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Who to Blame When Something Goes Wrong with Your Home or Lot Purchase

Who to blame when something goes wrong graphic

Occasionally buyers experience ‘surprises’ when they buy a new or previously owned home or lot.  Such surprises can include not realizing there were covenants or easements that restrict your use, or not knowing that there was a utility building (i.e. water meter station or sewer lift station) that was going to be built next door.

The order of blame for not knowing these things goes like this – first, you!, second, your lawyer; third, your Realtor.  Most importantly, rarely is the blame is due to the seller, the exception is of course, if the seller deliberately concealed something, which is very rare in the U.S.

Why are you the first to blame?  Because you didn’t do your homework, you didn’t take the time to read the closing documents or the title work, all of which disclose and explain any covenants, easements, and restrictions.  Amazingly, on occasion a buyer calls us claiming innocence or ignorance of our covenants – in spite of having had a lawyer and a Realtor!

If you didn’t know about certain restrictions on the lot or home, first look to your lawyer and then your Realtor for answers, both of whom have a legal and fiduciary obligation to inform you and help you understand what any title work means.  It’s not the seller’s job to educate you.  Everything is disclosed in the title documents and you should take the time to review those prior to the expiration of your offer’s contingency period.


Read the title documents, ask questions, and inform your lawyer and Realtor that you want to be told of any restrictions on the property.  And if something goes wrong, look to them to hold accountable, because remember, the seller doesn’t represent you.

Terrence R. Wall, Housing Developer

Former university lecturer and teacher of Real Estate Development

And creator of the first university level course in Sustainable Development

M.S. in Real Estate Appraisal and Investment Analysis from the

Graaskamp Real Estate Department, UW-Madison

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