Is your new house a money pit?

Making an offer on a house comes with excitement and a little fear. Buying an existing home often means settling for a little mystery. You can never be certain what you're getting or how long it will be before you discover the true flaws in the structure.

However, if your seller has been forthright with you, the surprises should be few and minor. While every house has its creaks and groans, Florida law protects buyers by requiring sellers to disclose any major defects they are aware the property may have.

Let the truth be told

Disclosure by the seller is not the same as having your own inspector look over the house. In fact, the seller may hire an inspector in order to make an honest disclosure, but even if that's the case, real estate advocates advise every buyer to obtain an independent inspection. The disclosure is simply a way for you to learn as much as you can about the property so you can make an informed decision before investing. Here are some details a seller may include in a disclosure:

  • Previous renovations and the status of the permits obtained for improvements
  • Neighborhood nuisances such as noises or odors
  • Termite issues
  • Defects in essential appliances or systems, such as plumbing or electricity
  • Disputes over the property boundaries
  • Potential title issues, such as liens or bankruptcies

Each state has laws regarding the details that a seller must reveal about a property and the length of time the seller is on the hook for those defects. When you made an offer on your house, you should have received a document of disclosure. If you asked specific questions about the condition of the house, the seller or the seller's agent should have answered you honestly.

Did your seller try to slip something past you?

If you discovered a defect in your new home, you may feel such a flaw would have altered your decision to purchase the house. Perhaps you would have agreed to go through with the purchase if the seller repaired the defect or reduced the asking price. In any case, if you believe the seller should have disclosed the defect to you before settlement, you may wish to discuss your situation with an attorney.

An experienced real estate attorney will be familiar with the Florida laws regarding disclosure and other disputes over the purchase of property. You will have someone to advocate on your behalf or to represent your case in litigation if negotiations do not bring about a resolution.