Truth in Home Buying

December 31, 1990

Westminster planning officials are studying a novel proposal that could save potential home buyers -- and the town itself -- much grief. The ordinance would require property owners or real estate brokers to provide a copy of the zoning map, the city's master plan and the subdivision plat to a prospective buyer.

The proposal could give home buyers a much broader picture of their new dream houses. The buyers would learn how many future houses, apartments, shopping malls and industrial parks will be built in their neighborhood.

Such a proposal is no threat to the local real estate market. A disclosure law is meant to give buyers information that allows them to determine whether they wish to live in a neighborhood whose physical character could change.

The Carroll County Association of Realtors proposed the ordinance to leave no room for later disappointment. Real estate sellers, for instance, might fail to inform potential buyers that a landfill is planned a few blocks away. That could be devastating for unsuspecting home owners.

A zoning disclosure law would reduce neighborhood upset about future developments. All residents would receive zoning maps and other material when they move in. They would know in advance what might be built on nearby lots. For Westminster officials, full disclosure to home buyers and brokers would give them more assurance that their zoning plans won't create a furor at some later date.

Westminster is the hub of Carroll County. It had been growing steadily before the housing slowdown began last spring. It will regain a strong market position once real estate sales pick up. A disclosure law could give the town a definite marketing advantage. It is another safeguard for the home buyer, one that should encourage, not discourage, new sales.

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