You may have heard the phrase “buyer beware” before but did you know it applies particularly to the property market?

In fact, when it comes to moving house or buying a home for the first time, it even has its own legal term? But do you know what it actually means?

In a nutshell, “buyer beware” – or caveat emptor in Latin – puts the responsibility for checking the condition of a property solely in the hands of the person purchasing it.

The seller has no legal obligation whatsoever to tell you about its shortcomings – which of course is why by far the majority of us request a survey and engage the services a conveyancing solicitor.

But, even so, you may be surprised by the number of buyers who presume the survey covers every imaginable check and, if it comes back clean, then the house they’re buying is free from any issues. Indeed, many won’t even ask what checks have been carried out.

The unlucky ones will move in only to find within weeks that the roof leaks, a boiler needs repair or a new sewage works is planned half a mile down the road.

Tell me no lies

Of course, the seller cannot deliberately mislead a potential buyer. If they have lied or it can be proved that their description of the property was deliberately misleading, then they could face litigation themselves.

But still the onus is with the buyer and, as purchasing a house is by probably the largest financial transaction of our lives, it’s one we need to consider with care rather than adopting a cavalier, devil-mare-care approach.

It used to be that each home was sold with a Home Information Pack (HIP) but, since they were abolished, there’s only the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC); most homes have to have one by law, giving a buyer an idea of a property’s efficiency when it comes to glazing, heating and the like.

However, an EPC doesn’t cover any assessment of the structural integrity of a property or whether or not the HS2 mainline will pass within 500 yards of the front door (should it ever be built). That’s the responsibility of the conveyancing solicitor – but their information may only go as far as planning applications submitted, or land already earmarked for development.

A helping hand

Our advice if you’re buying a property? Ask as many questions as you can – and ask again if you’re not happy with the answers. Do some research yourself; use the internet to search for news articles related to the district, town or suburb which might become your new home.

Check the history of the house you’re thinking of buying on the property portals. Has it been on the market before? Has the price dropped? If so, it may be an idea to ask your estate agent to find out why.

After all, it’s better to find the faults with a property you thought was your dream home in advance than finding out later it’s actually something of a nightmare.

We hope that helps but, as ever, feel free to give us a call or drop us a line if there’s anything else you think we may be able to assist with.

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