July 21, 2011 | by Sue Goodhart
Vices from Virginia

Real estate in Virginia can be a great investment but one must do one's homework first. (FIle photo)

When is a deal a deal?

How can you be sure that your purchase in Northern Virginia is really a deal?  Understanding your position as a buyer in Virginia when buying in the D.C. metro area is an important first step in finding a deal that works in your favor. Virginia is a “buyer  beware” state unlike Maryland and D.C. where the seller is required to list any deficiencies and give the ages of the major elements of the property and disclose any problems.

In Virginia, the seller’s disclosure is really a disclaimer despite its title “Residential Property Disclosure Statement.” The statement is a notice to the seller and purchase that the owner is making “no representations with respect to the matters set forth and described at the Residential Property Disclosures web page.  The purchaser is advised to consult the website (dpor.virginia.gov/dporweb/reb _consumer.cfm) for important information about the real property.”

The only disclosure required by the seller is whether there is pending enforcement actions “pursuant to the Uniform Statewide Building Code that affect the safe, decent and sanitary living conditions of the real property described … of which the owner has been notified in writing by the locality, nor any pending violation of the local zoning ordinance which the violator has not abated or remedied under the zoning ordinance, within a time period set out in the written notice of violation from the locality or established by a court of competent jurisdiction, except as disclosed on this statement.” So unless the owner is actually sited by the local authorities, they do not have to disclose a violation.

In Virginia, the buyer must go to the website noted above or ask their buyer agent to provide the Residential Property Disclosures. The disclosures however are not disclosures. It is a disclosure that the seller is making no representations in the following areas:

Condition of the property, adjacent parcels, historic district ordinances, resource protection areas, sexual offenders, dam break inundation zones, storm water detention facilities on the property, wastewater systems, first sale of a dwelling, location in a planning district 15 relating to mining.

A buyer in Virginia is well served to ask a lot of questions relating to the above, to have a home inspection with a licensed home inspector and a final walk through before settlement.

Regarding adjacent parcels, buyers do need to check with local authorities to find out if there are any changes planned in land use around the property they are buying. In places like Arlington along the Metro’s Orange Line, checking with the county regarding the zoning for adjacent buildings might reveal whether a large condo building might be built close by and affect light, view and parking.

In Old Town Alexandria, a buyer purchased a home without knowing that the neighbor of her town home would be putting on a major addition, causing increased noise and congestion because the seller had no obligation to disclose the construction as a seller would be in D.C. or Maryland. The buyer would have needed to ask the city if any permits had been pulled by their neighbors.

Also in Old Town, a buyer was not aware of the restrictions on replacement windows and how any new installation has to be approved by the architectural review board and through a licensed contractor in the city of Alexandria. She replaced the windows and had a stop work order placed on her home and had to have the new windows removed and replaced with the original windows.

A buyer looking in Northern Virginia should hire an experienced licensed agent who can point out what things the buyer needs to be aware of.

Getting the best deal means understanding what to look for before writing a contract so that you understand your negotiation position and have no surprises after you close. Having someone in your corner is the best way to ensure you are indeed getting a deal.

Sue Goodhart is the top-producing agent at McEnearney Associates, Inc, 109 S Pitt Street. Alexandria, VA 22314 and is licensed in D.C., Virginia and Maryland. She can be reached at 703- 549-9292, ext. 257 or at sue@suegoodhart.com. Equal housing opportunity.


 

4 Comments
  • As a Virginia resident, I must inform your readers that if you buy a residence in Virginia, you have to live in Virginia, and that in itself is a form of BDSM. The really annoying part is that you have to cross the state line to get here, and it is a little known fact that Virginia has its own time zone. It’s tedious, but you have to set your watch back 400 years. Forewarned is forearmed! And that makes it hard to buy shirts, too.

  • While I love the amazing state of Northern VA, The rest of the state could fall off the map and I would not notice…

  • There is one thing you may at least try to protect yourself when purchasing a home here in VA. As part of the contract, insert an addendum that the seller certifies that the structure itself, and all mechanical systems, including HVAC, electrical and plumbing, all meet the Uniform Building Code as of the date of the contract. On the same addendum, also add that the seller certifies that all modifications and/or additions to the structure were all done in compliance with local permitting requirements. If you could get them to sign off on this (which their realtor will discourage), you can get around the disclosure/disclaimer statements which are merely designed to relieve the seller and realtor of any responsibility.

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