Homebuyers: Do you know what you are buying?

While this would seem to be obvious, purchasers should pay close attention to exactly what they are buying. I am not referring to inspection issues, I am referring to something that seems obvious, but does occasionally come up as a problem.

Here are some real scenarios where an individual bought something that was not exactly what they were expecting.

SCENARIO 1: I bought more land (and headaches) than I thought!

Upon review of the survey, the purchasers realized that the property line in the back of the property did not end at the fence, but continued back another 100 feet. While this sounds great (the buyers bought more property than they intended to purchase), the survey also revealed that the neighbor behind the property built an encroaching fence. The seller’s response was that he never said that the property ended at his fence, and in fact the listing did show the correct property square footage. The buyers were stuck having to deal with the neighbor’s fence.

SCENARIO 2: Where in the world is my parking space?

The sales contract called for limited common element parking space 27 to be conveyed. The buyer never looked at the space, thinking that it was a space just like any other in the building’s garage. After closing, the buyer couldn’t find the space in the garage, and discovered that the space was instead an outside space.

Other variations on this issue: the parking space was too narrow for my vehicle, the parking space was supposed to be near the elevator but was not, the parking space was on a different floor than expected, etc.

Always make sure to inspect the parking space. Limited common element parking spaces are not covered by title insurance, so pay extra attention when purchasing one. (Read more on limited common elements.)

SCENARIO 3: I thought I bought the parking area behind the house!

Just because it looks like you own it, doesn’t mean that you do own it. If there is any question about whether or not something conveys, ask the seller. Further, this is the reason why a location survey is typically obtained.

We have had some recent settlements where the purchaser saved a couple hundred dollars by waiving the location survey, only to later on discover an unexpected surprise and then try to file a title insurance claim. Keep in mind that if the location survey is waived, the title insurance policy will take exception to matters that would have been revealed by the survey, thereby eliminating the ability to file a claim related to a survey matter.

SCENARIO 4: The seller told me that I had an easement!

We hear this one a lot. The seller told me that there is an easement for me to … access the back of my property through the neighbor’s yard, use the neighbor’s driveway to get to my back yard, use the neighbor’s driveway to access the alley, etc.

But then, upon further investigation, no written document turns up. When the seller is asked to provide the easement, the response is, "that’s what the seller told us when we bought the house."

If anybody tells you that a property has an easement, right of way, etc., ask for them to provide you with a copy of the document. If they claim it has been recorded, the title company can provide you a copy of the recorded document.

Do not trust that one exists simply because somebody tells you that you have "an easement."

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