A home inspector is a crucial player in the real estate transaction, as an inspector identifies potentially costly issues that could affect everything from the asking price to the sale itself. That said, an inspector can only do so much. The most accurate home inspection results are often the result of a team effort between the inspector, homeowner and home seller.
Unfortunately, sellers are not always honest. According to FindLaw, sellers have been known to stage their homes or use deceitful — and sometimes illegal — tactics to hide major issues or defects. Knowing full well that inspectors cannot touch or move sellers’ possessions, some sellers use their belongings to block off access to certain rooms or cover up problems. If buyers fail to notice a misdirection and ask the right questions, they could end up buying a money pit. To help buyers avoid this outcome, HomeLight highlights common tricks sellers use to pass home inspections.
Performing cosmetic coverups
It is not uncommon for sellers to make cosmetic upgrades to their homes before listing them, but when upgrades appear random, buyers should beware. Spotty upgrades, such as new drywall here and updated paneling there could indicate minor issues that have the potential to become problematic in the future, such as water damage, mold or structural issues. In addition to random cosmetic fixes, buyers should also pay attention to which rooms in a home have undergone a remodel. For instance, in the homeowners remodeled the basement but not the kitchen, potential buyers should ask why.
In real estate, ignorance truly is bliss for the seller, as sellers are only financially and legally liable for undisclosed issues they deliberately tried to hide. Unfortunately, a seller can easily feign ignorance throughout the entire real estate transaction, a tactic a buyer may struggle to uncover or prove after the fact. To avoid having to prove feigned ignorance on sellers’ parts, buyers can look for a few warning signs:
- A spotty memory, such as difficulty recalling when they performed a remodel, what materials they used or why
- Statements such as “I have not lived here long,” or “the furnace is not very old”
- Caveats in the disclosure form, or failure to procure a disclosure form at all
The best things buyers can do is prod sellers for more information, read between the lines and always ask for disclosure forms.
There are several reasons sellers may attempt to downplay issues, which range from embarrassment to the simple fact that an issue is so common of the home that it really is no big deal to them. Whatever the case, buyers should prod when sellers say things like, “Show me a home that does not have issues,” or “It has been like this since we moved in.”