Jim Valentine: Things aren’t always how they appear to be
In the old days, there was a saying everyone was expected to know and understand, “Caveat emptor.” It means, “Let the buyer beware.” Buyers were to make their own investigation about the property to find things that were wrong. This was long before we had physical inspections on a regular basis; it was a time when walk-through inspections were done with the purpose of studying the home. Agents would show up with a hairdryer or a plug-in device to check electrical plugs, stove burners were turned on to see if they would glow and water was run to see if it got hot.
Today, there are laws requiring disclosure of property deficiencies and some things going on in the neighborhood. Failure to disclose properly can result in terrible damages to the seller who didn’t disclose. With that in mind, it would seem that one would know everything about a property when buying it, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
The expanse of vacant land behind the house might seem like Bureau of Land Management land, government land that won’t be developed and is open for all to enjoy, but two things can happen. If it is government land that’s close to subdivisions, the Feds might decide to sell or trade the land. The result could be a development in your view or right next door that will change your quiet enjoyment of your land. Sometimes people assume that big open parcels are government-owned when they are privately held. Verify the ownership of the vacant land next door before you buy.
Be careful looking around at what others have done or are doing and assuming that you can do the same thing. You might be a block away and have different zoning that does not allow your intended use. Another thing that can happen is a tolerance mindset in the neighborhood is not shared when a new person moves in. They complain and the enforcement agencies have to do their job. Be sure you are legally allowed to do what you want from a federal, state, county and HOA perspective so you aren’t mandated to cease sometime in the future. By the way, it isn’t always a new neighbor; it can be somebody that you get into a tiff with.
When sewer or water lines are run in neighborhoods established with wells and septics, there can be confusion as to the status of the property you are buying. It might be on well and septic still, but if either of them fail, you will be required to hook up to the public utilities. Important to know if you are buying with a preference. There aren’t many major utility improvement projects going on these days, but it may have been done years ago, or current water quality may dictate public improvements that weren’t previously cost effective.
A path doesn’t always mean you have access. Be sure you have legal access, and if there is a path across your property to another property be sure to find out if it there is a legal easement for its use. Just because a party has used a path doesn’t mean they have a legal right it. Sometimes a case can be made that they can continue to use it, but that would require them taking legal action and proving they had no alternative access. Know and understand what the trails in the area involve and who uses them.
Our advice: Don’t just assume that things are how you think they are when you see them. Ask questions, get answers. Owners might be innocent in their ignorance of the reality of a situation, but that doesn’t lessen the negative impact on you after you’ve bought it if you can’t use the property the way that you expected to.
It is important that you make sure that you are getting what you bargained for when you buy real estate. You might be able to solve a problem related to the property — that is a good way to make money with real estate. What you don’t want to experience is the converse — a problem arising that you can’t readily solve or modify.
When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-3704. firstname.lastname@example.org