More buyers now claiming being misled about home

MAILBAG

July 11, 2004

In April 2002, we sold our house as is in Timonium for $273,000 (asking price $259,000). Four months later, the buyer called to say the house was settling. Other than nominal plaster cracking and repair, we told her there had been no settling for the nine years we were there.

She paid to have helical piers installed around the entire perimeter at an expense of more than $100,000. She and her lawyers sued. Our lawyers suggested settling, even though the other side could not prove any liability, to avoid a costly trial. It cost us $23,000.

From a previous article you wrote about a wet basement issue, I sense your advice would be to stick to my guns unless I made a false statement. If, indeed, I see the light now, do I have any recourse?

Dear Reader:

Once the lawsuit was settled, that was the end of it. Whether you made a good or poor settlement or not is history, and you should treat it that way.

Based on reports from real estate agents and cases from my own law practice, it seems as though more buyers than ever are claiming they were misled about the condition of homes they bought. This increase in litigation may be due to the frenzied real estate market.

Fearing that they'll lose the deal, buyers feel pressured to make offers without adequate time to consider their decision. As with your home, buyers sometimes bid more than the asking price. Some buyers submit contracts, waiving home inspections and other contingencies.

When a defect is found after settlement, buyers become angry and feel cheated. They want to assign blame. And the "usual suspects" are the seller, the real estate agents and the home inspector (if a pre-settlement inspection was obtained).

If the buyer files suit, all potential responsible parties are usually joined as defendants.

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