Protect yourself when buying a new home
Q: The new home we're buying will be completed next month. We want a professional home inspector to do the final inspection before I move in, but the builder says, "No way!" He wants us to sign an agreement to submit warranty requests after the close of escrow. Should we wait until moving in before hiring the inspector and then request repairs under the one-year warranty?
A: Any builder who would deny a homebuyer's right to a professional home inspection prior to purchase is blatantly unethical. Dealing with such people should be avoided whenever possible. If justice was perfect, builders of this ilk would be subjected to the pitching skills of neighborhood kids, armed with rotten tomatoes.
My advice is not to sign any of the builder's documents without obtaining legal advice from a real estate attorney. The builder is required by law to guarantee all aspects of the construction, regardless of who finds the defects, you or your home inspector. If the builder is unwilling to address problems before closing the sale, imagine how difficult it will be to have him make repairs once the deal is closed.
You have a right to a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified professional of your choosing, and the builder is responsible for all pertinent repairs as soon as those defects are discovered. Don't allow this builder to misdirect you. Make sure you are adequately represented and that all purchase documents are legally reviewed before you sign anything.
Q: I signed a purchase contract for a home that is being built and am scheduled to close next month. On three occasions, the builders and their salespeople stated that the lawn would be sod, not grass seed. Now that we're nearing the close, they say this disclosure was a mistake and no sod will be provided. How can they do this? Aren't they bound by their verbal representations as part of our contract?
A: When buying a home from a developer, never allow any portion of the agreement to be merely verbal. Unwritten promises have little worth. There are many sad stories of developers who made last minute changes in floor coverings, countertops, cabinets, appliances, roofing, floor plan, etc., leaving frustrated buyers with the memories of unverifiable verbal promises.
These situations typically occur when buyers of new homes lack professional representation -- either a Realtor or a real estate attorney. In too many cases, there is no one to serve as buyers' advocate, to review the purchase documents or to advise buyers of their legal rights. Buyers typically enter the developer's sales office, and from that moment until the closing of the transaction, the builder is in the driver's seat.
For those who buy new homes, professional representation is essential. Otherwise, developers and their attorneys are free to set the rules, or break them. Before closing the deal, have your contract reviewed by an attorney, and don't finalize the deal without having a thorough inspection by a qualified home inspector.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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