As you know, Massachusetts is a Buyer Beware state and many areas like Martha’s Vineyard do not require an owner to complete a ‘Seller’s Description of Property’ check list. Matter-of-fact, attorneys will suggest to their seller clients not to fill out the form due to possible liability, even though there are three choices provided for an answer: Yes, No and Unkn.
So what can you do to help you avoid buying a money pit? The first thing you do is hire the best most through home inspector you can find. Usually, that will be the one the seller agents are not keen on.
Next, you can ask your insurance company for a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange report, which is known as a CLUE report. The CLUE report contains a 7 year history of any claims made on the home you are thinking about buying.
Obviously, many problems in the home are not reported to insurance companies, but this is one more step beyond having a home inspection and those additional inspections that may be triggered by the home inspection, like asbestos, radon, mold, pest infestation, and lead.
A cautionary from Bill Loden who is the President of the American Society of Home Inspectors is to be careful when buying a home that is or has been ‘flipped’. "Experienced flippers looking to maximize profits at the expense of the buyer will learn how to hide problems from the inspector rather than correct the problems."
Loden goes on to sight examples like, "an air conditioner that has coolant leaks can be charged just before the inspection and may work fine for a couple of weeks."
Something else a buyer can do, and I always recommend to my clients, is to talk to the neighbors. They would be the ones to know if there was a flood or a fire in the house. They may know just as much as the owner does and they are more than happy to spill the beans.
Finally, and most importantly is to hire an Exclusive Buyer Agent, one that has a track record for putting their client’s interests before their own. Don’t take the Agent’s word for how wonderful they are, read their testimonials and ask to speak directly to some of their past and/or present clients. This is your life, your money and your happiness. You deserve the best so go out and get it.