Sellers are supposed to disclose all known defects in a new home. They then have the option to fix these if they’d like, or the buyer can often negotiate a lower price to account for it. Regardless of the solution, though, sellers are not supposed to simply hide these defects and refuse to mention them.
Unfortunately, this is often exactly what happens. Sellers may hope that they can hide something quickly and cheaply and then get a better price for the home — leaving the new owner to deal with the problem. Here are a few ways that they may do it.
Painting over the damage
Say there is water damage on a wall due to a leak in the ceiling. Repairing that leak and then the wall is expensive and time-consuming. Some sellers may simply paint the wall right before showings start and hope that the water damage doesn’t get worse until they have changed ownership.
Using temporary fixes
This is also often done with roof leaks. For instance, maybe the flashing needs to be replaced around a chimney and water is getting in. Rather than replacing it, the seller may just slap on a layer of tar or silicone. This can stop the leaks for a short time, but the deeper issue has not been addressed.
Leaving heavy items in the home
Sellers don’t always take everything out of a home, and they may use these “forgotten” items to hide issues. If the seller has an old stove in the basement, for instance, they may slide it over a crack in the foundation. They hope that no one tries to move it for years and that, by the time the crack is found, it’s too late.
Replacing damaged materials
A seller may replace damaged materials, like water-damaged floorboards, to make it appear that the home is in good condition. While this is one step in fixing the issue, they haven’t actually fixed the leak causing that water damage. Recent renovations can be a red flag.
As you can see, the goal is often just to disguise problems and mask them quickly, before a sale. If you think a seller committed fraud when showing you your new home, make sure you know what legal options you have.