Finding and buying a home, especially during record low inventory and a pandemic, isn't always enjoyable. Neither is selling one. Knowing how to avoid contract disasters when buying or selling a home can not only preserve ones' sanity but preserve the wallet as well. Buyers and sellers are their own best assets here; an understanding of the process, the documents and the involved players are key to success. Perhaps the important players are the respective agents; skilled agents avoid or get most potential issues addressed early in the process. Unfortunately, the influx of hobby agents during the pandemic and the growth of “minimal service” and "rebate" brokerages, do not. Add to the mix that Georgia is a buyer beware state, the seller is expected to be truthful but it's incumbent upon the buyer to research every aspect of the home and area that they deem appropriate. Areas where trouble is often brewing...

Divorce, Liens, Estates & Other Legal Issues

Contract language matters; they are legal, binding agreements and they need to be properly written, completed and understood. The GA listing agreement (01/01/21) has a section dedicated to special circumstances that will require third party approval before a seller can list GA real estate contract to list a homeand/or sell a property. This includes things like bankruptcy, divorce, short sale, liens, estates, title issues and more. Listing agents are directly responsible for disclosing such things and ensuring that sellers note any issues. Some sellers fail to mention things like this, others may not be candid. Recently an out of state minimal service discount broker listed a home in GA. The seller negotiated a contract (with no input from the broker) then called days later to say he “forgot” the terms of the divorce decree he signed just a few weeks ago. This decree stated when the home could be listed (it was listed early), that the ex-spouse had to agree to price (she didn’t) and that she had to sign despite not being on title (she didn’t). It was resolved and closed but had the listing agent done their job asking and/or had the seller disclosed and not "forgotten" this, significant agita would have been avoided. Listing agents have a responsibility to ensure issues like this are disclosed; sellers have a similar responsibility not to fraudulently omit information. 

Easements, Encroachments & More

Again, sellers are expected to disclose known issues and listing agents are expected to ask about any. This can be tricky, some sellers have been in place for years and things go on around them. Fences may be put in by neighbors, driveways or other hardscapes may encroach or something like shed may encroach. Similarly, the seller might have installed things without a survey and encroached upon a neighbor. Rights of way may exist as well; shared driveways even walking path easements popular around lake homes. Don’t forget utility easements for storm drains, power lines and even buried utilities. Crazy as it seems, some buyers are surprised to find a home they like is in a flood zone. A survey is always money well spent and they are a legal, binding instrument. A seasoned buyer’s agent should be smart enough to bird dog many potential issues long before they become major problems.

Age, Characteristics & More

There are a number of construction related issues to look for based upon the age of a home. Knowing the age of and materials in a home should failed seal on a thermal windowimmediately trigger the buyer’s agent to know what to look for. Synthetic stucco has a number of major issues, Atlas roof shingles fail prematurely, LP/GP siding literally rots in place and polybutylene pipe has a tendency to rupture. Many homes in the area have defective windows, here the weather seals fail and melt into the pane. In severe cases, the seal forms a large black splotch which creeps across the pane. How many agents know that in GA until the mid 90’s builders were allowed to bury construction trash on site? Sink holes need to be dug up and filled; worst case structural issues could result. This type of surprise is welcomed by no one. Of course a buyer should get a home inspection, but an experienced buyer’s agent can prevent a major waste of time and money by alerting the buyer ahead of time.

Ideas to Limit Problems

Sellers getting ready to list a home must thoroughly read the listing contract. Disclose, disclose, disclose; it’s almost certain that whatever might be “missed” by a seller will be uncovered during the showing, inspection, title search, appraisal or closing process. Buyers, especially in GA which is a “buyer beware state”, should use experienced agents. The bar to entry and retention for agents in GA is laughable; it is the buyer and seller’s responsibility to ensure they work with experts. Select credentialed inspectors and closing attorneys that are well regarded. If something is missed, the buyer inherits the problem. No one needs a surprise issue years later.

The Hank Miller Team puts 30+ years of full time sales & appraisal experience to work for you. Act with complete confidence & make sound, decisive real estate decisions. 678-428-8276 and

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