Buying a Home? Caveat Emptor!


So, you’ve found your dream house, in your favorite neighborhood, nearest to your favorite pizza joint.  And, most importantly, it’s in your budget. Long story short – you’ve fallen in love with the house and all you can picture is you in that house, floating in the beautiful pool in the backyard.  But, wait. There’s lots to do first!

At Ser & Associates, we regularly work with residential buyers at every stage of their real estate transaction.  Of course, our first piece of advice is to work with an experienced real estate attorney before even signing the contract, so that he or she may properly guide you and negotiate a good solid contract. But, that aside, there are are a few very important steps you should take before proceeding to closing.  

Always, always, negotiate an Inspection Period.

The principle Caveat Emptor – is a contracts principle that stands for – Let the buyer beware.  As such, most real estate transactions provide for an Inspection Period for the buyer to conduct its due diligence.  Typically in residential transactions, the Inspection Period will run from 7 to 15 days, which, depending on the contract, are Calendar Days, rather than Business Days.  So make sure you give yourself enough time to properly inspect the home.

Schedule a home inspection with a professional inspection company, rather than your brother-in-law who used to dabble in home repairs.  

During the Inspeciation Period a smart buyer will schedule a home inspection with a reputable inspection company.  Through a home inspection, you will be able to find out the current state of the home so that you are purchasing the property with full knowledge of its conditions.  The inspection will check for structural damage, plumbing and electrical issues, the condition of the roof, existence of termites, functionality of appliances, the septic tank, etc.  And, although most residential contracts are entered into as an As-Is contract (which means the seller does not wish to make any repairs or give any credits), having a thorough inspection report can sometimes allow you to negotiate a reduction in sales price, negotiate seller repairs before closing and, at minimum, allow you to budget your expenses for when you actually close and move in.  Although you might be worried about what an inspection may reveal in your future dream house, it is definitely better to find out about any problems before closing.  Caveat Emptor!

The awesome Man-Cave or pretty She-Shed in the backyard is calling your name.  But, is it legal?

During the Inspection Period, we always recommend a thorough review of the county and/or the corresponding municipality’s records to ensure that that Man-Cave or She-Shed was actually permitted and does not violate the set-back requirements.  Or perhaps the Seller installed a beautiful gazebo whose cascading Bougainvillea has enchanted you? Don’t be fooled! You need a permit for that Man-Cave and it may not meet the setback requirements. Caveat Emptor!

Did you know that the Seller is a Code Compliance Board regular?

Another very important part of your due diligence in buying a house is doing a lien search.  This search will let you know if there are any existing liens recorded on the property, such as from a former general contractor who never got paid.  Although these are typically covered by the purchase agreement as seller’s responsibility, it is still a very important part of the process. But, what is even more important is to find out about any pending municipal or County code enforcement actions that may not have become a lien as yet.  In fact, these can often run into the tens of thousands of dollars and they run with the land. In other words, you as the new owner will be responsible for them if not taken care of prior to closing. Caveat Emptor!

Protect Yourself

Having a trusting relationship with the sellers of your new home is key to feeling comfortable with closing your deal. But no matter how trustworthy they may seem, it’s important to make sure that you never just take their word for the condition of the house. Although most people won’t actively or consciously try to hide problems and take advantage of you, and there are laws in place that protect the buyer from that kind of activity, it’s still necessary to do everything you can to protect yourself from purchasing a money pit. Remember – Caveat Emptor!

Whenever you are thinking of buying or selling a home, getting an inspection done is just one piece of a very large puzzle. In addition to finding the right home, there are contracts and negotiations that need to be drawn up before the transaction can be complete. At Ser & Associates, we regularly help our clients at every step of the way of their real estate transaction. So if you are in the process of buying or selling your Florida home, please don’t hesitate to contact us today at 305-222-7282!