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Full disclosure: What do you know about the home you are buying?

Purchasing a new home is no simple undertaking. You may spend the better part of a year searching your preferred neighborhoods, viewing houses and going through the many phases of a real estate transaction before you load your boxes and furniture onto a truck and move in.

One of the critical factors in your decision to buy a home is the condition of the house. You hire a home inspector who can tell you what he or she sees after spending an afternoon in the house. If there are serious problems with the home or property, those issues may only manifest themselves after weeks or months of living there. This is why a disclosure from the seller is critical.

Your right to know

Federal law has standards for revealing home defects to potential buyers. Additionally, among Florida laws are requirements for disclosing defects in a house for sale. These laws are subject to change, so it is best to contact your real estate attorney to be certain. Some common defects a seller may be required to reveal, depending on the laws of the state, include the following:

  • The presence of lead paint
  • Known leaks in the plumbing
  • Electrical issues or defects in the HVAC system
  • Problems with the foundation
  • Natural, environmental or man-made hazards on the property or in the area

Many of these are material defects, which means that knowing about them would likely affect your decision to buy the house or to offer less money. However, a wise seller will tell you everything you need to know to make an informed decision about whether to purchase the house or pay the asking price.

Seeking more information

Even if the law does not require certain disclosures, you have the right to ask about anything that may affect your use or enjoyment of the property. For example, you may have strong feelings about living in a house where someone died, whether of natural causes or violence. If you ask the seller about this possibility, he or she should tell you the truth. You will also want to know about previous defects the owner may have repaired, such as putting on a new roof or waterproofing the basement.

Unfortunately, not every seller is forthcoming because they fear hearing the truth will scare away buyers. You deserve to know what you are buying, and if your new home purchase turns out to have defects the seller failed to disclose, an attorney can assist you in taking the appropriate steps.

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