We know that “the pursuit of happiness” as it is understood in the Declaration of Independence doesn’t necessarily imply owning property, despite Thomas Jefferson’s adaptation of John Locke’s original verbiage in his Two Treatises of Government. But for Americans, the aspiration of owning property comes pretty darn close to being a fundamental ideal for happiness-seeking, unless, of course, you get stuck with a piece of bum land. As this article at Cincinnati.com mentions, and real estate lawyers in San Antonio would know: disclosure of property details in a sale can get tricky. Between a seller’s wanting to unload, and a home buyer’s desire to buy wisely, making sure that all parties are in the know about important information about the property can be quite a “gray area.”
Legally and ethically, sellers are “required to disclose to buyers about a home’s aging roof or prior water damage, the rules are vague for sharing details about the neighbors next door or community at large.” Open to wide interpretation, the rules about telling potential buyers about less-than-optimal aspects about the neighborhood are vague, which is why a first-time home buyer might want to make sure that counsel from real estate lawyers in San Antonio match up with their gut feelings about a place. While “Realtors are trained to never lie,” agents are also “urged to exercise caution when disclosing any information outside of their real estate knowledge.”
There are a couple of easy fixes to this, at least for the wary buyer. The first is to do research. Information can be found online about sex-offenders in the neighborhood, as well as about school data and nearby property values; and future roadwork, infrastructure or development project information can be accessed through local municipal, county or township building departments. For an unpracticed buyer who finds internet research tedious, having the advice of a practiced attorney like Michael C. Van or other real estate lawyers in San Antonio would be well worth it in order to avoid spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home with undisclosed, unsavory neighborhood characteristics.
It’s a difficult balance to achieve, attorneys and realtors acknowledge. Disclosure obligations in transactions are “meant to keep sellers honest but not bog down the process of buying and selling real estate.” And the obligations for disclosure of physical details and conditions of homes are pretty clear. The gray area comes into play for neighborhood information, and even past events occurring in the home that may put buyers off, like deaths or murders. Known as “stigmatized properties,” houses in which spooky or gruesome occurrences are known to have happened often linger on the market. The downside of a house haunted by its past, real estate lawyers in San Antonio like Stevenson acknowledge, is how difficult it can be to sell. The upside—at least for buyers who can look past a home’s mottled or objectionable past—is that such properties often come at a steep discount.
In all, research, consult before you buy. But for forgiving (and informed) owners, tragedies and stigma can transform a transaction into something beautiful—a new home.