“What you don’t know won’t hurt you” is an idiom that implies that you can be happier by not looking into the unknown. However, this does not apply to real estate transactions. Homebuyers and sellers both invest a great deal of time and money in the process prior to settlement and do not want to have it all squandered on an unknown that can ruin their home sale.
Homebuyers typically spend about twelve weeks searching for a home (according to NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2009), and can spend a nice sum of money when the cost of a home inspection, loan application, appraisal, gas for driving, time off of work, etc. is totaled. Likewise a home seller invests time and money in preparing for closing all the while having their home sale depending on the performance of the buyer.
Unfortunately, a transaction can sometimes become laden with unknown landmines waiting to blow up the deal. Although most real estate agents try to vet their clients before entering into a contract, hidden issues threatening the closing may not be revealed until weeks after a ratified contract and sometimes not until closing. If you’re a buyer or a seller, it makes sense to ask about your counterpart; and if there’s opportunity, take the time to find out more about them prior to becoming invested in the sales contract.
Take, for example, divorce. Although divorce is a common issue that is encountered within a transaction, it is sometimes not fully disclosed and can affect the outcome of the home sale. A homebuyer’s ability to purchase a home could be affected by shared accounts that have not been revealed or responsibility is refused by their spouse; the resulting homebuyer’s high debt ratio could disqualify them from their mortgage. Likewise, a home seller going through a divorce can be tripped up by an uncooperative spouse who is unwilling to sign the deed.
Homebuyer issues can pose potential problems if not evaluated properly. Undisclosed credit, financial, and legal issues can pop up any time throwing a wrench into the home sale; sometimes these issues don’t reveal themselves until the end of the process because the loan officer and/or agent did not ask the right questions or ask for all the required documentation. Additionally, unlicensed lenders and loan officers that continue to attempt to do business can also be a potential problem as they may be prevented from providing the homebuyer a mortgage.
Unknown home seller issues may also jeopardize the home sale; surprise issues are typically related to providing clear title to the buyer, but can also include various legal problems. Title defects may include unpaid mortgages and (tax and mechanics) liens. Sometimes a seller may need third party approval from a trustee or lender (such as in bankruptcy or foreclosure), which can either prevent or prolong the sale.
Due diligence prior to entering a sales contract may prevent sticky problems; searching available public records and reviewing disclosures for discrepancies could provide extra information that can assist you in your decision process. Undisclosed buyer and seller issues, although aggravating, do not always kill the home sale and often are resolved. However, consulting an attorney about recourse over a soured real estate transaction is always a good idea.
This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of September 27, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.