Housing Market: Buyer Really Beware

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It’s no secret that home sellers are having difficulty enticing buyers to step up with decent offers, or any offers for that matter. And in a market where buyers are in the driver’s seat, desperate sellers are more likely than ever to lie to make the home seem more desirable.

From the WSJ’s “What Home Sellers Don’t Tell Buyers”:

Eager to unload their abodes, some sellers exaggerate the size of their lots or their houses. Others minimize their property-tax or utility bills, conveniently forget about pests, or downplay flooding problems or noise.

Real-estate experts say that while such misrepresentations aren’t new, the tough market of the past few years has made buyers more wary, partly because they can’t expect rising home prices to bail them out of costly mistakes. As a result, deals are taking longer, and more of them are falling apart as buyers find properties sometimes aren’t all they’re supposed to be.

Sometimes sellers lie, and sometimes they just don’t know—and they just don’t want to know—about problems like mold, faulty wiring, or the presence of old underground fuel tanks or radon gas. Buyers also often wind up paying far more in property taxes and utilities than they’d expected. What can you do to protect yourself?

Ask to see recent bills, and check with the tax assessor’s office for up-to-date information.

As with most potential problems, the burden is on you, the buyer, to ask the right questions, and to determine if the answers you get have any resemblance to reality.