Ten Questions Every Home Buyer Should Ask!
I have written blog articles, and have podcast episodes (www.yesnerlaw.com/podcast) about the seller’s responsibility to disclose issues with the house. Florida law requires a seller to disclose any known facts that would materially affect the value of the property, that are not readily observed by a reasonable inspection. To assist with these disclosures, Florida has developed a Seller’s Disclosure checklist. While the checklist discloses most everything, we have experienced situations that were not covered by the checklist. Therefore, as a Buyer, you may want to ask some additional questions:
- How old is the HVAC system? You may even want to get the AC unit inspected specifically. When I moved into my house, the HVAC system lasted 6 months before it failed. The sellers made sure it was blowing cold air at the time of the inspection. A separate inspection of the AC system may have disclosed that it was at the end of its useful life.
- What is the age of the home? What is the age of the roof? What is the age of some of the other systems in the house and when were they last maintained or serviced. Does the seller have a home warranty (or warranties against any of the other systems of appliances in the house), when were they last serviced and are those warranties transferable?
- Was a sinkhole claim made against the property? Sometimes, the current owner may not know if 2 owners previous made a sinkhole claim. However, you can check permits and title to see if the property is on a repaired sinkhole.
- Speaking of permits – are there are open permits on the property? What closed permits are shown by public record and do these things need any further due diligence or investigation? While permit issues are not title issues, permits that are still open can cause the Buyer to pay extra money, remove or tear down improvements and other negative consequences.
- Were there any other changes to the house that did not require permits? If so, what were they?
- Does the seller have a survey and are there any new fixtures or improvements on the property that are missing from the prior survey? If the seller has a survey and there is nothing new on the property since that survey, most title companies will allow the Seller to sign a Survey Affidavit, saving the Buyer the cost of a new survey (typically around $300 – $500).
- What did the inspection reveal, and do any items on the inspection require any follow up by the Buyer? Very often, even in “As-Is” situations, the Seller may be willing to negotiate, rather than lose the Buyer, over items found in the inspection.
- Are there any upcoming special assessments for things such as, street light repairs, road paving in the community, etc.? Have there been any votes on these types of things by the association members or board of directors?
- What is included in property taxes and when are they due? For example, properties with a CDD (Community Development District) often have those fees collected within the property taxes, but those costs are not assessed on the same schedule as real property taxes. So while real property taxes are first due in November and relate back to January 1, CDD fees may be calculated every summer. This means pro rations on the Closing Disclosure or Closing Statement will also be reflected separately (one for the taxes due Jan 1, one for the CDD fees due in the summer).
- Why is the Seller selling the property? Sometimes it is because the Seller needs to upside or downsize, maybe it’s a divorce situation or someone has passed away, or maybe the Seller got a great offer and is moving for a new job, or to be closer to family. Sometimes, however, the seller is moving because he can’t stand his neighbors, or there is an overbearing association (Condo or Homeowner) – why would you want to “inherit” those bad neighbors, or those “Condo Commandos”?
While the Seller Disclosure Form is designed to disclose most issues with the property, there are some additional follow up questions a Buyer could ask, based on issues that have arisen in consultation with clients, that are beyond the scope of the disclosure form.
One final bonus group of questions: What other “quirks” are there with the house – does one of the doors stick (but is otherwise operational)? Do you have all the keys and garage door openers (although you should change those anyway after you take possession)? When is garbage collection?
If you moved into your house and discovered an undisclosed problem, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your options at 813-774-5737 or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also subscribe to the Crushing Debt Podcast, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast players, including Amazon Echo (“Alexa”) for more free information about these topics.
Shawn M. Yesner, Esq., is the host of the Crushing Debt Podcast and founder of Yesner Law, P.L., a Tampa-based boutique real estate and consumer law firm that helps clients eliminate the financial bullies in their lives. We assist clients with asset protection, the sale and purchase of real property, Chapter 7 liquidation, Chapter 13 reorganization, bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, debt settlement, landlord/tenant issues, short sales, and loan modifications in Tampa, Westchase, Odessa, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Largo, St. Petersburg, and throughout the greater Tampa Bay area.