How much information would an agent disclose about a property needing "updating" or repairs?

Asked by Sharon Hutchinson, 08360 Thu Oct 30, 2008

We need to relocate to another county and looking at homes requires quite a hike. I am disabled and it is difficult for me to travel far. We are finding some properties where the listing indicates the house in question needs "updating" or is a fixer-upper. Due to my health, I would prefer to find out as much as possible via telephone before making a long trip to look at a property. How much information can I obtain over the phone regarding the real condition and needed repairs? I realize nothing substitutes for visually looking the house over but as stated, traveling is difficult for me and I would like to know if the trip will be worthwhile.

Thanks in advance.

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Jeanne Feeni…, Agent, Basking Ridge, NJ
Fri Oct 31, 2008
Hi Sharon, Align yourself with an agent you feel very comfortable with - one who understannds your preferences and needs. Ask if they are committed to previewing homes for you so that when you do make the trip, your time is well spent. A good buyer's agent will be such an asset to you. Find one you trust and then put them to work.

Good luck to you!

Jeannie Feenick
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Sharon Hutch…, Home Buyer, 08360
Fri Oct 31, 2008
Thank you all! I have learned something from each reply. I feel more confident now as to what I can do to help facilitate finding a home ASAP.

Happy Halloween!
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William Leigh…, , New Jersey
Thu Oct 30, 2008
Sharon: The first thing to ask for is a homeowner’s disclosure. While not mandated by law in NJ, they are the usual practice. My office would object strongly to an owner’s omission of this document, which is quite extensive. This should give you the current status of the major systems in the house and on the property. In this manner, you would either be able to judge for yourself or consult experts in the areas of concern. No agent with any sense is going to go out on a limb with a hard estimate of the TLC problems. They are neither contractors nor licensed home inspectors and shouldn't be "just guessing" but talking as if they had a hard definition of the situation.

Since your mobility is limited, I suggest you travel to the area to which you are considering a move and sign a buyer’s agent agreement. You will find some who insist that they only represent the buyer and some who will become dual agents should the opportunity arise to show you a property listed by their agency. I recommend the later, since it opens the number of agents and firms rather dramatically. At any rate, you might interview several agents to find one who understands your needs and is compatible to your personality. Amazingly, not all of us are universal.

If you find an agent you can depend on, have the agent preview homes for you. Insist that he/she do the legwork in advance. Then, when you are up to a tour, have that agent take you to the houses that they feel are right for you. You may miss a few that you would like that the agent has rejected but you will see the ones that the agent thinks most appropriate, getting the most out of your resources of strength.

You will have to be a little patient with your agent, because they will not be fully cognizant of your tastes until they have worked with you for a while and you may even change your criteria when you see something you like. I have had people say they would NEVER buy a specific type of home or a specific area, only to find they wanted to see something in that exact specification that they discovered on line or in an ad.

The agent will be doing more work for you as well, running around looking at houses to be sure you will get the most out of your available travel resources. The thing that you should give them in return is the buyer’s agent agreement and your loyalty and candor about what you see and why you like or don’t like a property.

You should also be fully prepared with your budget and the source of funds to conclude the deal. Starting out without this can just waste everyone’s time looking for things beyond your means.

Most agents are delighted to be of service. That’s why they stay in the business. Just remember to be fair and reward their best efforts and correct those efforts that are misguided. No one is either perfect or has total knowledge of what will work for you.

Best of Luck.
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Laura Gianno…, Agent, Manahawkin, NJ
Thu Oct 30, 2008
If you get a good buyers agent they will preview the homes for you, allowing you to pick and choose before going. Check for b uyers agents in your area at

Good luck!

Laura Giannotta
Keller Williams Atlantic Shore
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Scott Godzyk, Agent, Manchester, NH
Thu Oct 30, 2008
Your best bet is to have a buyer broker who can get the sellers property information report for you as well as ask the listing broker to provide a list, you can as well have the buyer broker preview the homes for you taking pictures of the items they feel need repair. this will assist you in deciding if you should actually see it or pass on it. In most cases a buyer broker does not cost you anything extra as they get paid their commission at closing from the listing broker. good luck with your home search.
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David Hitt, Agent, Los Angeles, CA
Thu Oct 30, 2008
I would recommend that you find a good buyers agent who will do the foot work for you. Tell them exactly what types of updating you are or are not willing to do and other specifics of what you are looking for. That way they can gather the necessary information for you and report back to you saving you a lot of time. In California an agent is obligated and can only disclose the material facts that the seller has made them aware of or what can be seen visually without going on the roof or underneath the house. I suggest you contact a Coldwell Banker office in your area and speak to the Manager/Broker to explain your situation to have them recommend the right Buyers Agent. Good luck.
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terryriw53, Agent, Sewell, NJ
Thu Oct 30, 2008
The agent would be required under law to disclose as much information as they have. However, their descriptions cannot replace seeing things for yourself. I understand your health issues, but be sure to have specific questions in mind when calling. Also, remember that an agent is not an expert in home repairs and may not know about any hidden issues that cannot be seen.
So, give the agent a call and explain your situation and give them an indication of what your parameters are.
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Denise Canell, Agent, Clinton, NJ
Thu Oct 30, 2008
Hi Sharon!

If you are working with a buyer's agent, getting information via telephone on other agent's listings may not be that easy. Even if the agent you are using has been in the home in question, they may not know the extent of repairs needs. One way to handle this is to hire a buyer's agent, explain your situation to them, and ask that prior to seeing the homes, that your agent obtain a seller's disclosure which your agent could e-mail or fax to you. This form asks the sellers of a property about issues with the home. Keep in mind, however, that even the most honest seller may not know the extent of damage to the home. For example, a home may have had prior water damage which the seller repaired....but there could now be a mold issue....which the seller is unaware of...but would show up in a home inspection. Please feel free to contact me at:

Have a great day!
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