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How to Buy a House in Pennsylvania --- Part 1-- Standard Contract Risks

Most people think the easiest way to buy a house is to hire a Realtor®. While this is usefull, there are numerous risks in buying a house that you will never hear much about because understanding these risks may slow or stop the process.

I would summerize the risks in three categories:

  1. Misunderstanding of “standard" contract language.
  2. Misunderstanding or the inspections that are needed.
  3. Failure to pay attention to time constraints in the contract.

I will deal with part of the first issue here and the rest later. Sellers are obligated by law to provide a Seller’s Disclosure. Most buyers spend alot of time reading this document and discussing it with their Realtor®. They rely on it it setting their offering price and in deciding to buy. They then are handed a “standard" Agreement of Sale which has a paragraph which says essentially “Buyer has not relied on any documents and sellers has made no representations other than the ones made part of the agreement." The rare buyer that questions this is told there is another paragraph which says you have received the Seller’s Disclosure. That paragraph is irrelevant.

If the Seller tells you the house has a wonderful roof, a dry basement and super air conditioning and you discover after closing that the roof is leaking, the basement flooding and the A/C non-existent, guess what? When you sue the seller and get to trial, you will want to mark the Seller’s Disclosure as Plaintiff’s Exhibit 1. That is where you will learn about the parol evidence rule which makes the Seller’s Disclosure and anything the seller said to you not admissable into evidence. You can prevent this and avoid this risk.

Hire a lawyer to review your contract BEFORE you sign it.

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