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Learning More About Real Estate

After finally saving up enough money to use as a down payment, I decided that it was time to hit the market. I met with a lender, got pre-approved for a loan, and then started visiting different properties. However, I quickly realized that I didn't know as much about real estate as I would have hoped. I wanted to find a great neighborhood and know what to ask the professionals, but I could tell that I needed a little help. To point me in the right direction, I started working with a great real estate agent who was familiar with the area. This blog is all about educating the general public on real estate matters.

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Learning More About Real Estate

Before You Buy: What You Need To Know About Latent And Patent Home Defects

by Nathan Olson

When a home has a defect, it's up to the seller to disclose that information. In addition, an inspection may confirm or find other home defects. It's still possible that you can end up with home defects the seller didn't tell you about, or ones your inspection missed.

What's a Defect?

It's possible you never heard the term "defect" as it applies to homes. It's not something many people hear until they're actually buying a home. You may also hear the following terms:

  • Material defect
  • Home defect
  • Significant defect
  • Latent defect
  • Patent defect

These terms all describe a problem with a function or system of a house. It's understandable that any home can come with a problem of one sort or another.

If you're not told of these defects, they can haunt you, and your wallet, after the sale. The main issue with defects of all types is that a seller doesn't have to inform you of them all, just certain ones, latent defects.

Patent and Latent Defects

The two main types of defects include Patent defects and Latent defects.

Patent defects – These types of defects are the kind you or an inspector can see during a visual inspection. The seller has no obligation to inform you about patent defects. They should, but they're not legally obligated to.

It's generally assumed that an investigation by you or your inspector should pick up these defects with no trouble. For example, you should no trouble spotting a broken stair banister.

Latent defects – These types of defects are the ones that you can't easily see. They can include anything that makes the property dangerous, or anything that violates building code. For example, a serious mold issue hidden within an out of sight and not easily reachable part of the house poses a real health issue.

You would, obviously, like to know about such a thing. Sellers must disclose latent defects. Unfortunately, there's a lot of wiggle-room with these types of defects. If the seller doesn't know about it, the seller doesn't have to disclose it. It's also not up to the seller to try to discover a latent defect beforehand.

The flip side is that a seller cannot knowingly hide a latent defect. If that mold issue wasn't disclosed, but you find it with no issues, it's possible the seller knew about it as well. In such cases, you can take legal recourse.

What You Can Do About Defects Before the Sale

Before a sale, always make sure you have the home thoroughly inspected. Do your own inspection, but also have a professional inspection. In addition, speak to the real estate agent about the possibilities of patent and latent defects.

What You Can Do About Defects After the Sale

Once the sale occurs, there's not much you can do about defects. If you find undisclosed defects then it's up to you to fix them. You cannot bring charges against the seller or ask the seller to pay for repairs.

If you find a latent defect that you feel sure the seller knew about but didn't disclose, you can pursue a lawsuit. It depends on your state laws regarding latent defects. Speak to your real estate agent about the possibilities before it ever gets to that point.

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