Buying a new home can be an exciting milestone. However, what may look like your dream house can turn out to harbor some upsetting secrets.
Buyers, especially those purchasing a home for the first time, do not always know what to expect. Understanding both the seller's disclosure obligations and the buyer's due diligence can help you avoid many common pitfalls along the way.
What sellers must disclose
Georgia law obligates residential sellers to provide certain types of disclosures. Generally, these include conditions the seller is aware of and are likely to influence a prospective buyer's decision to proceed with the purchase. You may receive the disclosures in a section of the contract or as a separate attachment. Common types of defects a seller likely must disclose include mold, structural damage, roof problems, termites, water damage and issues with the HVAC.
A seller, however, does not have to disclose information about the neighborhood or previous residents of the house, even if it would make a material difference to the buyer. A seller also does not have to explicitly list a condition that would be obvious to the buyer. However, a seller must answer questions honestly, even if those questions do not concern a mandatory disclosure.
Why disclosures are not enough
Buyers should avoid simply relying on the seller's disclosure. Even when a seller is honestly providing the full extent of the information he or she knows, defects may exist that the seller does not know about.
Steps for buyers
To identify potential defects in the home, a thorough professional home inspection is key. If this inspection turns up concerns in a particular area, you may need to bring in specialists such as electricians or chimney professionals to pinpoint the issue and estimate repairs. It is also wise to have a survey done or carry out other research to ascertain correct property boundaries, zoning and easements.
What happens if the seller fails to disclose?
If you purchase a house and later discover that the seller knowingly misrepresented or concealed a defect, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Available recourse may include rescission of the contract or damages to compensate for the expenses stemming from the defect.