General Information about the Process of Buying a Home

Whose obligation is it to disclose pertinent information about a property? 
The seller and the seller's agent, are required to disclose all facts materially affecting the value or desirability of the property which are known or accessible only to them. This might include: homeowners association dues; whether or not work done on the house meets local building codes and permits requirements; the presence of any neighborhood nuisances or noises which a prospective buyer might not notice, such as a dog that barks every night or poor TV reception; any death within three years on the property; and any restrictions on the use of the property, such as zoning ordinances or association rules.

What are the standard contingencies?
Most purchase offers include two standard contingencies: a financing contingency, which makes the sale dependent on the buyers' ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender, and an inspection contingency, which allows buyers to have professionals inspect the property to their satisfaction.  As a buyer, you could forfeit your earnest money deposit under certain circumstances, such as backing out of the deal for a reason not stipulated in the contract.  The purchase contract must include the sellers responsibilities, such things as passing clear title, maintaining the property in its present condition until closing and making any agreed-upon repairs to the property.

Do I need an attorney when I buy a house?
In Texas, most home buyers are capable of handling a routine real estate purchase contract as long as they make certain they understand all it terms.  In particular, you should be clear on the terms of any contingency clauses that will allow us to back out of the contract. You and I will thoroughly discuss the terms of the contract and, if you have any questions at all, it may be advisable to consult an attorney to avoid future legal hassles.  In looking for an attorney, ask friends for recommendations or ask me.  We can recommend several. 

What repairs should the seller make?
We always find defects in every house.  We will almost always negotiate with the seller to either repair major and minor problems, or, pay an amount to cover our repairing the problem in the future.  Frequently, we will want to choose the repair contractors, so, we ask for money back for the repairs at closing.

Do sellers have to disclose the terms of other offers?
Sellers are not legally obligated to disclose the terms of other offers to prospective buyers.

Will a neighbor problem reduce the value of my property?
While it may not reduce the actual value, a cluttered landscape next door can detract from the positive aspects of your home.  A typical "junk vehicle" ordinance, for example, requires any disabled car to either be enclosed or placed behind a fence. Most cities prohibit parking any vehicle on a city street too long.  It also may be worthwhile to check into local zoning ordinances.  An operator of a home-based business usually is required to obtain a variance or permanent zoning change in residential areas.  In addition, if a neighbor's repair work produces loud noises, he may be breaking local noise-control ordinances, which are enforced by the police department.  

How do I get the real scoop on homes I am looking at?
While making our first visit to a home, we will discuss all of the positive and negative aspects of a home that are readily observable.  I then research some issues and report back to you.  We also receive the seller's disclosure in which the seller gives us information about neighborhood and building problems that effect the home's value.

The seller's disclosure is a promulgated form that acts as a checklist specifying the condition of walls, ceilings, roof, windows, floors, doors, foundation, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems. The form also asks sellers to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any known  encroachments or easements, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property. The reports also include information about, foundation settling, soil problems, flooding or drainage problems and any major damage resulting from floods or landslides.

We really do not get detailed information until we have the house under contract and have inspections of its various systems that include:

* In the kitchen -- a range, oven, microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, trash compactor.
* Safety features such as burglar and fire alarms, smoke detectors, sprinklers, security gate, window screens and intercom.
* The presence of a TV antenna or satellite dish, carport or garage, automatic garage door opener, rain gutters, sump pump.
* Amenities such as a pool or spa, patio or deck, built-in barbeque and fireplaces.
* Type of heating, condition of electrical wiring, gas supply and presence of any external power source, such as solar panels. 
* The type of water heater, water supply, sewer system or septic tank are also part of the inspection.

People buying a condominium must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions. It's important to note that the simple idea of disclosing defects has broadened significantly in recent years.  Also, the home inspection and home warranty industries have grown significantly to accommodate increased demand from cautious buyers. Be sure to ask questions about anything that remains unclear or does not seem to be properly addressed by the forms provided to you.  We are happy to answer any questions about the quality of the home you are buying or find out the answers to your questions.

Steve Ritchey
Steve Ritchey
Exclusive Buyer Broker
4925 Greenville Ave. Dallas TX 75206