Before the bulldozers arrive Buyer beware: Before purchasing a home, consumers need to look into building plans nearby.

June 18, 1998

AMERICANS ARE often lax about civics education, and, as a result, many adults are woefully ill-informed about basic government issues that affect their daily lives. Ironically, the lack of understanding is worst closest to home.

This ignorance is at the root of a problem explored in a recent Sun article about consumers who were stunned to find out about projects planned near their recently purchased homes. Examples abound of homeowners who mistakenly assumed that some nearby vacant lot would remain so -- even though plans for a road, supermarket or housing development were on the books long before they went to the settlement table.

In some cases, citizens claim they were poorly informed or misled by real estate agents, builders or sales agents. Disclosure and fair-practice laws haven't stopped this from happening. Legislatively, more can be done to ensure that planned projects, particularly major ones such as highways, are revealed during the buying process.

In Baltimore County, for instance, Councilman T. Bryan McIntire wants legislation to require that maps and other renderings of new developments reflect planned roads and other major projects. Del. John R. Leopold of Anne Arundel County is proposing a statewide bill to require certain notification, as exists in Howard and Baltimore counties.

The burden of investigating these matters, however, belongs to the homebuyer. Most of what buyers need can be found through the local planning office. Planners can explain how land near a prospective home is zoned and what zoning allows. They can help decipher the local master plan, checking for planned roads and long-range development patterns. Buyers also need to recognize that sales agents in developments represent the seller and that verbal commitments are difficult to prove.

Resources already available can help buyers learn what they are getting into. It's a matter of asking a few questions to find out where to find the answers, and then taking the trouble to do so.

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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