A little homework before saves heartbreak later

Kevin Lampen-Smith

Buyer’s remorse is a common affliction in January, but for most people it relates to spending too much on Christmas festivities and presents.

Regretting buying something as big as a house is a much bigger deal that can have a serious impact on your family and financial wellbeing.

This is why it is important for buyers to do as much homework as they can before buying a property.

We believe it is much better to spend a few hundred dollars on an independent report by an accredited building inspector than face having to spend thousands of dollars on fixing any issues after the fact.

Easy Option

It can be tempting to settle for the easy option of using a pre-prepared report, but if you haven’t paid for it yourself you have no way of ensuring that it’s legitimate or being able to take action against the inspector for an inadequate assessment.

If you are looking to buy, it is smart to find out as much as you can about the property, including getting someone to help you understand the outcome of any report on the building or land.

In some cases, issues are noted on property reports but buyers are in such a hurry that they miss them.

Documentation important

If a report uncovers an issue, I suggest getting legal advice first if you want to negotiate with the seller on price.

If you end up buying a property and discover a serious issue that you think the seller or the real estate agent failed to tell you about, the first step is to write down what happened when you bought the property.

Gather all the relevant documentation, such as the building report, the LIM and the sale and purchase agreement.

If the property was sold by a licensed real estate agent, make notes of any conversations you had with them. If the property was sold privately, make notes of any dealings with the seller. Add any new information you have about the property, such as a building report or assessment that notes the problems you’ve found.

Choose the best

Think too about what your best-case scenario outcome is: do you want an apology, compensation, or remediation (or all three)?

It is important to get legal advice to fully understand your options.

A lawyer will advise you on whether you have a case against the seller and what your next move should be, based on the information you’ve gathered.

If appropriate, they can help you negotiate with the seller or act against them. Be aware that you may not be in a very strong position unless you can prove that the seller or the real estate agent knowingly covered up the issue.

If it appears that the real estate agent is responsible in some way, it is best that you deal with them directly.

Write to REA

If you can’t resolve things this way, the REA handles complaints against licensed real estate agents and we can also help you understand expectations on real estate agents regarding disclosure of property defects.

Check out rea.govt.nz for more information on making complaints.

For independent guidance and information on buying or selling, check out settled.govt.nz.

Kevin Lampen-Smith is Chief Executive of Real Estate New Zealand based in Wellington.

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