"Although not perfect, home warranties do cover most major mechanical systems of the house and electrical, plumbing, among others," said Realtor Denise Manderfield of Ohio's Home Information Network. Warranties ensure, Manderfield said, that homebuyers will not have to worry about shelling out money in case basic systems in the house do not work, or if minor repairs are needed within the first year of occupancy.
I Bought a Lemon! What Now?
If, like the Trehers, you believe that you've just purchased a lemon, you still have options. Depending on the reasons behind your purchase, you might even be able to get your money back.
For example, if a Realtor has misinformed you about the quality of a home or omitted information that might cause potential buyers to walk away, then you have grounds to sue, Braun said. Many states, such as Texas, Minnesota and New Jersey, have an action to recover from a failure to disclose a defect. (This is the case for many homeowners who have unknowingly purchased "bad" homes.) The law is very clear that the homeowner is entitled to compensation by both the real estate agent and the licensee in such a situation. But it's still easier said than done: Treher learned that litigation is an extremely costly, time-consuming process that can be very risky.
"We did contact a couple of attorneys, but all of them stated that it really sounded like the worst of luck," said Treher. "While proving negligence might be possible, it would be expensive between engineer and attorney hours."
In the case in which the homeowner has not done their due diligence -- he or she didn't conduct their proper research on the home and didn't hire a home inspector -- there are even less options, according to Braun. Finding issues in the home that are unknown to the seller or Realtor is the sole responsibility of the potential buyer.
"If there's a grave structural defect that the seller had no idea lurked under the house, that could have been caught by an inspection [that wasn't commissioned], then the buyer is out of luck," Braun said. "In these cases, it's too bad."
If your house is a new construction, however, you might have another option: Check to see if the problems fall under federal construction standards violations. If so, then in Texas, so-called "home lemon laws" will give builders 60 days to fix defects that are a serious safety hazard. If these construction defects cannot be fixed, then the builders are required to buy back the home. (These laws are in the process of being enacted in states such as New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, Florida, California and Nevada).
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