Once you have found a home you wish to purchase, seller's are usually required to present to you a Seller's Disclosure report. This form details any and all physical problems with the property that the seller is aware of and should include any past issues since taken care of such as a roof leak or septic issues. This tells the buyer if the house is basically a lemon and whether they want to proceed with the transaction or not.
It is technically illegal for sellers not to disclose something about the house that they are aware of. It is usually no crime if the seller doesn't report a problem on the form simply because the seller wasn't aware of it.
Besides the disclosure, the seller must also give the buyer a federally-approved pamphlet about lead hazards in building materials. As your Ruidoso real estate agent, we have these pamphlet's available at any time. The Seller's Disclosure will list any lead paint or other lead items that the seller is aware of. If it is a home built before 1978 there very well may be lead paint under several layers of paint that the current seller just doesn't know about. These are things to consider and not punish the seller for issues occurring before the current seller took possession.
After viewing the Seller's Disclosure, the buyer has a right to terminate the transaction or negotiate terms in lieu of those discoveries. The buyer can ask the seller to fix current issues or lower the price of the home to compensate for the repairs needed.
Even though the Seller's Disclosure provides some details on the home while the seller was in possession of it, it doesn't count for all the issues the seller is unaware of. If you buy the house and discover a problem, how can you tell whether the owner knew about it? And even if you're sure the owner knew about it and neglected to put it on the disclosure, could you prove so in court? And if you think your case is strong and you could prove so, would you be willing to actually file a lawsuit, and would you have the money to do so? The moral here is that while the disclosure gives you some protection, don't make the mistake of thinking that it provides you with 100% protection against undisclosed problems with the house.
For better information about problems with the house, you'll hire a professional inspector to check out the house and provide you with a detailed, written report about any problems they find. If you think the price is too high given any problems listed on the disclosure, or if the seller won't make repairs and you're unwilling to do them yourself, then the whole process will begin with another property. Even though the seller's disclosure is a good way to learn more about the property, don't let it scare you off if you feel the home is still sound enough for you to buy. Check with an inspector and get a good feel for the home before continuing.