We have all heard the phrase "caveat emptor." If you do not know what that means, you may know the English variation, which is "Buyers, beware." This statement rings true for pretty much anything you purchase, from food products to mobile phones. However, this phrase is something you must always remember when buying a home. After all, a home is one of the most expensive investments you will ever make in your life, and the last thing you want to happen is to be cheated out of your money.
While there is legislation out there that protects you as a consumer, they do not apply to purchasing homes. More often than not, you are on your own, and when you pay for the home, you cannot act outside of what has already been agreed. The only protection you would get is that sellers cannot lie. However, this does not mean they have to disclose everything either.
Why sellers hide information
You may be wondering why sellers might hide information, and how this might be permitted. In many cases, it is not their fault. They do not want to mislabel something as a defect if it is not. So long as it is legally not a defect, they do not have to identify any feature or quality of the house as such. In most cases, they will exercise their right to do this to maintain the selling price of the home.
However, others take it as far as purposefully hiding a problem. This is illegal, but some homeowners still do it to sell their home for as high as possible. Plus, they know that once a home buyer buys the house, it can be tough to prove whether they are dealing with misrepresentation or failure to disclose. This fine line between accidentally mislabelling a defect and purposely hiding a problem is why many sellers are willing to take the risk. As the buyer, you must beware.
To ensure you do not get cheated into buying a home with hidden issues, here is what you need to do:
1. Check and check again
One of the best ways to guard yourself against purchasing a home with hidden defects is to inspect the home first thoroughly. For instance, you should check the gas system, plumbing system, walls, doors, and so on. Other common places to check are the boilers, behind the furniture, and the like as problems here are easily hidden from the naked eye. Failure to detect any issues, whether it be a leak or a mould problem, can lead to extremely costly issues you would now be responsible for.
If you cannot carry out this task by yourself, we recommend hiring a home inspector to do the job for you. Their services could prove valuable and even give you an advantage when negotiating the price of the home. For example, the home inspector may notify you of an ongoing problem with the plumbing.
With that information, you can either decide to look for another property or negotiate with the seller to come up with a solution. The solution is up to you, but because you identified the problem before you bought the house, you are free to choose your route from thereon out. It is fully possible to haggle down the price if you find any issues in your inspection. The seller may also choose to shoulder the repairs to retain the selling price of their home; after all, a functioning house will sell faster than a house that needs repairs.
2. Hire a conveyancer
Buying a home is not only about handing money to another party. It also involves documents such as titles and so on that can affect the purchase in various ways. For example, a seller may pose as the homeowner and sell the house to you. However, it might turn out that the seller is not the owner. Now, you and the real owner are in a lot of trouble because of a misrepresentation in the documents that led you to believe something false. This kind of issue is one you do not want to face. Fortunately, you can easily avoid this with the help of a conveyancer.
Unlike an inspector, a conveyancer is not there to check the home for defects. Their job is to gather the documents needed concerning the home's purchase or sale and inspect it thoroughly for any missing or misrepresented information. They will do things like check for legal titles, examine building regulations, and conduct surveys to ensure the home is in good standing and that would not get into trouble for buying it.
Conveyancers will also examine any contracts and facilitate the payment process. In most cases, your funds will pass through the conveyancers on both sides before it reaches the seller’s hands. This is to ensure the compliance of all parties involved once the transaction becomes committal.
3. Caveat emptor
Again, “Buyers, beware,” should always be in your mind. This is because the statement "caveat emptor" is a legal principle in property purchases. Although you may have the grounds to sue a seller for purposefully hiding or misrepresenting a piece of information that greatly affects your purchase, that might be difficult to prove. Although such cases are rare, they can happen.
It is your responsibility to ensure that the home you purchase has been inspected well. It is your responsibility to discover any issues that the seller is not required to disclose. If you do not do so, it is your fault and not the seller’s. Even if the grounds to sue are available, the process of suing can be quite expensive. Plus, the chances of actually winning are relatively low, and might only lead to wasted money and time.
For that reason, we’d like to remind you once again to always be careful of the things you buy, including your home. Exercising care over the transaction can ensure that you get your money’s worth. It can also eliminate the trouble of repairs and a possible treacherous legal battle.
In a perfect world, homeowners would get all the information they need regarding a home and would be able to negotiate with the seller for the best price. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world. Sellers may make mistakes, and some may do so purposefully.
Regardless, be careful with the homes you decide to buy. Do your best to check the home, and check again. Work with professionals such as home inspectors and conveyancers to ensure that everything is in order and that nothing is hidden from you. By doing these, you would increase the likelihood of getting what you paid for. Besides, any problems you discover can act as excellent leverage for negotiating a fair price for the home.
That being said, keep in mind that you and the seller will generally fight for the advantage in the sale. This might lead you to over-negotiate, possibly forcing you to look for another purchase even if you have already reached a reasonable price. For that reason, remind yourself that you will have to compromise. Depending on the situation, you could come up with an attractive price for both you and the seller.
Conveyancing Calculator is a fully regulated conveyancing service, offering reliable and trustworthy conveyancing quotes to help you purchase a home safely and securely. If you are looking for conveyancing quotes in London, work with us today!