I received a note from a potential client last month. It went like this:
Hi Gary -I’ve been looking for a home for months now and finally settled with the seller. It’s being offered by a FSBO (for sale by owner) and the seller has been truly wonderful to work with. They’ve invited me in for cookies, been willing to allow me to see the property for a “second look” on my schedule and seem so patient and forthcoming – sharing with me appliance repair dates, receipts and invoices. WOW! I’m in love. They’ve also filled out a document called a Property Disclosure Statement. My question is: Do I need a home inspection?
Yes. You should hire a professional home inspector.
The disclosure laws here in MS are not written to be part of the contract between you and the seller, is not a warranty and is actually in existence to serve the real estate industry. Had you negotiated the sale through a licensed real estate agent the disclosure (see link below) is mandatory.
The law reads something like this:
In accordance with Sections 89-1-501 through 89-1-527 of the Mississippi Code of 1954, as amended, effective July 1, 2005, a TRANSFEROR of real property consisting of not less than one (1) nor more than four (4) dwelling units shall provide a Property Condition Disclosure Statement when the transfer is by, or with the aid of, a duly licensed real estate broker or salesperson.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that unless an agent is aware of the properties conditions at the time of sale they won’t be held liable for omissions or errors in the disclosure. So – the odds of you finding a “pre-sale” home inspection report or other information concerning the property conditions from the seller’s agent is pretty rare. Most selling agents don’t want to know the specifics about a property other than bath/bedroom count, size, price and address. The risk of exposure is too great. The disclosure rule states:
The licensee is not liable for any error, inaccuracy or omission in a Property Condition Disclosure Statement unless the licensee has actual knowledge of the error, inaccuracy or omission by the Transferor.
The MS Real Estate Commission has also spelled out a few details about the disclosure statement that pertains to your question about a home inspection:
- The Property Condition Disclosure Statement should not be considered a warranty by the Transferor.
- The Property Condition Disclosure Statement is NOT intended to become a part of any contract between the Transferor(s) and the Transferee(s) and it is for “disclosure” purposes only.
- The Property Condition Disclosure Statement may not be used as a substitute for an inspection by a licensed home inspector or for other home warranties that the Transferor or Transferee may obtain.
- Any Appliances or Items deemed to be Personal Property should be negotiated by the Seller and the Buyer in the Contract for the Purchase and Sale of Real Estate and all ownership rights should be transferred by a Bill of Sale or other appropriate contractual instrument. This Property Condition Disclosure Statement is not part of the Contract of Sale.
- Nothing in this law precludes the rights and duties of the Transferee to inspect the property. –
If for some reason the deal doesn’t work out and you’re in the market again there are a few things you should consider asking the seller, whether or not he/she fills out a disclosure statement.
- Building code violations or approval issues
- Foundation stability issues
- Infestation history
- Land and/or site data
- Restrictions, easements and encroachments
Whether you’re buying a home that includes a licensed agent’s participation or from an individual, get a 3rd party opinion. You’ll be glad you did.