As much as I can, I try to find the best properties for my clients. But, I've had my share of oversight – sometimes, sellers in any city, be it Toronto, Mississauga or Brampton, can be very sneaky when it comes to inflating prices and hiding some damage they could have repaired before selling. I've seen my share of leaky faucets or well-hidden structural damage. I've decided to write some things I've learned to help you and other future clients on what to watch out for and how to handle mishaps after the sale and closing have all gone through.

1. Documentation

Documentation is everything. The first step is to stay calm and assess the situation thoroughly. Take photographs and make detailed notes of each problem. This documentation will be crucial if you need to take further action. I've helped out troubled clients by referring them to renowned local home improvement, roofing, and other essential professionals who can inspect and assess the damage left unchecked and unaddressed by the former owner.

2. Review Your Purchase Agreement

Check your purchase agreement for any clauses related to the condition of the property. Many agreements include a home inspection contingency, which allows the buyer to back out or negotiate repairs if significant issues are discovered. If you waived the inspection, your options might be more limited, but it’s still important to understand your legal standing. I know it'll be a little troublesome, but there's still a chance you can get some recompense out of it.

Related: First-Time Things Every Homebuyer Should Know

3. Consult a Real Estate Attorney

A real estate attorney can provide valuable advice on how to proceed. They can review your purchase agreement and help determine if the seller is liable for the repairs, even after the sale has pushed through. They can also guide you through the process of filing a claim or taking legal action if necessary.

Protip: Before buying a home, make sure to write a contract that states that the seller is responsible for any form of recompense or action to address an issue in the residence, even after the sale and closing has pushed through.

 

5. Contact the Seller

Reach out to the seller to discuss the issues. Be polite but firm, and present your documentation of the hidden repairs. The seller might be willing to negotiate a solution, such as paying for the repairs or reducing the sale price. If the seller is uncooperative, you may need to escalate the matter legally if advised by your real estate attorney.

Negotiation is often the most efficient way to resolve disputes over hidden repairs. You can ask the seller to cover the cost of repairs, either by hiring contractors directly or by providing a credit at closing. If the seller agrees to pay for the repairs, ensure you get everything in writing to avoid future disputes.

6. Consider Mediation

If direct negotiation fails, mediation can be a cost-effective way to resolve the issue without going to court. A neutral third party can help facilitate a resolution that is acceptable to both you and the seller. It can be the real estate attorney or HOA. In most cases, based on my experience, this usually ends up on the advantage of the buyer as the seller has the burden of care to hand a good (in this case, a house or property) as it is advertised.

7. File a Claim with Your Insurance

In some cases, your homeowner’s insurance that has been named to you (or maybe a new one you took out for your new home) might cover certain repairs. Review your policy to see if any of the issues are covered. Keep in mind that filing a claim might affect your premiums, so weigh the pros and cons carefully. 

Related: Signs to Reconsider the House You're Planning to Buy

8. Prepare for Legal Action

If all else fails, you might need to prepare for legal action. This should be a last resort, as it can be time-consuming and expensive. However, if the repairs are significant and the seller refuses to cooperate, suing for damages might be your best option. Your attorney can advise you on the likelihood of success and the potential costs involved.

9. Learn from the Experience

Finally, use this experience as a learning opportunity. When buying property in the future, take extra precautions to avoid similar situations. Always insist on a thorough home inspection, and consider including a clause in your purchase agreement that holds the seller accountable for any undisclosed issues.

 

While I'm not a perfect real estate agent (I always try to be one and I think I'm reliable at it), even the best ones that have had professional inspections could have oversight during a sale. It's worth having at least two inspections if you're not so sure about the property you're about to buy. If you'd like to know more about my property vetting process or finding a property suitable for your needs, call me or fill out my form so we can get started!