Monday, August 30, 2004

Lawsuits are seller's worst nightmare

How can I avoid being sued?

Two frequent after-closing problems involve claims regarding square footage misrepresentations and concealment of unfavorable reports. Sellers tend to round up the square footage of their home. For instance, a house that had 1,865 square feet when the sellers bought it suddenly has 1,900 square feet when they sell it.

A far better practice, is to round down, rather than up. This is hard for some sellers to do, because bigger is usually thought to be better. But, it's not better if you're sued later. If you feel you need to reference square footage at all be sure to include the word "approximate." It's also a good idea to reference the source of the square footage information, and include a statement that it might not be accurate and it won't be verified. This way, the buyers are put on notice to research this information, if it's important to them.

As a buyer, you do have a duty to protect yourself. Buying a home is a major investment. So, don't rely solely on a seller's disclosures. Have the property inspected and if you need more information from the seller, ask for it. Don't rely on the fact that the law may be on your side if you get into a dispute. A legal proceeding can exact an emotional toll, not to mention the time it may take out of your busy life.


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