Buyer beware Carroll County: Mount Airy resident's water troubles underscore homeowners' risks.

June 27, 1996

FOR NINE MONTHS, Dr. Ronald Miller has been displaying a large hand-lettered sign in front of his home overlooking Chaledon golf course. "Our Well Went Dry," it says, "Think Before You Buy."

The Mount Airy internist claims water pumped by the Mount Airy golf course contributed to his troubles, which has necessitated the family having to spend $4,000 to drill a new well. He put up the sign, he says, "because I figured that people should know."

We are not taking sides in this dispute, except to note that in buying a home a family often takes many risks. Research can diminish some, though not all, of those risks. But it is truly amazing how many homeowners claim they did not know a road would be built next to their property, or are surprised by flooding, when information suggesting those possibilities was contained in public files. A seller is required to make certain disclosures, but the real burden is on the buyer to find out.

For most people, buying a house is perhaps the biggest acquisition of their lifetime. Yet surprisingly, many buyers seem to do more comparison shopping in purchasing a television set or an automobile than in choosing a home. Why else would a person, with infinite choices, insist on buying property next to a new, busy highway or on the landing approach to an airport?

It is true that many potential problems of nature are not easily detectable -- and may never occur. But anyone building near a 100-year flood plain is clearly taking an enormous gamble, considering the many heavy storms this region has experienced. Conversely, a golf course means heightened water usage but many buyers do not think beyond a fairway view.

Dr. Miller acknowledges as much. "I was really naive at the time," he said. "The golf course sounded like a good thing."

We hope the family can resolve the water shortage problem, which was exacerbated by last year's drought that produced virtually no precipitation from early August to mid-September.

For other area residents, the Miller family's misfortune ought to serve as a fresh reminder that a home buyer should not take anything at face value, but should conduct a thorough investigation into the property before it is time to sign the contract.

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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