As we enter into the spring/summer selling season, home buyers and sellers need to be aware of an important issue in regards to home sales. Now that the snow is melting, many homes in Calgary may find they have a little water in the basement due to snow built up against the side of the house, and perhaps because of broken or inadequate drainage to move the water away from the home. This is just one example of issues home buyers and sellers will face. But what are home sellers actually obligated to disclose to their agent, and what are buyers obligated to find for themselves? Let’s take a closer look.
Material latent defects are defects in the home that are not discoverable by a reasonable buyer by way of a visual inspection. In other words, they are defects that are not plain to see. If there is a water stain on the ceiling in a home, a home seller does not have to disclose that their child’s fish tank broke, and that the water from their bedroom leaked through and stained the ceiling — as the buyer can clearly see it. The buyer would be wise of course to ask why the stain is there. It is the buyer’s obligation to do their own due diligence. Next, let’s say the basement foundation is cracked, but the home owner covered it with drywall when finishing the basement. This would not be visible to any buyer or home inspector. This is an example of something that is a material latent defect and must be disclosed by law. Basically, a seller cannot dump their problems onto the buyer. Another classic example would be a home with a basement that floods every spring when the snow melts. The seller must disclose this fact as it indicates a problem that is likely not discoverable by the naked eye. If the buyer buys the home in winter or when there has not been any heavy rain, there may not be any water present. Still, the seller is obligated to disclose a basement that leaks or floods.
Buyers have an obligation to do fact finding on a home purchase, and although they are not obligated to do a home inspection, it is money well spent. Many home inspectors have tools now that can virtually “see through walls” with thermal imaging devices that can see cold spots in foundations that may indicate cracks. Moisture meters can also detect if a basement is leaky, and of course our noses can often clue us in as well. If there is water, there is usually an associated “musty” smell. If you’re not sure what to tell buyers about your home, the best rule is the golden rule — which is “asks your Realtor”. They are likely to have been through thousands of homes — quite literally — and can help guide you through the process of properly marketing and representing your home, while not leaving out anything that could come back to bite you after the sale is concluded. Buyers may have legal recourse if undisclosed issues come up after they’ve move in. The courts may reverse the entire transaction even months after the buyer has lived there. Yes, it has happened! This is not a used car sale. This is the largest purchase most people will ever make. A higher level of responsibility falls on everyone’s shoulders. Calgary mls, Calgary estate homes.
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