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Common Seller Errors that Lead to Real Estate Lawsuits

  • Dec 29, 2021
  • The Harr Law Firm

Man writing on paper near judge's gavel and model houseIn today’s real estate market, closing on a new home can feel like nothing short of a miracle. The stress of finding a home, putting in a bid, and negotiating to get that home you love is finally over, and you can move in and live happily ever after. Except sometimes, a new issue arises, and you might feel like you were deceived in the sale. When this happens, some buyers will pursue legal action against the sellers. Here are a few examples of common errors sellers make that may result in a lawsuit.

Not Disclosing Property Issues

A part of the selling process involves the seller providing a list of items known as disclosures. The disclosures provide the buyer with information regarding all property issues—past and present—so that the buyer can enter the agreement with a full understanding of the property’s condition. Many sellers might think that a past problem that’s been repaired doesn’t need to be disclosed. However, just as you would want to know that a used car has been in an accident (regardless of the fact that it has since been repaired), buyers also want to know of past damage to the home.

For example, if a seller’s home experienced flood damage, and they had repairs completed, everything may appear to be in good condition to both the buyer and the seller. However, what if one area of drywall was not completely dried out? There could be hidden mold growth and water damage inside the wall, which the buyer might not become aware of for some time after the purchase. Disclosing past damage allows the buyer to inspect potentially damaged areas more thoroughly, so they can ensure that all necessary repairs have been completed, and there are no unpleasant surprises later on.

Making Inaccurate Statements

In some real estate deals, the buyer and seller will never converse directly. However, other times, the seller will be present when the buyer walks through the home. In these cases, it’s not uncommon for the buyer and seller to strike up a conversation about the home, the neighborhood, and other relevant topics. Most sellers won’t intentionally mislead a buyer during these conversations; however, an inaccurate, offhand comment could lead to legal issues down the road.

For example, if the seller enthusiastically says, “We completely renovated the kitchen last year,” the buyer might believe that everything in the kitchen is new. If this is a major factor in their decision to purchase the property, they’re bound to be very disappointed when they discover that the cabinets were just refinished and the flooring isn’t new at all. This could lead to legal action down the road, simply because the seller was overly excited about the work they had done on the kitchen.

This is why it’s a good idea to have real estate professionals deal with showing a property and speaking with buyers. Even a seemingly innocent comment could lead to a real estate lawsuit.

Intentionally Covering Up Problems

While it’s not incredibly common, some sellers will try to cover up property issues in order to maximize the value of their home. In today’s high-demand housing market, a seller might feel like they can rush desperate buyers into a deal. They’ll paint over mold, place rugs over floor damage, or temporarily patch up cracks to conceal potential foundation issues. They may even ask sellers to skip over the home inspection to speed the process along, hoping to make it less likely that these cover-ups will be discovered.

While intentionally deceptive sellers aren’t incredibly common, unfortunately, it does happen. And if you’re a buyer who’s been trying to find a home for months now, you might jump at the chance to finally close on one. But if you discover those issues somewhere down the road, you may be able to pursue legal action against the seller for intentionally concealing property damage from you.

Not Disclosing Neighborhood Issues

It’s important to keep in mind that issues with the property are not the only things that the seller must disclose; they must also reveal any issues with the area that might materially impact the property’s value. This includes things like noise levels, proximity to industrial activity, and even traffic. Of course, as a buyer, it’s a good idea to try to research these kinds of things yourself.

However, if you feel that you were materially misled regarding the neighborhood or the property you purchased, reach out The Harr Law Firm today. We’ll discuss the details of your case with you and help you determine if legal action is a feasible solution for you.