3 questions you absolutely, positively must run by your real estate agent

Rick Sheppard
Published on June 7, 2020

3 questions you absolutely, positively must run by your real estate agent

Caution: Taking action on a whim, without consulting your real estate agent, may be hazardous to your real estate transaction and consequently, your pocketbook.  All questions, no matter how difficult to ask, or how small they may seem, should be run by your agent.

Let’s take a look at three common scenarios and show you why you need the counsel of your agent.

  1. “We found a brand new house at Delusional Knolls!”

    “We don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but we’re pretty sure we’ll be using that nice real estate agent we met at the sales office – is this a good idea?”

Oh, heck no!  Sure, it seems convenient – the agent is right there in the new-home community in which you want to buy, so you won’t have to make an appointment to see her – you can just pop in whenever you like, right?

Consider this: that agent represents the builder or developer.  How will she do her ethical duties to you and the builder, simultaneously?  If you wouldn’t hire your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s attorney to handle your divorce, why would you hire the builder’s agent and hope that he or she will have your best interests in mind?  Dual agency is a fine line to walk for even the most ethical agents.

As a buyer, you pay nothing for the services of a real estate agent.  So be selfish and get your own agent who will have a fiduciary responsibility to do what’s in your best intetrest and not the seller’s!  That way you’ll know for sure that there is someone in your corner at all points during the process.

  1. Here’s my seller’s disclosure statement. I was so busy I just checked “no” on all the boxes. That’s ok, right?

Sure it is, if “no” is truly the correct answer to all the questions.  Otherwise, prepare for litigation.

The typical seller’s disclosure statement asks something to this effect: “Are you (seller) aware of any significant defects/malfunctions in any of the following?”

You checked “no” on all the boxes, which means that you aren’t aware that the basement floods every time we have a heavy downpour, despite you making very clear to me, your agent, that your basement does in fact take on water.

Of course, the buyer, who just suffered the loss of all his basement furnishings, will need to prove to a judge that you were aware of and actually concealed the problem.  But, since you shared your basement troubles with your buddy across the street, the buyer won’t have to do much digging.  Neighbors are frequently deposed in these cases.

Disclosure laws are different in many states and even in many counties within states. Depending on where you live, if you’re found guilty of concealing material facts about the home, you could be held liable for the buyer’s monetary losses (compensatory damages), be forced to pay punitive damages on top of that and, in rare cases, the buyer is allowed to cancel the purchase, give you back the house and get his money back.

If the concealed defect results in substantial harm or death to the buyer, you could end up in prison, like the homeowner in Vermont who deliberately failed to disclose a faulty driveway heater to the family of four who purchased the home.

All but one member of that family (an infant) died of carbon monoxide poisoning, the former owner was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison.

By the way, in some parts of the country, this duty to disclose may extend up to a 10-year period, post-sale.

We understand how hard it is to expose even the home’s tiniest flaws to the prospective buyer, but to not do so may turn out to be exorbitantly expensive.  Plus it’s just wrong.  Take your time with the seller’s disclosure statement and answer each question honestly.

  1. I can’t believe we’re closing on our home purchase in just two weeks! Did I tell you we’re shopping for furniture and appliances this weekend? We got an awesome financing program for them!

This one is so common… and so sad.  In the excitement in the run-up to closing, many buyers begin to imagine furnishing the new home.  Many others actually take steps toward buying the furnishings.  And that’s a huge mistake.

Shortly before closing your lender will most likely pull your credit reports again, a process known as a “soft pull,” because it doesn’t affect your credit score.  This is the lender’s final assurance that you truly can afford the monthly payment and that you will actually make that payment.

Applying for credit for those new appliances or furniture will show up on the soft pull and will catch the underwriter’s attention.  The new credit changes your risk profile and the new monthly payment for the items you purchase with that credit may change your debt ratios so much that you will no longer qualify for the loan.

It does happen and it’s heartbreaking.  Until you close on the house, don’t apply for new credit, don’t switch jobs or move money around to different accounts.  Keep your financial situation exactly as it was when you applied for the mortgage.

Communicating with your real estate agent, even if you think what you are about to do is innocent or non-threatening to the process, is the wisest move you can make during the real estate transaction. You never know just how huge it may turn out to be.

The author, Rick Sheppard, is a licensed real estate broker with RE/MAX Achievers, Inc in Pennsylvania and a 32+ year veteran of the real estate trenches.  He knows a lot because he’s seen a lot.  If you have any questions about this or any real estate related topic, feel free to contact Rick at [email protected] and he’ll do his best to answer your questions.

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