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Buyer Beware Of What Home Sellers Don’t Have To Disclose

House For Sale
feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - If, when you are looking at houses, the realtor asks if you know how to get blood stains out of a rug, you may want to ask some follow up questions.

When a California woman bought a house in Pennsylvania, she received the usual disclosures – number of bedrooms, taxes, water damage, presence or absence of lead paint. But, according to the lawsuit she filed, she had not been told of the house’s bloody past – the murder-suicide that occurred a year before she bought it.

According to the buyer, that should have been disclosed. Physical defects, she argued, could be fixed. But “troubling events that could and did occur in this home could never go away.” Which may be true, but they won’t cost you money if you buy the house.

So, while state laws differ, in general sellers must disclose known physical defects like a basement that floods, the presence of lead paint and other physical problems that affect a property’s value. On the flip side, things that affect a buyer’s enjoyment of the property are not, in most states, including Pennsylvania, required to be disclosed.

Most states don’t require the kind of disclosures a buyer would want to know about barking dogs or the frequency of loud parties or the source of the red stains on the carpet, so make sure you ask the seller in addition to physical defects, are there any neighborhood nuisances?

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