The home-buying process can be daunting, and in New Hampshire parties are free to contract terms beyond just the traditional purchase and sales agreement. This means that sellers may not always disclose all the problems with a property. The sellers only need to disclose those items indicated on the seller disclosure form. Buyers in these states must ask more questions and take more responsibility to learn about every possible defect with the property, obtain the seller disclosure form from the seller, follow up on red flags, investigate, and obtain a home inspection. A home inspection can help insure you are making a good choice.
The seller is legally obligated to answer questions honestly, but could easily leave out important information if not asked specifically about it. If a seller uses a band-aid-like approach to a disclosed material defect, they can be taken to court for fraudulent misrepresentation. Make sure to read over contracts carefully and make changes before and after contract acceptance as necessary to prevent any anticipated issues. If an issue is discovered before closing that was not included in the seller’s disclosure, you can ask the seller to make necessary repairs or provide credit for them. If a seller participates in deceit in the form of failing to provide or lying about property disclosure, the buyer can terminate the agreement and get a refund of the earnest money deposited. If the seller’s deceit is discovered after closing, you can bring a lawsuit against the seller for breach of contract. In some situations, attorney’s fees can be obtained.
After obtaining a home inspection, you are under no obligation to provide a copy of that report to the seller or their agent unless indicated in the contract and your agent needs your permission before providing the report to anyone.
For any renovations or additions to a home, permits are required. Determine which jurisdiction has authority for permits in the area such as the local city or county office and contact them to determine whether the permits were pulled and closed.
Check if the property is in a flood zone. Properties in flood zones come with a whole list of potential issues. Insurance companies could be apprehensive to insure the property and if they do, they must include special flood insurance and require infrastructure upgrades that are not cheap. If the property you are looking at is in a flood zone, find out if the property has an elevation certificate. This will assist you in obtaining flood insurance. Furthermore, properties in conservation areas or historic districts can make additions or rebuilding nearly impossible.
Homes built before 1978 need to provide a lead disclosure and safety pamphlet to buyers and tenants. Insurance companies will be highly apprehensive to insure properties with lead or extremely old electrical or heating systems, or foundational issues.
Finally, property stigmas such as burial grounds, hauntings, or murder sites, usually do not have to be disclosed by the seller unless specifically asked. Certain diseases of past tenants/owners legally cannot be disclosed. Registered sex offenders in the area do not have to be disclosed but can be checked online at the National Sex Offender Registry.
Buying a new property can be both exciting and nerve-racking. Make sure to proceed with patience and caution. Choose an agent who you trust and can find potential liabilities in a property that the seller is not presenting outright. Take the due diligence period to fully review the property’s history and investigate any questionable factors.
If your house purchase or sale leads to further problems, the attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay may be able to assist. Contact us if you need assistance.
Article By: Arjun Kumar, 2023 Intern