We are coming out of the most prolonged and intensely heated seller’s market that I have observed in my 40 years in the real estate business. This has been driven largely by two factors: a decided lack of housing inventory and historically low mortgage interest rates.
As a result of these factors, enormous competition for available listings has been created. New properties hit the market and attract a great deal of immediate attention. If reasonably priced, most will sell within a few days. There will be multiple and competitive offers. Many people are willing to pay above asking price. And, in an effort to make their offer stand out and be competitive, many buyers are waiving traditional home and related inspections.
At Wolfe & Company Realtors, out agents will NEVER advise a buyer client to waive their inspections. That being said, our clients don’t always listen to us! Both in my own office and others, we are routinely seeing contracts that waive customary and even reasonable inspections. While this certainly makes Mr. & Mrs. Seller very happy, it is a potential recipe for disaster for buyers – – particularly those who don’t have the financial means to address post settlement repairs and improvements after using up their cash reserve and borrowing ability to purchase their new home.
So, what do you do? Well, I am not an attorney – – but you’re going to need one! The burden largely falls upon the buyer to be able to prove that the sellers were aware of these problems or defects and failed to disclose them to the buyer. The first step should be a quick review of the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement to see if they were mentioned at all by the sellers. In the event that you have purchased an estate, where the Seller Property Disclosure Act does not apply, you need to somehow prove that the heirs or beneficiaries failed to disclose defects which existed in the deceased seller’s home. Both are extremely difficult to prove. Arbitration Panels and Courts have proven very reluctant to make significant awards in “he said she said” cases.
We have already seen instances where somebody inherits a failed septic system and a $30,000 bill to correct it. Recently, we saw young buyers find significant evidence of roof leaking and water intrusion – even into the electric panel box – into their new home. The seller simply said that they were unaware of this problem. I tend not to believe the sellers, but how are you going to prove it? And, retaining an attorney and pursuing this is a costly matter as well.
So, give thought to creating a quantified “due diligence” or “inspection period” in the agreement of sale. This will provide you a short window of time, perhaps 8-12 days, to specifically check out anything on the property that could be a potential problem. You could also consider having a home inspector accompany you when you walk through the property. Any contingency in the Agreement then should make clear to the seller that you will accomplish this quickly and it will be a “take it or leave it” decision on your part. Above all else, it is my opinion that you need to gain knowledge concerning the septic system if the subject property is not serviced buy municipal water and sewer.
As always, EXPERIENCE MATTERS! Wolfe & Company ALWAYS places honesty, integrity, and relationships above commissions. We will give you the best advice reasonably possible and refer you to appropriate professionals for that which is out of our realm of expertise.
So, good luck. You will find that dream home but don’t let your excitement and emotions override your common sense and good judgement. Happy hunting!
Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is Broker/Owner of Wolfe & Company Realtors which he established in 1986. He is a past President of Carlisle Association of Realtors, past Director for the PA Association of Realtors and has been inducted into the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors Hall of Fame. All opinions provided are his own.