Top 10 Deal Breakers & How To Avoid Them

Your have found the home of your dreams, started packing all your things and have mentally moved in when suddenly a challenge arises that could put a serious wrench in the home buying process. In today’s market, finding the home is only the start of a transaction that can have many stumbling blocks along the way.

Here are the top 10 deal breakers buyers and sellers encounter that can impact the sale of a home:

1. Fixtures and Personal Property Pitfalls

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen deals fall apart because of disagreements over silly stuff like who gets the fireplace screen, the wall sconces or the appliances. For some buyers and sellers it can be difficult to distinguish between personal property and fixtures that come with the house. I once had a seller try to take a dish washer, like the buyer wouldn’t notice?

How to avoid it- Disputes over fixtures and personal property are common. It is important to educate yourself about the difference between attached appliances and personal property but there are times when the lines get blurred. Wall mounted flat screen TVs are frequently an issue. If something is really special to a homeowner, my recommendation to the sellers is to remove the item before you put the house on the market. Have a beloved chandelier? Replace it before you start showing the home with an acceptable alternative. If this isn’t possible, exclude it in MLS listing along with frequently confused items like that flat screen TV, and make sure it is excluded at the time the offer is written as well. Buyers should have their Agent investigate and include any items in the offer that are important to them.

2. The dreaded ex-wife/husband

There may be many reasons to dread an ex, but when it comes to selling a property, it can impact the sale of a home. Over the last 25 years I often see situations where the owners got divorced but he/she didn’t sign off. Finding this out late in the process can be problematic, especially when one of the parties no longer has a financial interest in selling the home. This scenario along with other clouds on the title can take time to clear. Bank owned properties often come with title issues such as unpaid garbage fines or back HOA dues that can impact your closing.

How to avoid it: Get a preliminary title report as soon as possible and if you are a seller be sure to disclose to your Agent up front if there are any potential claims on the title.

3. Buyers Buying “Stuff”

Your are a first time home buyers and you are moving into your new home. You don’t have a washer and dryer of your own and the local appliance store is offering a smoking deal – get a store credit card, and save 15% on the purchase of your new appliances! Sound like a steal? It might just kill your deal.

Time and again I counsel buyers not to make any major purchases before close of escrow such as a new car or major appliances, and time and again, some appliance store has a great “deal” that kills the deal. Any major purchase can impact your credit, and it can also impact your loan being funded too.

How to avoid it: If you are a buyers wait on appliance purchases, new car purchases, furniture and more until the loan has been funded and the escrow is closed. Put all  those credit cards away until the paperwork is recorded.

4. Failure To Disclose

“But Greg, I didn’t know I had to disclose that the hill behind the house next door came down last spring. It didn’t impact my part of the hill.” I have had to fight with sellers to get them to disclose certain facts about their home, but it is almost always better to over share when it comes to disclosure. Inevitably, a neighbor is going to tell the prospective buyer about the sliding hill, the formerly moldy basement or about the meth lab around the corner.

How to avoid it: When in doubt, disclose, disclose, disclose. Did I forge to mention disclose? Problems always seem much bigger when they are uncovered by a buyer after they are in contract.

5. Appraisal Nightmares

We went through a period of time when appraisals always magically came in at the offer price. For the most part, those good old times are gone. Appraisals are common deal breakers, and in many transactions, you don’t just have one. Review appraisals of the first appraisal are commonplace these days.

How to avoid it: Make sure the lender has a qualified appraiser. When possible, have your Agent accompany the appraiser on the inspection. Be prepared in advance that the purchase price may have to be renegotiated or a higher down payment may need to be brought in if the appraisal comes in low.

6. Who Owns What?

You as a buyer think you are getting a 10,000 square foot lot, only to find out that the fence is built on the next door neighbor’s property. Or the seller think they own the driveway, but it is really an easement on property owned by the cranky old neighbor next door. Lot lines, shared driveways, and fences are common stumbling blocks in a transaction.

How to avoid it: Review the preliminary title report with your Agent carefully. Legal descriptions aren’t always easy to read, but take the time and effort to do so carefully. Have a title officer walk you through the title report to explain anything unusual. If needed you should go to the city/county authorities to review the items on file. If you are concerned about the lot boundaries, hire a Civil Engineer or a Surveyor to perform a survey. While surveys can be costly, not knowing the actual boundaries can be costlier. If you are only concerned about one side of the property have the Surveyor perform a partial survey for just the side in question.

7. No permits

In many areas, unpermitted additions or remodels have become serious deal killers. Many cities and towns have implemented pre-sale inspections to fill their dwindling coffers.

How to avoid it: If city/town inspections are required, get them in advance, correct any required issues, and get your clearance. Some municipalities don’t operate on the swiftest timeline, so start as early as you can.

8. Unexpected inspection findings

I have worked with an inspector that other agents called the deal killer and honestly, he was. But he was also a lawsuit saver. When you are paying hundreds of thousands if not multiple millions of dollars for a house, you should know what you are buying. I call inspection periods the second negotiation phase of the deal. Inspections are common deal breakers when agreement cannot be reached over repairs. I remember I once almost lost a deal when the home inspection uncovered numerous foundation cracks in the crawl space. Amazingly enough, I was able to hold it together, the price was renegotiated and we were able to close the deal.

How to avoid it: If you are a seller get inspections before the property is actively on the market. Buyers will probably still get their own, but at least you can resolve serious problems that may send a buyer running in advance. Repairs almost always cost a seller less if the buyer knows about it before they write their offer.

9. The lender changed the rules

This may be hard to imagine, but sometimes you are ready to rock and roll, you got your loan pre-approved, not just pre-qualified, you are in contract and everything looks great until- poof- the lender changes the rules. Suddenly you can’t meet the lender documentation requirements. This would have been helpful to know in advance.

How to avoid it: Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to avoid it other than working with a reputable mortgage broker or lender with a solid record of closing transactions. If you are the buyer, I highly recommend that you leave your loan contingency in place until the loan is funded. If market conditions don’t permit this, make sure you are aware of the ramifications if the loan doesn’t fund.

10. The bank doesn’t care

If the property being purchased is a short sale, the bank is pretty much in charge and they simply don’t care about your timeline. I have heard of people celebrating two and three year anniversaries of working on a short sale. Although most banks have made tremendous efforts to improve and streamline the short sale process when it comes to short sale timelines, anything goes, or better yet- who knows?!

How to avoid it:The best way to save a deal when a bank is involved is to make sure you as the buyer have appropriate expectations about the process. Work with an Agent who has experience with short sale transactions and learn about all the pitfalls of working with a bank. You might also want to read my other blog that I posted 3 weeks ago 5 Most Common Complaints of Short Sale and REO Buyers ( and How To Avoid them ).

One of the best ways to avoid killing a deal- Work with an experienced and reputable agent to help guide you through the process of the entire home buying/selling process to make sure you are properly prepped goes a long way to holding deals together.

Happy Buying and Selling in 2011!

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