If You’re Not Super Careful, Real Estate Can Become a Horror House of Buyer Beware

So you’ve decided to buy some land. Maybe you plan to build a house, or maybe you have another use in mind. You work with the seller and the seller’s real estate agent. You hire a lawyer, agent, and contractor to help with the process to keep things from going wrong.

Then, after making the purchase, you discover some things have gone horribly haywire. That’s what happened to a buyer in Mettawa Illinois who bought a parcel of vacant land to build a house on and have a large yard for her Siberian huskies.

The large billboard in front of the subdivision said each lot was five acres. The Multiple Listing Service description ( MLS) stated that the development included “Five-acre Premium Lots.” But the lots are significantly less than five acres.

The MLS listing also reported there were utilities available. They included: “Electric to site, Gas to Site, Sanitary Sewer to Site, Septic-Private, Water to site.”

The seller’s broker told the buyer’s professionals (broker and licensed contractor/builder) that the MLS listing was correct. It wasn’t. It was discovered after purchase that there was no sanitary sewer connection to site and only septic systems could be utilized.

It gets worse.

Instead of a connection to a sanitary sewer system to remove toxic wastes, there needs to be a specific type of septic called a “mound septic system.” This is because the soil permeability is so poor that it failed to meet the requirements of the Lake County Health Department.

As a result, they required that “each lot in this subdivision be five acres.” But the lots are not five acres.

In addition to being an eyesore on the land, requiring maintenance, and needing to be undisturbed, such mound septic systems allow some of the toxic waste to sit beneath the surface about 12” and sometimes less.

When this waste surfaces to the top soil it is referred to as “seepage,” which can occur during heavy spring rains. For many people this is an unacceptable health risk.

Huskies like to dig, and dig deep. A disaster is waiting to happen if the huskies’ yard has to be directly on top of the mound system, which was the case for this buyer and her dogs.

Any failure of the mound system for any reason may very well expose the residents, their pets, wild life, and surrounding environment to unnecessary risks.

Furthermore, when there is a failure of the mound system, people wearing HAZMAT suits have to fix it. When this happens, access to the property may be denied or restricted. Imagine kids and pets running on this!

Other buyers might encounter different kinds of issues. The ordinary purchaser of real estate who is not familiar with all of the tricks and technicalities of the real estate world, is vulnerable to being deceived, whether the deception was intentional or not.

When the seller’s real estate agent told this buyer’s real estate agent and contractor that the MLS listing was correct, it was not.

When the seller’s real estate agent told the buyer’s real estate agent that she was giving her all documents regarding the property, she wasn’t. Some of those documents were outdated and superseded; some were missing.

Everything seemed to say not to worry, that there was no need to be hypervigilant. But there was. The lawyer for this buyer alleges that these actions were to lull this buyer into a false sense of security.

But when the case came to court, lawyers for the seller claim that when there is an “as-is” clause and a “non-reliance” clause, none of the representations made to sell the property count. So, let the buyer beware !The buyer and her lawyer do not agree.

Uncovering all of the relevant facts before making a purchase of real estate is harder than you might think.

This buyer took extra care by hiring a licensed contractor and a licensed broker to help with the purchase of land best suited to the buyer’s needs. These professionals would also help navigate the minutiae and technicalities of real estate. But even the licensed professionals were misled!

The buyer’s attorney alleges that the Consumer Fraud Act has no requirement that a consumer must be hypervigilant in double checking every detail. No need to hyper diligently investigate whether what the seller or its real estate agent represents about the property is true.

Shouldn’t the buyer have the right to rely upon factual representations the seller and its real estate agent make, such as the size of the lot and the availability of a connection to public sewers?

In this case, lawyers for the seller and its real estate agent say no. They say the buyer could have and should have determined that the factual misrepresentations made to the buyer and her professionals were false. So, they argue, they have no liability for their deceptive misrepresentations. Buyer beware!

Shouldn’t the buyer be able to rely on the plat of survey that the seller provides? In this case, according to the seller’s attorney the answer is again no.

In fact, the seller’s lawyer stated, “We just have a duty to provide a survey… We didn’t warrant or represent that the survey was accurate. We just had to give her a land survey, which we did.”

So buyers out there: Is your purchase a “Trick” or “Treat”? Buyer BEWARE!

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