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.


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


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.

Do I REALLY Need a Survey?

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Raise your hand if you are an overwhelmed first-time home buyer and your real estate professional (lawyer, title agent or Realtor) asks – “do you want a survey?”

Well, do you?

The survey question comes up when ordering title but if you understand the significance in advance, you can make an informed decision ahead of time, rather than in the mad rush of quick decisions you must make following a signed contract.  Do you really NEED to spend another $500, or so? Well you might get lucky and get one for free- after all some townships in New Jersey require a survey before a seller can obtain a Certification of Occupancy. (Of course everything in real estate is negotiable so if you are in one of those townships, buyers and sellers sometimes agree to split or transfer the cost.)

But if you don’t need one for a CO, why spend the extra money?  Well without a survey endorsement on your title policy any and all disputes stemming from property line issues will not be covered. This means if you later find out your neighbor’s driveway is actually on your property, you will have a dispute, without title insurance that you will need to resolve in some fashion before you can sell your property. A dispute that would be resolved out of your pocket.

If your plans, post-closing, include adding a fence, deck, pool or other exterior features, many Townships require submission of an updated survey before they will issue a permit. So why not get it prior to settlement and be sure any disputes are resolved BEFORE you buy, your title insurance will cover you, and make your life easier when considering any changes down the road?

So, the next time you are in the market to buy or sell, consider the importance of a survey in advance and save yourself from making a snap or uninformed decision in the excitement and rush of a new deal.

The Home Inspection Period: The Seller’s Perspective


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It’s natural to feel a sense of relief when you finally sign a contract of sale on your property and prepare to hand over the keys. However, don’t assume the process is over just because you have a signed contract. The home inspection period may be for the buyer’s information and use, but you need to be ready to review results, respond to requests and negotiate repairs. Here are five things to keep in mind:

  1. Be flexible. Just like you had to drop everything for every last-minute showing you need to be ready to give the buyers access to the property for their inspections.
  2. Try not to take the inspections personally. Many if the sellers we work with here at firm struggle while reviewing home inspection results. When your home of however many years has been evaluated by a third party it can be hard to separate your emotions from the reports. An inspector may say your chimney is a hazard, but you have been using it for years! There can’t be mold in the bedrooms- your children slept there! Take a step back and remember the buyers don’t know your house and are not trying to insult you. They just want to make sure the home they are buying is safe and ready for them.
  3. Rules change. Many homeowners who have been in the same property for a long time are surprised by changes to the township codes or requirements. Unfortunately, just because something has worked well for 20 years does not mean you may not have to make some changes. Consult with your attorney to find out what you need to do to fulfill your obligations to the new buyers.
  4. While there are some small repairs sellers are allowed to make themselves, the standard New Jersey contract requires any repairs (like electrical or HVAC) requiring a professionally licensed contractors be completed accordingly. You also need to be sure repairs are properly permitted with the township to avoid any last minute complication.
  5. Keep you receipts! Once you have negotiated and agreed to inspections, make sure you keep all receipts to show the work was completed and completed by the proper professionals.

One final thought on the home inspection period: if a deal is going to fall apart, it is most likely to fall apart in these 14 days. With that understanding you should approach the inspection period with the same attitude as listing your house: the more you know, the better off you will be. A real estate attorney can help you negotiate your legal rights and responsibilities and help you clear this final hurdle so you can move on with confidence and only fond memories of your former home.