For many in Massachusetts, buying a home is a major life dream. Building your dream castle from the ground up is not something everyone can or wants to do. Purchasing an existing home is more common. How do buyers and sellers find protection against potential risks?
The answer to the question might be best summed up with two words, defect disclosure. Laws vary from state to state, but generally speaking, one thing holds true across the country. Sellers have an obligation to disclose known material defects in a home. Failing to do so ahead of closing can scrub a transaction. Discovery after a closure can create a situation where litigation is needed, costing both buyers and sellers time and money.
Issues that warrant disclosure
Unless you are immersed in the residential real estate market, it's very likely you don't know all the things that can create a disclosure issue. A scratch on a kitchen counter does not qualify, but if a seller knows hazardous waste might have been buried on the property and fails to disclose the fact, it could be cause for action.
Lead paint is a major concern in homes built before about 1976. In a community like Quincy, where some homes are hundreds of years old, lead paint might still be on the walls. That's something a seller deserves to know.
But to get a real sense of what can cause difficulties, it's helpful to check the information from state's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Included on the OCABR list of possible disclosure issues are:
- Any easements against a property, recorded or not
- Zoning restrictions
- Whether any sex offenders are registered in the vicinity
- If a property is in a flood zone
- Questions over title
That is only a partial list of potential issues that could trigger a disclosure dispute. Where a question exists, consulting a skilled attorney is called for.