Clutter in home prevented full inspection

Posted6/5/2022 6:00 AM

Q: Before we bought our home, the entire place was jam-packed with stuff, not just throughout the house, but in the garage and around the outside of the building. The sellers disclosed a few minor problems, but our home inspector couldn't find much else, owing to the massive clutter.

Once we moved in, the impact of this became clear. Now we can see the bulge in the garage foundation, signs of settlement in the rear bedroom, mold on the walls and a list of other defects. Even with a home inspection, we bought the house sight-unseen. How could we have prevented this, and what can we do now?


A: The seller should have vacated the property several days prior to close of escrow to enable a final walk-through inspection. A walk-through is standard procedure when buying a home, to ensure that all discoverable defects are revealed. Had this routine process taken place, the foundation problems, the mold issue and various other defects could then have been discovered.

Had there been a walk-through, a list of property defects that should have been disclosed by the sellers would then have come to light, the purchase could have been put on hold and negotiations with the sellers could have been reopened. Instead, concealed defects were purchased on faith, and you have been left with an load of costly surprises.

On the basis of disclosure requirements, the sellers are clearly at fault. They should have informed you of all known defects. Even if they were unaware of problems concealed behind their clutter, obvious flaws would have been revealed to them when they finally removed their mess. Whether early or late in the transaction, it was their obligation to divulge whatever they knew to be problematic.

Now that the milk is spilled, your options are limited. The newly discovered defects need professional evaluation, including an engineering review of the foundation and cost estimates for necessary repairs. Finally, you'll need to inform the sellers of the newly revealed status of the property and to request they contribute to the repair process. If they are not willing to pay for undisclosed defects, you'll have to consider whether legal action is worth the additional cost and aggravation.

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Q: When we bought our home, the seller agreed to repair the roof. But winter weather prevented this at that time. So the seller left money in an escrow account to pay for later work. Here's my question: I am able to do my own roof repairs and would like to save money by doing the job myself. How can I get approval for this kind of arrangement?

A: The money being held in escrow is apparently part of the seller's proceeds from the sale of the property. Any savings in the course of roof repairs would therefore be refunded to the seller. Accordingly, the seller may welcome your offer to make these repairs. However, you will need to assure the seller, in writing, that there will be no further claims if your roof repairs are in any way unsuccessful. You need to make a proposal to the seller to see if your intentions are mutually agreeable.

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