home buyer in the hills above Oakland recently closed on a home that
matched her wish list almost perfectly. Before closing, the new home
was inspected, and no major defects were discovered.
buyer had plans for upgrading, starting with removing all the
wall-to-wall carpets. But when the carpets were pulled up, the house
began to smell of cat urine.
The new owner called her agent, who recommended several people who
have experience eradicating pet odor. Within a week, the odor was gone;
the buyer was happy and continued renovating her new home.
Another home buyer was not so lucky. She also bought a house where
cats had urinated in virtually every room. The drywall had to be
replaced. The flooring had to be replaced. The remediation cost more
than $250,000. She hired a lawyer, went to arbitration and won.
As hard as you try to discover all defects before buying, it’s
impossible to know everything, even if the seller is honest and the
house is thoroughly inspected. This doesn’t apply just to older homes.
New homes sometimes have construction defects that aren’t readily
What should you do to keep yourself from ending up in a situation like the two described above?
Make sure that you are involved in the inspection phase of your
purchase. This includes attending inspections and asking the inspector
questions. If you don’t know what to ask, talk to friends who bought
recently. Find out if they had surprises after they moved in.
Your real estate agent should be able to provide a list of red flags
that could indicate serious problems. Ask your agent if he or she has
been involved in any unpleasant after-closing situations, and if
anything could have been done before closing to prevent this.
Home inspection, engineering, drainage and termite reports often
include recommendations for further inspections. And they note items
that won’t be inspected, like a sauna or irrigation system.
Real estate brokers often give buyers a disclosure document advising
them to inspect the property carefully. The disclosure might also
indicate important issues that agents will not be looking into, such as
checking the permit record.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need to follow up on these
issues because the house looks fine. You could get lucky, but I
wouldn’t count on it. In fact, disclaimers detailing the limits of
inspectors’ and agents’ responsibilities make a strong case for taking
charge of your due-diligence investigations.
Don’t be shy about asking questions. For instance, if the sellers
have pets, ask if there are, or have been, any odors or damage
attributable to the pets. If you’re concerned about drainage, ask the
sellers if they’ve had any water problems. If so, what have they done
to correct the situation?
Find out if the house has recently been carpeted or painted.
Document your conversations. Better still, ask the sellers to put any
pertinent disclosure in writing, even if it’s just an e-mail. Keep this
documentation in your transaction file.
The first thing to do if you discover a serious defect after closing
is to review your transaction file and make sure this wasn’t already
discovered during inspections or disclosed to you by the sellers. If
the documentation reveals nothing, make your agent aware of the problem
and ask her to talk to the listing agent so that the sellers are aware
of the situation. It will cost less time, money and irritation if you
can resolve the issue without having to go to arbitration or court.If this doesn’t work, consult with a knowledgeable residential real estate attorney about how to proceed.
For home inspection services in the Sacramento and Bay Area please contact Golden State Home Inspections at 800.441.0804 or visit http://www.goldenstatehomeinspections.com