Buying a Home – Considering a Home Inspection? What You Should Know…

Let’s begin with the alarming truth that home inspections are not required in New Jersey. Contrary to what many believe, there is no legal obligation on buyers, sellers, agents or brokers to ensure a home inspection is conducted before the purchase of a home. This follows whether it is new construction or a 100-year-old Victorian.

You may wonder why there is no federal or state guidance in this seemingly important area of the real estate transaction, and a guess could be that caveat emptor or “let the buyer beware” is still firmly rooted in American transactions. Whatever the reason, in today’s world, home buyer’s may still need to beware, but can now be certain: with a simple home inspection. 

For those who think they can “deal with it later” …


By opting not to have a home inspection, you are placing yourself in a position where you will most likely lose the right to make additional requests for repairs that aren’t agreed to at the time of signing the initial purchase contract. This can sometimes come as a shock, but the sales agreement and everything within it will dictate each parties’ rights regarding inspections.

For those looking to save a little money …

Home inspectors are trained to discover defects in a home’s foundation, mold, water damage, and other potentially hazardous conditions. If not discovered, the damage from those defects alone could cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars. So, if you’re looking to save money in the short run, just consider the price you could end up paying in the long run. (Inspections in NJ typically range $357-$582).

For those who believe they are the “home inspector” …

In New Jersey, home inspectors are licensed and strictly regulated by the Home Inspection Advisory Committee under the Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

Unless you can thoroughly inspect and efficiently identify defects in each of the areas below during a routine walk-through, then it is highly recommended that you leave it to the professionals.

  • Exterior of the home
  • Home’s foundation
  • Exterior walls of the home
  • Roof coverings, flashings and gutters
  • Roof support structure
  • Attic
  • Basement
  • Quality of insulation
  • Garage
  • Electrical wiring, outlets and breaker
  • Visible interior and exterior plumbing
  • Central air and heating system
  • Overall interior condition of the home

New Jersey Realtors recommends using the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors to begin your search for the right home inspector.

A Tree Grows Next Door

We have had some pretty serious storms this summer so here at Bergmann Law we wouldn’t blame you for looking twice at your neighbor’s big, beautiful tree. Especially if it has branches hanging over your yard or property.

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The New Jersey Supreme Court holds that tree branches which overhang a property line can constitute a nuisance (Ackerman v. Ellis, 81 N.J.L. 1, 79 A. 883 (Sup. Ct. 1911)), and you have the right to trim any trees or shrubs that extend over into your property, so long as you do not harm or destroy the trees or plants and you only trim up to the property line. (Wegener v. Sugerman, 104 N.J.L. 26, 138 A. 699 (Sup. Ct. 1927)).

The same principal applies to the parts of plants that grow underground, too. If you suspect roots from a neighbor’s tree or other greenery are threatening your property, you have the right to remove those roots from your property as long as it does not harm the tree or plant.

But what if you’re not just worried about a couple of limbs? If the entire tree seems like it might be ready to fall onto your house during the next storm things are a little bit different. If the trunk of the tree is contained in your neighbor’s yard, it is your neighbor’s property and you can’t remove the tree yourself. But you can contact your local government. Most local governments have ordinances that prohibit maintaining any dangerous conditions (like hazardous trees) on private property.

Of course, each situation will be different, and resolving issues with neighbors requires a delicate touch. Let us review the facts and provide information about your specific circumstances and local laws, then come up with a plan that keeps your home safe and your relationship with your neighbor on good terms.

Exactly How Important Is My Home Inspection?

As I sit in Court, waiting for my client’s case to be called, observing the cases on the docket in front of me, wouldn’t you know it, the next one is a homeowner/Buyer (“Plaintiff”) suing the former homeowner/Seller (“Defendant”) for post-closing inspection issues. This case is dead on arrival, but it should at least be interesting.

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The story is the usual one. Seller and Buyer enter into a standard contract for the purchase and sale of a home. Buyer has a home inspection and plumbing issues are discovered. Major, water running down the walls, type of plumbing issues. Buyer makes plumbing repair requests and Seller says no. Buyer is a tenant and feeling pressure to close anyway because she’s already given her landlord notice. She has spent money on inspections and appraisals. She feels like she has no choice, so she closes anyway. Without the plumbing repairs and water still running down the walls.

Why?

Her agent told her she could just sue the Seller, post-closing.

Wow.

Agents and brokerages were named, but only the Buyer was in the Courtroom and she was clearly shocked the “legal advice” from her agent was completely wrong. The Judge was patient. He was kind. He very gently told her she had no case as he read a large portion of the contract back to her and into the record. The Judge then ever so gently, entered judgement in favor of the Seller.

And by the way, what did the Seller have to say in his defense? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It wasn’t necessary. He didn’t even appear in Court, nor had he filed an answer to the complaint. He just sent in his lawyer and as it turns out, that was all he needed to do for absolution. Judgment in his favor, and nothing for the Buyer.

So, what is the moral of the story? Representation in the largest financial transaction you will likely make – or the advice and a chance to walk away from it – is always a good idea.

Call us before you close. Better yet, call us when you make your offer. Post-closing issues are rarely resolved to the satisfaction of a Buyer once you leave the closing table.

Don’t be that post-closing, unhappy homeowner. Protect yourself, your investment and your piece of mind.