In this blog I focus on available sources of information regarding a property that a typical real estate buyer does not ask for or receive. Normally, a residential real estate buyer receives only a seller’s disclosure notice filled out by the current seller of the home and then hires a general home inspector to conduct an inspection. These certainly are good sources of information to guide you in your decision; however, often there are multiple, additional sources of information that go uncovered. Consider asking for the following:
- All seller’s disclosure notices. Ask the seller and their agent for the seller’s disclosure notice the sellers received when they purchased the home; further, ask the seller if there have been any different, earlier versions of the current seller’s disclosure notice that may be different than the one currently in use. Prior seller’s disclosure notices often are good sources of information since they give you a snapshot in time of the seller’s opinion of the condition of the property and may give you further insight into the history of the home, what has been repaired (and what has not), etc.
- Other inspection reports. Make sure you ask the seller for all inspection reports – both the one they may have obtained when they purchased the home and those that may have been obtained by other prospective buyers during the current campaign to sell the home. Again, other inspection reports will provide you additional information regarding the history of the home, prior repairs (or lack thereof), etc.
- Other contracts/offers. Ask the seller for all contracts they have received regarding their attempt to sell the home, including all offers. If there are any, you may want to contact that prospective buyer(s) to discuss why they did not purchase the home and ask whether they had the home inspected, etc. Other prospective buyers may give you additional insight into the condition of the home and its history.
- Tax protests. Ask the seller if they have ever protested the tax value of the home, and if so, why? Of particular focus should be any tax protests based upon the condition of the home. If this occurred, ask for any documents utilized in the tax protest (i.e. reports, estimates, etc.). You may be able to discover some of this information online from the appraisal district of the particular county.
- Investigate further a seller’s claim that something has been “fixed”. Often a seller will claim in the seller’s disclosure notice or elsewhere that a previous problem has been “fixed”. Sometimes individuals may disagree regarding what is a proper “fix”. For instance, a builder may inform you that leaking windows have been “fixed” by squirting caulk around the windows when in fact the true fix requires removal of materials to install missing flashing if the lack of flashing is the cause of the leakage. When a seller informs you that something has been fixed ask for all documentation related to the repair – reports, estimates, invoices, bills, etc. so that you have additional information to determine whether something actually has been appropriately repaired or not. Ask your inspector to investigate the adequacy of the repair during the inspection.
- Insurance claims. Ask the seller if they have ever filed any property related insurance claims on the home. If so, ask the seller to produce information regarding the claim. Typically insurance companies will issue reports regarding the condition of the home, estimates, appraisals, etc. This information will provide additional insight into the history and condition of the home.
- Neighbors. Last, if you have a chance ask a neighbor or two about their knowledge of the home, its history, condition, etc. Have they ever seen any large scale work going on around the home? Do they know anything about any defects with the home? Of particular importance should be any repairs of any significance – foundation, roofing, etc.
Asking for these “hidden jewels” of information will provide you additional information to assist you in your buying decision and ultimately should lead to a more satisfactory transaction. As always, if you have questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (210) 824-3278.