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Walking away gets easier for homebuyer

The Maryland Association of Realtors recently has changed its contract forms to give buyers the unconditional right to terminate the purchase agreement "for no stated reason," if the buyer is not satisfied with the findings of a property inspection by a professional engineer, home inspector or other expert selected by the buyer.

The property inspection addendum, first published in September, is now being used by many real estate brokers who are members of the Realtors' group or real estate boards in some Maryland counties.

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The older contract form required the buyer to specify material defects as disclosed in the home inspection report. The seller then had an opportunity to agree to correct the specified defects. If the seller declined to make all of the requested repairs, the buyer then had a right either to terminate the purchase contract and receive a return of deposit money or waive the right of repair of any unsatisfactory condition that the seller refused to correct.

Use of the old home inspection addendum sometimes resulted in disputes between the buyer and seller as to whether the requested repairs were for "material defects" or were items of routine maintenance or cosmetic nature. Some buyers and brokers complained that a prospective home purchaser should not be locked into purchasing a home with material defects, even if the seller agreed to correct the condition. The new addendum allows buyers, at their expense, to obtain an inspection of the structural and mechanical components of the home, as well as inspections for radon, chimneys, and environmental hazards such as asbestos, polybutelene piping, mold spores and other items. The new form does not cover inspections for lead paint and termites. These matters are covered by separate contract addenda.

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Because of the increasing concern about mold conditions, the Realtors' group in April also published a mold inspection addendum, which allows the buyer, at his expense, to have a qualified expert take air and surface samples in any area of the interior or exterior of the home and outbuildings to "discover significant adverse or dangerous mold conditions" in the property. If the findings are unsatisfactory to the buyers, they can terminate the contract, with a refund of the contract deposit.

While some brokers fear that buyers may try to use the new inspection terms to renegotiate price or simply to "walk away" from the purchase contract for an insignificant reason, these concerns are far outweighed by the benefits.

For most people, a home is the most important and expensive purchase they will make.

Few buyers are knowledgeable about construction materials and practices. That's why buyers pay substantial sums to have home inspections performed by qualified experts. The inspections are done within a short time after the contract is signed. If the buyer finds the reports unsatisfactory for any reason, they should not be forced to accept fixes by the seller.

If you can buy a television set for a few hundred dollars and take it back to the store the next day because you don't like it, you should be able to walk away from buying a home within a few days because you are dissatisfied with the findings of a professional property inspection.


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