinks; if you see rust stains or a leaky faucet, it could mean a bigger problem with the plumbing or even contaminated water. Check under sinks and on ceilings for evidence of water stains or leaks. Examine heating and cooling systems for “last serviced date” and look inside registers or duct work for debris or other airborne health hazards. Open the breaker box and look for missing breakers or exposed wiring which may present a fire hazard. Step outside and look at the rain gutters, if they filled with debris and leaking, this would suggest a lack of routine home maintenance.
Pests. Things may look normal on the outside, but termites could be chewing away inside the walls or lurking in the attic. Many states have disclosure laws regarding pests, but they vary from state to state. Many mortgage companies like FHA and VA loans require an initial termite inspection before approving the loan. If damage is discovered, repairs are usually at the seller’s expense up to a percentage of the sales price. Always choose a reputable, licensed pest inspector certified to examine, determine, and remedy problems with insects, bats, bees, vermin, and other nuisance pests that may cause damage to a home.
Roof or Foundation. Its hard to see what’s on top of a two story home, but if you take a few step back, one can get a fair view of the roof. If shingles are missing or appear loose this could be a signal potential water damage. Just as important is the foundation, the blocks and mortar in which your structure rests. Investigate the integrity of the foundation making note of cracks, moisture, or shifting blocks. Analyze the landscaping around the foundation, make sure rain runoffs flows away from the structure.
Remember, you don’t have to go through the home buying process alone and afraid someone is going to take advantage of you. Start with a call to George Papakostas and find out what you need to know as a buyer in today’s competitive market. George will ease your “buyer beware” fears with current industry knowledge and local real estate expertise to provide you solid advice time and time again. It’s home buying season –contact George and start home shopping today!