Avoid Home-Buying Horror Stories

Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors Advice, Update

It may be the time of year for ghosts and goblins, but buying a home, no matter what time of year, should never be scary. Here are steps to avoid haunted houses and stay safe while buying this fall.

Buyer beware
In many areas, sellers have the upper hand in today’s real estate market. Even though you may be tempted to close a deal as fast as you can to beat out other buyers, make sure you know what you’re buying before you rush to the closing table.
During a real estate transaction, you have time to conduct a number of inspections before you purchase the property. Make sure you put in the time and money to do these before the deadlines in your contract.
In Utah, you’re buying a property “as is.” That means if there are serious defects with the home after you purchase it, you will be responsible for them. The exception is if the seller knew about the problems and didn’t tell you. However, if you discover after moving in that the house needs a $10,000 roof repair, that cost will fall to you if the seller was not aware of the problem.
Ultimately, the buyer has an incredibly important responsibility to make sure the property’s condition is acceptable before the purchase. That means conducting a thorough home inspection, including additional investigations for meth, radon, mold, stucco, soil stability, property boundaries and more.
Spending a few hundred dollars in inspections can save thousands of dollars later if they reveal information about costly repairs and problems.

Haunted houses
While the law requires sellers to disclose any material defects about the property, sellers are not required to reveal psychological issues that would stigmatize a property. For example, if a murder, suicide or felony occurred in the house, a seller does not have to disclose this to the buyer.
Nor does the seller have to disclose previous meth contamination if the health department has since certified the house as clean. The law also doesn’t require sellers to disclose if there are any ghosts living in the home.
Thus, if you are concerned about the house’s past, it’s important that you investigate or ask the sellers if they are aware of any of these issues. While the sellers do not have to proactively disclose these types of issues, the law requires them to be truthful with you. Keep in mind, however, that houses often have many owners, and the current sellers may not know all the answers to your questions.

Location matters
Along with the physical condition of the property, you also need to investigate the location of your would-be home. Look into the city laws and zoning rules. What are you allowed to do with your property? What buildings and facilities can be built nearby? What plans are in store for any vacant lots or neighboring areas?
Also look into schools and crime rates. Because schools affect the value of a home, regardless of whether or not you have children, look into the quality of the schools and district that serve the area. You may also want to look at the sex offender registry to see if there are any registered sex offenders living near the house.
When inspecting the home, visit at multiple times of the day. Are there busy streets, facilities or transportation routes that cause noise, congestion or other problems?
Also look into the property records. Are there any easements that will prevent what you can build on the property or how you can landscape it? Is the property part of a homeowners association or other entity that will have rules and assessments?
These are just a few of the myriad of details you need to look into when buying a home. This list is not comprehensive but will hopefully help you start thinking about important details to consider. Buyers who work with a Utah Realtor have access to a checklist that will cover many of the items that are important to investigate before buying.
Should you discover problems with the home during the purchase process, your Realtor can also help negotiate with the seller to possibly make repairs or lower the purchase price.

To find a Northern Wasatch Realtor and learn more about buying a home, visit NWAOR.com.

Jed Nilson
2016 President, Northern Wasatch Association of REALTORS