Home Buying in 19380>Question Details

Kathryn Lesc…, Home Buyer in Montgomery County, PA

URGENT Q ABOUT SELLER'S DISCLOSURE!

Asked by Kathryn Leschner, Montgomery County, PA Fri Jun 8, 2012

I'm about to sign AOS for house (I'm buyer) but on the seller disclosure, the seller changed the Yes/No column heading: He changed "No" to "not that we are aware of" for ALL questions on the disclosure. They refuse to change it, and I don't want to sign it, meaning the deal is dead. I understand he changed "no" to "not to my knowledge" as to try to cover his a$$, but to me, that means it's just not a disclosure and not worth the paper it's printed on. Isn't this a consumer protection requirement in Pa.? The sellers have pulled several "fast ones" on me already, which I'm willing to let slide, but this one give me pause and I think I should walk away. I have till 5:00 today to decide. It's also not complete in other respects ("yes" answers aren't explained as required). PLEASE HELP!!

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BEST ANSWER
Do you want the house or not? Are you planning on getting inspections? (Please say yes to inspections).

I don't know your laws of state, nor am I familiar with your contract and disclosures, so your agent is best to rely on.

What I know about this business is there are so many different personality styles. I've had a seller so cautious that she would change words too. Some clients have just enough law classes to make them paranoid.

If you honestly want a direct yes or now answer and you are not getting it, then you will need to make a decision which feels right to you. It is either important or you are standing on principle.

Decide what is important and focus on that. Then have your agent assist you.

All the best to you.
Web Reference: http://www.terrivellios.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
I'm not sure it's worth trashing the deal over. To me, that would be a matter of you being as overly-cautious as he is. Obviously "no" means "not that I'm aware of", and "not that I'm aware of" should mean "no", unless he's lying and thinks that's an easier lie to defend. Even if he put "no" and you later found out there was a problem and he knew about it, you'd still have to fight him in court to prove it. Same thing here. I'm no attorney, and I can't practice law without a license, but that would be my layman's opinion. Best of luck in your decision/outcome...
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
You should discuss this with your buyers agent. It does sound like he (seller) is trying to be cautious but it seems a little extreme. Something that has no issues today - use the dishwasher for example - could break down the day after closing.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
my so-called "buyer's agent" is doing absolutely nothing to help. Just forwarding emails back and forth between seller (a relo co.) and me. I have been "discussing" these issues with her for days now. Banging my head in frustration. Relo co. refuses to sign AOS until I sign the THIRD disclosure they've sent me - which contradicted with each other, but that's the least of the many issues I've dealt with. I'm afraid of getting burned with this CYA "disclosure" and my ofc is closed now and there's no one to guide me. Not even my "buyer's rep"
Flag Fri Jun 8, 2012
Congrats, Kathryn! I'm glad you're getting a home that you really like and still remain "protected". I wish you nothing but the best!
Web Reference: http://YourRealtor4PA.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 9, 2012
Katheryn,

I'm a Pennsylvania Broker and a licensed instructor in Pennsylvania. The seller is within their rights to answer" I do not know" in the seller disclosure. However if you believe that they do know information that they are concealing that is a serious problem for the sellers. (They can be sued if you can prove that they did know about defects) If you are relying on the seller disclosure and not getting a home inspection them I recommend that you complete a home inspection within the time frame allowed in your contract.

If you are not getting help with this problem from your buyer agent I suggest that you call the broker in the office who will be motivated to get to the bottom of the issue becasue he/she will not want this to resurface later after you own the property as a complaint or a lawsuit.

There is not necessity for you to sign the seller disclosure. It will not invalidate the contract to purchase. The seller disclosure is put in place to protect consumers, sellers and agents. It is not a home inspection and I take everything that I see on the seller disclosure with a grain of salt.

Talk with a real estate attorney before you make any drastic move like terminating the contract for this reason. You want to make sure that you are within your rights to terminate the contract and make sure that your deposit is not at risk. Just because the seller wrote "I do not know" on the sellers disclosure is not listed as a reason to terminate a standard agreement of sale.

Dan Beirne
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 9, 2012
Thank you all again, and I gave every answer consideration and took a little advice from each person. The end result? I'M UNDER CONTRACT! (I know this is long, so if you don't want to know the interesting ending to my saga, just skip to the last paragraph where I mention referrals!)

Briefly (as possible for me): my agent is in transition from one brokerage to another and until it's complete, the new broker is my rep "on paper" and does help but the original rep does the bulk of the agency work (I'd already terminated my first buyer/broker agmt - and if anyone's wondering, I found this house after I terminated). So I couldn't exactly call the new broker to complain about the new agent - they're the same person! ;)

Anyway, at 4:55 I left both of them a message that since I couldn't reach either of them, I had no choice but to walk; I'd decided to sign the disclosure but they didn't know that. At 5:05 I received an email with a fully executed AOS - which had nothing to do with my 4:55 message!! The relo co. had refused to sign until I first initialed that bogus disclosure, and they'd also refused to have it updated by the owner. But I dug in my heels and fought for the house (and for the principle of what a disclosure is for) anyway. The 5pm deadline was set by me, not them, because of other now-resolved issues, and I wasn't giving them more time to see if a "better offer" came in; and I needed to know once and for all (this has been dragging out a long time) because there are open houses I want to see this weekend. I'm the A+ buyer here, I and wasn't going to let a "Goliath" relo company bully "little David" any more. Plenty of houses come onto market almost daily. If I had to lose this house, so be it. It's not like losing a spouse, as much as I love the house. BUT, the relo co. knew of my 5pm deadline, knew I was about to walk, and they caved at the last second, without knowing that I was about to relent myself and rely on the inspections! So they sent the AOS to my broker/agent without my first returning an initialed disclosure! My new broker, who was in a closing when I was trying to reach her (that's why she couldn't call right back) immediately forwarded it to me from her phone, and called me 1/2 hr. later, also in shock that they caved. She'd never seen that happen before, said relo companies are notorious for being staunch and unyielding. But they just "politely asked" that I simply acknowledge receiving the disclosure and they'd have it updated and properly completed ASAP, that promise to be in writing by addendum on Mon. Also, as a few mentioned here, I realized that I probably was (ok, I *definitely* was!) being over-cautious (occupational hazard) and the seller and I had clashed. Once I sat back and thought it all through unemotionally, re-reading all of your replies, I realized that it's true - the inspection will either be my savior or my "out" and I will give the inspector the disclosure to pay close attention to those questionable items.

At the end of the day (literally!), everyone's now happy, addenda will follow, and I'm already locked in at 3.75%! (How so soon?Too long a story for this thread but it's done - in writing; let's just say I'm proactive and I move fast, and I have a great lender rep who moved equally fast on my behalf; the process was started days ago and they already had my signed aos and financials, and had confirmed with my agents that everything was agreed-up, with f/e aos to follow. No one could know then that the relo co. would throw a wrench into the works at the last minute, after I'd already signed and delivered the aos.

BTW, I've printed this page to keep your names and perhaps one day I'll have the chance to refer people to those of you who took the time to help me. I have friends all over the country, and more than 9700 Google+ followers and friends, almost 5k FB friends and a huge readership. (Sorry, I had to use a pseudonym name because I'm known in my area. If I have the opportunity to refer, I'll include my name). THANKS AGAIN TO ALL OF YOU!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
The Seller's Disclosure does need to be fully filled out honestly. To state Not That He/She is Aware of is not sufficient, especially if it is the answer for all questions. Either the Seller has or has not had the issues. Has your Buyer's Agent presented the problem to the Listing Agent? The Listing Agent should have gone back to the Seller and presented him/her with the questions again and had the Seller fill out the Seller's Property Disclosure more specifically.

If you are uncomfortable with the answers you should move onto the next property. A Home Inspection should always be completed however they don't always find previous issues. Unless there are people knocking down the door of the Seller's Home they probably will come back to you with a Changed Seller's Disclosure as you have requested.

My biggest question is how are the Seller's pulling "fast ones" on you if you are represented by a Buyer's Agent and my even BIGGER question is, if you have a deadline of 5:00 today why is your Buyer's Agent not available to take your call??

There should always be some type of caution involved when purchasing a home. Are you overcautious? You could be but that is your right.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
Kathryn,

Breath. It sounds like you really want this house.

If your contract is an "active" contract vs "passive" contract. You would need to remove your seller disclosure contingencies in writing. The passage of time doesn't make you accept. If it is passive it is the opposite.

Since we are not a party to your contract we are going to tread lightly so as not to give you bad information. In California your seller disclosures have a paragraph that states "Are you seller aware of any of the following" Then there are yes or no. I'm not an attorney so I can't speak to the legal nature of the seller changing Not to "not aware of" except for the fact that perhaps he at this moment isn't aware of anything and doesn't want to say no.

It's ok to proceed with caution. The seller disclosures are there so that you know where to focus your concerns. Since he is saying he knows nothing, then you need to do a more thorough inspection. Knock on your neighbor doors, go to the police station, call schools, interview local businesses... what ever you need to do go feel comfortable with your purchase.

Your concerns are not unusual, especially for a first time buyer. It probably will turn out just fine once you have more information.

If you can't get a hold of your agent and you feel you need to respond in 40 minutes or less, call the agent's office and ask to speak to their managing broker and allow them to give you your options.

All the best.
Web Reference: http://www.terrivellios.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
Thanks for all your responses. Unfortunately none helped. Maybe I am being over-cautious just as the seller is (and yes I'm having a home insp. done). Then I hear "go with your gut" and "red flags" so I'm just as confused as before. To make things worse, I can't even reach other one of my buyer agents now and there's 40 min. left. I really wanted this house. Just wanted to know if I'm being concerned for no reason, or if I should take the chance and believe that my gut is wrong this time, because of over-cautiousness. Guess I just lost the house. I know there are plenty out there but this isn't the first house I've tried to buy. I'm a top-tier buyer, FICO 810, no debt, no sale contingency, etc. Gonna be a bad weekend.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
Go with your gut. Red flags are yelling you something. There are plenty of homes on the market, Kathryn.
Rob Hughes Long and Foster.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
I would consult w/ your own agent - it isn't black and white - that's partially what home inspections are for too - to uncover and negotiate repairs/credits etc. They are most likely just trying to protect themselves. It depends on what section they wrote "not to my knowledge".

You still have an out if the inspection shows up with issues and you can't get to resolution on it. If you feel it's completely dishonest - that's one thing but you may be able to investigate whatever it is. I say - signing an agreement doesn't mean you signed your life away - it's just an agreement with many holes for the buyer to get out. Due diligence before moving completely forward.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
This is a matter to discuss with your agent and a real estate attorney, as the agreement of sale says, if you have any legal questions consult an attorney. Even if the deal dies tonight you can always pick up again with a fresh agreement of sale of by signing an addendum. Alternatively, ask for an extension to the deadline and seek legal advice.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
I understand your hesitation and anxiety based on the couple of "fast ones" they've pulled, but if you think about it, he can't answer "yes" to anything unless he's aware of it, so whether it's "no" or "not that he's aware of", it basically means the same on the seller's disclosure. I would want an explanation on the "yes" answers, though and you can make your offer on the "receipt and acceptance" of the "yes" explanations. That way your butt is covered, too.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
Sharon, thank you for your reply. But, with all due respect, "no" is not the same as "not that I'm aware of". He was clearly trying to reduce potential exposure to liability. Think of trials where the witness says "I don't recall." They usually recall quite well but don't want to incriminate themselves. "Not that I'm aware of" is the same principle - it gives him an "out" for being less than truthful - or so he believes - by not saying No to something that is really a Yes or at best questionable. I'm not a lawyer but am a senior paralegal with 30+ years experience in contracts, transactions, even real estate law. Yes I got emotional today - and nervous - but only because it was MY life involved, and a LOT of money, not just some file I was working on at work, and I wasn't going to accept a global "not to my knowledge" reply, which is what he did for every single yes/no question, except for the 2-3 Yes's he checked, and only 2 of those for which he provided explanations.)
Flag Fri Jun 8, 2012
I also say to have further discussion. In fairness, his agent may not have really discussed the disclosure with him so maybe he just casually filled in "no" without even thinking. Not trying to pull a fast one, but now realizes he was hasty. If he knows you are ready to pull the contract he may just fill it out accurately as he probably doesn't want to lose the deal. Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
If it does not feel right to you then you need smell to follow you feelings. Usually when something smells fishy there is a fish.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 8, 2012
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