What does ‘caveat emptor’ in the context of real estate sales?

‘Caveat emptor’ is an ancient Latin phrase that when used in a legal context, essentially means “let the buyer beware.” This refers to the problem that frequently happens when an owner of a piece of property sells it to someone else. Invariably, the owner has a great deal more information about the property than the buyer.

Imagine a situation in which a homeowner sells a property to a buyer. The homeowner, however, is the only one who knows that the next-door neighbor likes to hold wild and raucous parties every other night that will disturb the purchaser’s sleep. The purchaser doesn’t ask the homeowner any questions about the neighbors and simply moves forward blindly with the purchase.

Here, the principle of caveat emptor may come into play. The buyer was responsible to ask the necessary questions to fully assess the property prior to the purchase. Because the buyer failed to fulfill this responsibility, it’s not the seller’s fault. After all, the seller may have enjoyed the next-door neighbor’s parties and may not have considered it in the realm of being a problem that would affect the buyer’s purchase decision.

However, caveat emptor is not the all-powerful protector of homesellers when it comes to real estate transactions. For example, certain issues with a home may be exempt from caveat emptor protections. To play it safe, homeowners should be upfront and honest about any issues that could potentially affect the homebuyer’s decision to purchase.

Did you buy a home that has problems you didn’t know about? This issue might be your fault. Investigate your legal rights to determine how you may be able to resolve the problem.

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