It is the buyers duty to investigate a property thoroughly during the diligence period, and the contract you signed with the Seller not only gives you the right to do any inspection you might like but to terminate the contract fro any reason or none whatsoever during the diligence period and receive your earnest money deposit back.
The truth is most home owners really don't know much about their home and should not be relied on by a seller or their buyer broker.
G.S. 47E requires owners of residential real estate (single-family homes, individual condominiums, townhouses, and the like, and buildings with up to four dwelling units) to furnish purchasers a Residential Property and Ownersâ€™ Association Disclosure Statement (â€œDisclosure Statementâ€). A disclosure statement must be furnished in connection with the sale, exchange, option and sale under a lease with option to purchase (unless the tenant is already occupying or intends to occupy the dwelling). A disclosure statement is not required for some transactions, including the first sale of a dwelling which has never been inhabited and transactions of residential property made pursuant to a lease with option to purchase where the lessee occupies or intends to occupy the dwelling. For a complete list of exemptions, see G.S. 47E-2. (See also http://www.ncrec.state.nc.us/forms/rec422.pdf)
If owner checks "Yes" for any question, owner must explain answer and either describe any problem or attach a report from an engineer, contractor, pest control operator or other expert or public agency describing it. If owner attaches a report, owner will not be liable for any inaccurate or incomplete information contained in it so long as owner was not grossly negligent in obtaining or transmitting the information.
If owner checks "No", owner is stating that they have no actual knowledge of any problem. If owner checks "No" and knows there is a problem, owner may be liable for making an intentional misstatement.
If owner checks "No Representation", owner has no duty to disclose the conditions or characteristics of the property, even if owner should have known of them.
If owner checks "Yes" or "No" and something happens to the property to make Disclosure Statement incorrect or inaccurate (for example, the roof begins to leak), owner must promptly give the purchaser a corrected Disclosure Statement or correct the problem.
If owner is assisted in the sale of their property by a licensed real estate broker, they are still responsible for completing and delivering the Statement to the purchasers; and the broker must disclose any material facts about your property which they know or reasonably should know, regardless of owner responses on the Statement.. (see http://www.ncrec.state.nc.us/pdf/licensingbooklet/studyguide.pdf)
If the owner does not give buyer a Residential Property Disclosure Statement by the time buyer makes offer to purchase the property, buyer may under certain conditions cancel any resulting contract and be entitled to a refund of any deposit monies paid.
Ultimately, per standard NC offer to purchase and contract, CLOSING SHALL CONSTITUTE ACCEPTANCE OF THE PROPERTY IN ITS THEN EXISTING CONDITION UNLESS PROVISION IS OTHERWISE MADE IN WRITING. (http://www.ncrealtors.org/uploads/sample-2-T.pdf)
If you want to take action against non-disclosure, you should talk to your NC real estate attorney.
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With this said, holding an agent accountable for information on a subject property may be a difficult task since agent's normally get their information directly from the seller and publicize the property based upon it. If an agent receives information from a seller that is misrepresented, this could create problems.
Promoting accurate information is always a challenging issue for agents who often place their trust in others in hopes that the information provided to them is accurate. To this end, most area MLS will place a disclosure ar the bottom of each page to this effect. "Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Parties are advised to varify."
Finally, another voice revealing the true value of the "Home Owners Disclosure."
IT should be made abundantly clear to home buyers that home owners today can sell their homes exactly the same way banks sell their stolen goods. NO DISCLOSURE WHATSOEVER!!
Simply suggesting such a disclosure could be made places a home owner in a position of proving what they did not know. Simply asking the question establishes knowledge. Fortunately, as Larry points out, the document has never been legally binding BUT is the inspiration for a litigious society. The winners are the attorneys.
So, how does a buyer know what they are buying?
Follow the guidance of the professionals you have hired. Even then, they all embed a 'hold harmless' clause.
Of course there are many things we do not know about this situation. A compound of twelve with organic gardening structures will use more water than a couple couple occupying the same property. Who determines how much well water is sufficient?
No disclosures. No exceptions.
In North Carlolina, there is a Property Disclosure form for homes that is competed by the the seller. They may elect to say "Yes", "No", or "No Representation" to questions about problems with the home. A seller is not obligated to disclose anything about their property. However, most sellers do outline known problems on the form, which buyers recieve prior to making an offer. North Carolina is a "Buyer Beware" State. When and offer is accepted, there is a due dillagence time negotiated in the contract for the Buyer to inspect the home, check on home owners association restrictions, and check on any other items relevent to the property. At the end of the due dillegence period, the buyer may choose to buy the property or not. It is a bit more complicated than the above discription. And some things do slip through the cracks. In that case, you may want to consult the closing attorney that represented you at closing.
I think your question to be more specific. On residential real estate, home owners are asked to fill out a disclosure where they state either something is or is not working, if there has been an issue previously etc. They can also choose to not answer any question, which in my opinion could raise a red flag.
In any transaction a reputable professional real estate agent is a must.