A Maryland couple purchased a home in Annapolis from a neighbor, but as it turns out, the home was infested with snakes...coming out of the walls, from under appliances, and even on their kids' backyard playground. Pretty scary, and definitely a deal-breaker for most buyers.
So who in their right mind would buy a snake-infested home?
Unfortunately, this can happen to anybody, particularly if you're negotiating with a seller who fails to disclose material facts about the property. Here, it's pretty obvious that the seller was aware of the little snake problem, as previous tenants had complained about the same issue...and his mother lived in the place before it was sold! While the buyers are suing the seller for $2 million (the case is ongoing as of blog posting), things would have been much easier for this couple had they never purchased the home.
So how can I protect myself as a buyer?
It's highly recommended that a home inspection be performed before purchasing a home. However, all home inspectors are not created equal, so be sure to hire an experienced inspector with a solid reputation. Your agent should be able to assist you with finding a quality home inspector, but be aware of any "referral fee" your agent might be receiving for sending the inspector a new client. It's worthwhile to hire an agent who has no affiliations to vendors/contractors, as you'll avoid any conflicts of interest.
So what does this mean to me?
Buyers: Be sure to work with a quality home inspector, and check for references. In this case, a competent inspector might have recognized the signs of a snake-infested home, thus giving the buyer fair warning before purchasing.
Sellers: Disclose. Disclose. Disclose. When it comes to selling your home, the last thing you want is a lawsuit headed your way from buyers who felt shafted. If you know your home has an issue that would make a buyer reconsider whether to purchase it, make it known. It'll pay off in the long-run.