Erratica

Pet Sounds

Pet Sounds

While we’re all sitting around waiting for new inventory to appear on the market, it occurs to me to point out that if you’re preparing to list your house, this is a good time to remove those bright yellow rat poison boxes from the basement. They’re really eye catching, and their presence makes buyers squeamish.

Certainly a thorough home inspection will discover your unwelcome co-inhabitants, but by the time the inspector is there you’ll be in the accepted offer stage, and there’s some momentum going on that should push the deal past this problem. If, on the other hand, a buyer is aware of rats before he even makes an offer it will gnaw at him during his deliberations and you may find that he and his money disappear down a rathole, leaving you with a problem and your still-unsold home.

As a buyer’s agent I’ll alert my people to problems I spot, and rats and other vermin (like the teenager next door with a rock band) are part of that issue spotting. But the odds are good I won’t notice a few stray droppings unless I’m alerted to their presence by a bold yellow box proclaiming “hic sunt dracones”. Ignorance is bliss.

The best course of action would be to call in an exterminator, get rid of the pests and take steps to ensure they won’t return but in some houses, particularly those built on fieldstone foundations with their many gaps and crumbling mortar, this is an almost impossible task. I’m not advising that you deliberately conceal the evidence; fraud’s never a good idea, but you don’t necessarily have to draw attention to your furry friends.

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3 responses to “Erratica

  1. willowmee

    what is the current requirement for brokers and/or owners to notify buyers and potential buyers about structural, mechanical and legal issues with a listed property? certainly the seller of shares of stock would need to disclose ‘material’ information. what about a homeowner or real estate broker? i don’t think rats reach ‘materiality’ because they’re pretty cheap to exterminate, but how about a dock without a permit, for just one [potentially painful and expensive] example?

    • It’s a combination, willowmee, with an emphasis on caveat emptor. Listing agents and their owner/clients are under a duty not to hide material defects but other than that, the onus is pretty much on the buyer to satisfy herself as to the condition of the property. But that doesn’t mean buying a pig in a poke. At least here in Greenwich, the buyer will, if she’s smart, hire a real estate attorney who will investigate title to the land, open building permits, size of the approved septic field, etc. etc. (that would include your hypothetical dock). And, again if she’s smart, the buyer will retain the services of a good building inspector who will spend hours at the house, inspecting everything from the furnace to the window caulking and everything in between.

      You shouldn’t expect your buyer’s agent to provide these services because we’re not really qualified to opine on such matters. I can point out an old, inefficient furnace, for instance, and suggest that a new one will save you money, but testing the output is well beyond my very limited skills.

      The state-mandated homeowner disclosure forms are a joke and fool on you if you rely on them at all. But in defense of homeowners, a lot of this stuff is beyond their knowledge too. A basement that floods every month, sure, and they have to disclose it. A dock installed by a previous owner without benefit of permit? They probably know nothing about it.

      All of which is to say that a buyer can hire sufficient talent to protect herself, but she shouldn’t rely on the owner or his representative to play a large part in providing that protection.