How Can You Effectively Get Information From the Current Owner?

It goes without saying that the previous owner will be the best person to tell you all about the property. The previous owner, having lived there for years, can share any problems the property may have, offer maintenance tips, or provide details on what major projects have been carried out on the property and when.

Nevertheless, how much information you may receive from the previous owner will vary. Certain types of transactions end up having very little information exchanged. Some common examples include when you are buying a distressed "as is" property, a foreclosure property from the bank, or a property whose owner passed away. In those situations, you should expect that very little information will be passed on to you. Owners that have not lived on the property long enough will also lack insight and knowledge about the building.

In other circumstances, you can receive a lot of information from a past owner. For example, if the property is FSBO (For Sale by Owner), you should be able to sit down with the selling owner and map out the entire maintenance history of the property. The situations where you get no information or where you receive a lot of information are two extremes. The most common situation is when the seller discloses all the information they are required to disclose under State laws. If that is the case, what you will receive are the minimal required legal disclosures in a written format. Generally, if you are serious about buying, you may also want to arrange for a professional inspection.

Ask the seller for all the information you consider relevant, especially if a renter currently occupies the property. You should not only ask for repair receipts, but also the tenant’s information, the specific lease terms, and information about the security deposit. You can choose between making an informal request throughout the negotiation process, or making a formal request by making your offer to buy the property contingent on receiving certain information.

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Your real estate or legal professional should have relevant experience and can help you insert the necessary wording for the right contingencies and terms into your offer. As always, remember that the seller has more incentive to answer your questions before the closing. Once the transaction is complete, you may not get any extra information.