Buying a home is often the most expensive purchase a Virginian will ever make.
It can be an excruciating process as well, as the buyer is relying on the seller to be open and honest with every aspect of the house’s condition during the real estate contract negotiation.
Disclosing information on a residential property
The Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation provides a Residential Property Disclosure Statement as a notice to the seller of reporting obligations and a template for the buyer to be aware of any issues that must be documented and released. Some of the requirements include:
- A full assessment of the condition of the dwelling and systems, including chemicals like asbestos or radon, lead paint, termites and sewer issues
- Notification of registered sex offenders in the area
- Ordinances such as historic district preservation efforts
- Description of use or condition of adjacent lands
Often, sellers will hire licensed home inspectors trained to look for any defects in the home. The buyers may also wish to retain their own inspectors for an independent evaluation.
Discovering defects after the sale
If the new owner determines any element listed in the Virginia disclosure statement omitted from the seller’s report, there may be financial or legal recourse. The seller could be in breach of contract if he or she knowingly and deliberately withheld any information that could affect the agreement.
However, determining who is responsible for the disclosure failure can be complicated. If the purchaser uncovers a material defect (i.e., any clearly defined issue with the property or its systems that can pose a significant health risk or substantially lower the property’s value), the home inspectors are generally the first to be accountable. Depending on the problem, liability can transfer further to the realtor or real estate broker who handled the sale.
Dealing with defects after the sale can be extremely complicated and expensive. It is almost always in the buyer’s and seller’s best interest to thoroughly investigate any potential issues with a property before the closing.