Reporting Karen Anderson
BOSTON (CBS) – Buying a house is most likely the largest investment you’ll ever make, but is there enough protection for homebuyers?
Not according to one woman from Newton who says she got stuck with some big problems.
Now she wants to change the law.
Marianne Ulcickas Yood, a mother of two, says she is angry when she thinks about the unwanted secrets that came with her new home. The problems started when they had to spend thousands to replace an illegally installed water heater. The old one, said to be fine, was really a fire hazard.
Yood says the situation would be scary for anyone, but it was especially frightening for them because they have oxygen for their son Josh on every floor.
The Yoods then made another discovery: a swampy area in their back yard. They were never told an in-ground swimming pool had been filled in. Marianne says it has cost 17-thousand dollars for three years of landscaping to try to fix the problem.
Marianne Yood believes that information like this should be shared with seller. “I think the realtors, if they are going to make this amount of money, for selling a house, they really need to push the sellers to figure things out.”
In Massachusetts, brokers are held to a different standard than people selling their own homes.
Brokers must disclose any kind of material defect in a property, from a faulty roof to water that seeps into the basement.
But sellers do not have to disclose anything except lead paint.
That’s the issue: brokers are dependent on just how forthcoming the seller is.
Ed Smith, a real estate attorney, says, “It’s a buyer beware situation.” He advises all buyers: “Hire a qualified home inspector, maybe even go to the building department in the city or town where the house is located and look at the records for that particular property.”
The Massachusetts Association of Realtors says it encourages all buyers to work with a buyer’s agent, and have a home inspection.
Marianne says buyers should understand it’s their responsibility to ask questions. A seller who is asked a question must answer truthfully. They can’t conceal or hide issues or misrepresent the property or be fraudulent
Some brokerage companies instruct sellers to fill out a disclosure form and describe the home conditions to the buyer, but this is not required by law.
Marianne moved from Connecticut, which she says had much tougher disclosure laws, and she expected Massachusetts would have the same requirements. Experts say two thirds of the states in the US have stronger disclosure laws than Massachusetts.
Marianne says she wants other homebuyers to learn from her unfortunate surprises.
She is now talking with her state senator about writing a bill to protect home owners.
For more information, you can click on the Office of Consumer Affairs link: “Buying and Selling a Home in Massachusetts”