The time I nearly fell into a septic tank

By Vern McClelland

August 11, 2016 12:00 AM

And other hidden defects

Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is a long standing legal principle based on the premise the buyer enters a transaction at his or her own risk.
It places the responsibility on the buyer to inspect or otherwise create terms in the agreement for sale regarding what is being purchased.
It’s probably one of the more misleading concepts in real estate and a curtain that some sellers try to hide behind to explain away their unethical or dishonest behaviour.
The courts state sellers have a duty to disclose a material fact not readily apparent when a property is viewed by a buyer.
I have encountered a number of examples in my career. Too many in fact.
In one case the seller did not tell the buyer the submersible pump did not work in the water well.
Another owner said they didn’t know the septic tank had been landscaped over (by them?) causing it to eventually become full of solids which in turn led to the drainage field to seal up.
A third had a wooden basement wall bow inward from the pressure of compaction equipment on the adjacent paved driveway.
Their solution? Build a false wall inside and hope no one notices.
Defects, whether hidden or not, are one of the most challenging aspects to our job as a Realtor, whether we represent the buyer or the seller.
Our clients—and frankly, the regulatory bodies that govern conduct of the real estate industry—expect us to be alert to potential risks that may come with a property.
However, we Realtors are not home inspectors, surveyors, electricians, plumbers, pest exterminators, roofing contractors, or water well drillers.
So we ask lots of questions and listen closely to the answers.
Resident sellers are requested to disclose what they know about the history of a property in a written statement.
Buyers are also shown a list of ancillary reports they can request, at their expense, when conducting appropriate diligence on a property and are encouraged to choose as many as they feel necessary.
Common sense and experience also helps.
Just walking the exterior and interior of a property can tell you a lot so I trust my spidey sense as well.
In fact, that has saved me from embarrassment or a potential lawsuit more than once.
This is particularly important when representing an “as is condition” property such as those being sold after foreclosure or tax seizure when there is no information on the history of the property.
These I take extra time to go through before going public with its availability and for this discovery walkabout I often carry a strong flashlight and a walking stick.
One house without electricity had a number of plastic gallon jugs full of clear chemical scattered throughout the cupboards and closets.
Turns out they were some of the basic ingredients for a chemical lab, likely the production of methamphetamine.
Buried in the long grass outside a vacant truck shop on a commercial site was a two foot opening into a 10-ft deep septic tank.
The only way I knew its location in the drifted snow was because the stick I was carrying broke through the hole in front of me first otherwise I may have not been here to tell the tale.
I wasn’t so lucky with a set of upside down diamond harrows in an abandoned farm yard.
Still have the bruises on my legs from that tumble!
Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.vernmcclelland.com or by following the Midwest Group Lloydminster on Facebook.

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