Now…on to our weekly home buyer education! I know I said we are going to talk about what happens AFTER the home inspection, but first I thougt we should talk about about Buyers Due Diligence, and why this is so important for you.
I saw a very interesting home this week that was right across the street from a cemetery. Now, that wouldn’t bother me, but for some folks…that would be a BIG thing. My clients liked the land but did not like the house…the house was … interesting. It was a 1925 home, that had been ‘worked’ on over the years, and probably not professionally. When I am showing homes to clients, I get asked many questions about the home….some I can answer and some I can’t. Some of the answers we can find out, and some…well, you never really ‘know’ a home until you are the one living in it. So, what are some questions I can not answer… is the home haunted? Um….I don’t know? Has there been a violent crime in the home or in the area? Um…I don’t know? Believe it or not, that isn’t considered a relevant fact when listing the home as it doesn’t actually affect the home.
When selling a home, the seller (and sellers agent) is only obligated to disclose known material facts about the home on the sellers disclosure, and this is only about the home during the current sellers ownership. So what is a ‘material fact’? A ‘material fact’ is considered to be something that structurally affects the home. The sellers disclosure is about 6 pages long and the seller is ‘supposed to’ disclose all known facts about the home on it. However, if anyone has teenagers you know how often ‘supposed to’ gets done. Some sellers will disclose ALL facts about the homes….even those items that have been repaired, some sellers will only disclose those items that they haven’t gotten around to fixing, and some sellers just have no idea about anything in their home. Of course, this is why we do a home inspection. It isn’t that you can’t trust the sellers, but when it comes down to it, most sellers don’t know anything about their home. This is called ‘Buyers Due Diligence’. A buyer does have some responsibility for doing some research on the home, and area, that they are wanting, or trying to, buy in. If your buyers agent knows anything about the home or area then we have to legal responsibility to disclose it. In Washington, all sellers are required to fill out the 6 page sellers disclosure on their own. Their Realtor can not do it for them, or help them fill it out.….however, if the seller is a bank, or it is an estate, or an investor then there won’t be any sellers disclosures, or if there is, most questions will be answered with “don’t know”. For every question on the sellers disclosures, the sellers have 4 choices to answer… “yes, no, don’t know, or NA”, and every question must be answered….no empty boxes. When you receive a copy of the sellers disclosure though …remember to take it with a grain of salt, and hire a good inspector. Many sellers now will even just put a majority of ‘don’t know’ answers on the sellers disclosure so as to not have any liability. The majority of sellers aren’t trying to ‘hide’ anything about the home, they just truly don’t know. A realtor will hand the sellers disclosure to their client, the seller, and that is it. We, real estate agents, can not help the seller fill out the sellers disclosure at all. If you have any questions regarding anything on the sellers disclosure, your Realtor can request more information (if there is any) from the sellers through their sellers agent. Make sure you also address any concern you have regarding the homes condition to the home inspector you hire. He (or she) should be able to help you with that. The inspector I usually refer out encourages the buyer to walk with him during the home inspection so that the buyer is part of that inspection. I like to call it a ‘crash course in homeowning’. By the time he is done with the inspection, my client usually knows more about the home than the current owner does! I can’t stress it enough….ask questions! You are paying for the home inspection, so walk around with the home inspector, ask questions, learn about what the inspector is checking, and be a part of the home inspection.
Sometimes, but not often, we will see sellers purposely try to hide something. This sucks. I had this happen recently with a client. The home in question had been on the market for about 5 months…with 3 different Realtors, and had been pending 2 times before with sale fails. Ok…red flags…3 different Realtors in such a short period of time? Two prior sale fails? hmmm… I asked the current Realtor why the sale fails, and he said there were financing issues. Ok, sometimes that happens. I have had that happen on listings of mine too. Current Realtor was very eager for an offer,and called me about closing costs, etc. My clients liked the home, and the listed price was attractive. It did need some cosmetic work, but that was ok, for the price and the closing costs. Fast forward to home inspection, and the home passed with flying colors. Only things that came up was a recalled electric panel (common for the age of the home), and lack of insulation under the home. Insulation under the home is not required for the age of the home, and was something my clients were willing to do later. The recalled panel would need replaced prior to appraisal as that is something that most likely would be called out. Where the big issue came was during the sewer scope… the sewer line from the home to the street had a 35 ft ‘bend’ in it. Sewer lines need to go down 1 inch for every foot for optimum flow (yay…the things I know that are weird to know), and due to land settling, etc…this homes sewer line had a dip in it before it went to the street. Ok….it’s not like the seller could have known this right? Well, normally I’d agree with you, but in this case he DID KNOW! Plumber asked us if we knew and we said no (because how would we?) Plumber then goes on to say that,”well, that’s weird, because the seller knows. This home has had a recent sewer scope already done. There’s some paint lines in the street that looks like they were scrubbed off.” Uhhh….what?! I send this information to the sellers agent (who has no idea),and he assures me that if they knew it would have been on the sellers disclosures (it wasn’t). Sellers agent calls his client and then calls me back. At this point both the sellers agent & I know the seller is full of it because the seller told his agent that there was nothing wrong with the sewer line….because he had the city come out and check it a couple of weeks ago and they hydro jetted it. That all of this was just the plumbing contractor and my clients trying to get more money out of him. Honestly folks, that was our first indication that this deal was going to be hairy & scary… We requested the recalled panel to be replaced and the sewer line repaired. The seller sent his agent a bid for the sewer line repair that was dated a full 3 weeks BEFORE my client made their offer. When the seller was with Agent #2, and during the 2nd sale fail. Sale failed because of financing issues…my tush..
My clients loved many things about the home, and except for the sewer line (and that it needed paint and flooring), it was in excellent condition with a newer roof and new windows. It also had the yard & 2 living spaces that my clients wanted. So, we persisted. Seller did have the panel switched out (with much grumbling). It cost the seller $700 more than it should have because he tried to go ‘cheap’ and had to have it redone. The sewer line failed the sewer scope. . at least twice. The bid that the seller presented was for $10,000 to repair the line. So now my client had a choice…. do we back out? Do we require the sewer line to be repaired? What do we do? At least one of the previous buyers had backed out because the seller refused to repair the line. Discussion time… many of the homes we were looking at with this price range were either smaller and in good condition, or needed a new roof soon (about $7,000 estimate), or new windows (about $5,000),or similar. The sewer line is currently working. Does it need to be under surveillance? Yes. Will it need to be corrected at some point? Yes. Does it need to be done right now? No. For my clients they decided to go with the evil you know vs the evil that they may find in another home. This home was in excellent condition with many things already done (like the new roof, windows, & now a new electric panel)…the only thing that will need to be done will be the sewer line. One thing vs many possible things at a different home. So I spoke with the sellers agent (who was very dismayed to find out his seller had been lying to him), and they offered a split of the repair cost. What this means is that we had a $10,000 sewer line repair bid. The sellers offered another $4000 in closing costs to offset that repair. I called my clients lender to ask if my buyers could use all of those closing costs (whatever isn’t used is returned to the sellers), and they could! My clients accepted that compromise as this freed up some money for my clients to do what they wanted to the home to move in… those cosmetic things that they didn’t have to put off now. In the end it worked out. Of course…that was until closing day….but that is a story for next week….
It’s not often that seller will blatantly lie on a sellers disclosure. Most of the time it is something that the sellers don’t know about that shows up on a home inspection, or a sewer scope. However, that is why we do inspections… because of the things that people don’t know, don’t think about, and rarely…try to hide. As I said in my last email… buying a home is a lot like buying a used car. Most of the time it is all good, but occasionally…occasionally… you find those folks who are trying to get away with something.
Your realtor will help you find out as much about the home as possible. Your agent should be present at your home inspection, and so should you. However, whether or not the home is haunted or not, we really can’t help you with. Whether or not there has been a violent crime in the home or area is another thing that we really can’t help you with, but we CAN help you by providing some places where you can do some research. Has anyone died in the home? Again….I don’t know…, but if it is an older home, and/or an estate? Maybe you should leave out some milk and cookies occasionally?
What about that new building being built in the neighborhood? Your Realtor probably doesn’t know what it is, and honestly we shouldn’t guess. That is something that a buyer will want to do some research on. Is that garage conversion permitted? Call the city/county. Your Realtor will help you find the information, but when it comes down to it, because of past legal problems, we are now limited on the extent that we can delve into everything….but we can help you get there still. It is weird, but there it is. There is a lot your Realtor can, and will do for you, and we will do all that we can to make sure that you are getting the best customer service possible. Your Realtor should help you to make sure that you are performing your buyers due diligence to make sure that you won’t get any unexpected surprises later. I am a huge fan of talking with neighbors….neighbors are a great source of information on a home. 🙂 Please remember that you are not just buying the home, you are buying the neighborhood. One of the questions I always ask my clients is if they have thought about the area they want to move to? Have they looked into schools, if that is important. Have they considered locations regarding work, or family/friends? I encourage my clients to drive around, and check out the neighborhoods they’re interested in. Drive by the homes you are interested in seeing, look at the neighbors, yards, parks, cars, etc… check out those things that are important to you. Vancouver doesn’t really have a ‘good side’, or ‘bad side’…Clark county has a lot of ‘pocket neighborhoods’. In a two mile radius you can have million dollar homes, new developments, ‘sketchy’ neighborhoods, and established ‘homey’ neighborhoods. Clark County has something for everyone! What are you looking for in a home/neighborhood? What are your top 3 things you want (not counting price)? As a realtor we can not ‘steer’ you towards, or away, from any neighborhood. Our job is to help you find the best home we can, in your price range, that fits what you want. As an agent, I will help you get all the information I can, or direct you to places that can help you get that information. For example….census.gov is an excellent site to check out neighborhoods, and schools. Check it out!
So…buyers due diligence….talk to neighbors, walk around the home, and neighborhood… and write down a list of questions. Ask your inspector about these questions to check out. Ask your real estate agent to help you find out some answers to these questions, or if they can’t find the answers, help you find some places where you can do some research or ask questions. Your Realtor is here to help you! Remember that your Realtor works FOR you. Make sure you know what you are getting into….and any questions? ASK! …and keep asking until you get answers! As always, if you have any questions, please call or email me…I am always here to help. 🙂 Remember…I am a real estate broker, and I look forward to helping you on your home buying adventure…and assisting you to get those keys. 😀 Whether you are buying, or selling your home, my goal is to be the real estate broker you think of. I really want to help you with your first time, and every time. I believe that real estate is about relationships…..and no…that is not a shameless plug! LOL
I hope this helps you this week! Please, if you have any questions, please feel free to call, email, text, or even facebook me anytime. I am always here to help!
Information is power, and I hope that I am help you! Good luck, and as always…May the odds be ever in your favor out there…. If you are looking for a real estate agent, I would love to be able to help you.
I hope that explains this a bit, but if you have any questions, or comments please call or email me anytime! Please remember that while I mean these emails/blogs to be helpful, and educational, I am still hoping that you will call, or email me. I would love to help you with your home buying, or home selling adventure! 🙂