Homebuyers beware

September 14, 1993

Those entering the real estate market this autumn will find a unique set of circumstances -- a buyer's market and interest rates at 25-year lows. In such a heady atmosphere, it is easy to get carried away and lose caution.

Home-buying requires studious research. Prospective buyers in brand-new developments ought to recognize the extent to which the community is likely to change with further building. Shoppers for older homes, meanwhile, ought to have them professionally inspected for structural and mechanical soundness.

Reporter Peter Hermann of The Sun's Anne Arundel bureau, recently wrote of 21 homeowners in an Odenton development who want their builder to give them new houses or $50,000 because backyard woods touted in advertisements were later cut down.

Meanwhile, a number of recent homebuyers in Crofton, another western Anne Arundel community, are finding themselves in a comparable predicament. They thought they had a recreation area behind their lots; turns out, it's a storm-water retention pond instead.

In both cases, developers apparently acted in accordance with plans they had recorded with Anne Arundel County. Unhappy homebuyers contend, however, that sales representatives did not inform them about the full extent of what the builders were allowed to do.

These are tricky situations. They underscore the fact that would-be homebuyers are putting themselves at risk if they look only at models and talk to sales representatives. Home-buying is an emotional experience. Sellers know it. That's why the tiniest of houses are made to seem larger by the liberal use of mirrors and downsized furniture. That's why sales representatives are not going to volunteer information on potential disadvantages of a new development.

Even if salespeople tell the whole story, would-be buyers may discount the information, having fallen in love with their own interpretation of the development and the value it represents.

In order to protect themselves and their property, homebuyers must never rely on verbal representations only. Promises should be written into contracts and homebuyers ought to consult plats and grading permits at the local government's office of planning and zoning. They indicate the changes a developer is allowed to undertake during the construction of a community.

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