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Seller did not disclose the hurricane damage while signing the contract

I I visited a New Jersey home in October subsequently signed a contract last week. However, I have learnt today that this house is damaged by hurricane. Seller did not disclose the hurricane damages to me while signing the contract. what are my options?
  • November 24 2012 - Edison
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Answers (9)

Hi,
Please check on your options with your Attorney. I'm sure your Attorney shall be able to guide you appropriately.
Vishal Maher
  • May 06 2013
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After a week long marathon on this...
- As a buyer, I did engage a buyer's agent and an attorney from the day one.
- Yes, I went through attorney review process. However, no one mentioned about hurricane damage during attorney review
- Did the inspection, and shared a laundry list of items with seller to fix. Ohh yes now the house has high RADON as well.
- Out of around 40 inspection findings (including 10 major ones), seller agreed to address only 3.

Everyone is downplaying the aspect of hiding the hurricane damage, rather making me feel that I am just too picky with my inspection finding.

So far, I have spent quite a good amount and it appears that I will loose all the money if I back out. Seller is also not budging on lowering the price. 

Figuring out my next steps
  • December 01 2012
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Hi, in NJ you have the attorney review period as well as several contingencies in the contract to protect you. If you are not OUT of attorney review, and the property had damage or you are worried about future flooding, or just simply have cold feet you can back out of the contract without penalty.

If review was concluded, and you recently had a home inspection, you could do a few things if the damage is noted on the home inspection report;
A. negotiate a price reduction
B. ask the seller to cure all of the damages prior to moving forward
C. back out of the contract

Discuss with your real estate attorney. If you move forward, you will need to know if the property is in a designated flood zone and if it is, your mortgage company will require you to purchase flood insurance.

Did you sign a contract directly with seller? Definitely hire an experienced agent for your next transaction.
  • November 27 2012
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You probably should speak with your agent and your agent's broker.

Why would your agent ask you to sign a contract, when you saw and heard the damage on the news, even from the west coast?

When does escrow close?  What contingencies do you still have?

As you are aware, the seller likely still has insurance on the house and the insurance company is still responsible for the damage repair, less the insurance deductible.

Seller's disclosures are rarely worth anything when there are hidden conditions.  And even if required by law in many States, they are not required to provide multiple versions.  They are only supposed to represent the seller's understanding to the best of their ability when they provide it.

Your "options" are to:
1) proceed with the purchase, but delay escrow for correcting new damage.
2) back out of escrow based on contingencies in your offer
3) ask for a discount for the repairs and do the repairs yourself
4) file a complaint against your agent and broker with the local board and the State licensing department.
5) other (such as legal action)
  • November 26 2012
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This is a really sucky situation.  Sorry, I know its stating the obvious but dang.

I hate to say it but I think you need to consult an RE attorney on this.  I am wondering who handled the sale on your end?  Seems to me that any decent buyer's agent would have /should have emphasized getting the house inspected (did you get it inspected prior?) if there was any possibility of hurricane damage, prior to signing.

What kind of damage was it? Is there a possibility that the seller really didn't know? Was the damage visible and obvious?

RE contracts tend to put the onus on the buyer to make sure the house is in the condition you are paying for.  Even Seller's Disclosures are voluntary in NJ and not worth a whole lot.  We simply don't have enough information to be able to give you any sort of concrete suggestions, especially since this is tending towards needing legal advice.

So sorry about this.  The hurricane left a lot of suffering in its wake, something that isn't going to go away anytime soon. 
  • November 26 2012
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Wish I had asked for.. That's why I am seeking opinions.
  • November 25 2012
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Yes, how come you did not request a walk through once the hurricane occured?
  • November 25 2012
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Did not do another walk-through just before signing. Came to know about the hurricane damage on the inspection day (yesterday).  I from west coast, so could not come physically to sign the contract.
  • November 25 2012
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You visited a NJ home in October and subsequently signed a contract last week after a major hurricane slammed into NJ yet you do not mention the inspection report or a walkthrough, two things that are essential even without a hurricane.

Please fill in the missing pieces because there is no way I believe you would sign a contract on an uninspected house, especially after a hurricane.
  • November 25 2012
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