Caveat Emptor | Urban Living

Caveat Emptor

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Do you have your Halloween costume ready? I'm going with the onesie this year. Comfort over creativity, baby! We all love this weird holiday when we can have the bejesus scared out of us at a haunted house. That's consensual fright, as opposed to non-consensual trickery. It's fun to play with our fears and boundaries—except, well, when you buy a home.

It doesn't matter how many promises a seller makes or how many home inspections you pay for. As a buyer, you're still going to have this thought in the back of your mind: "As soon as I sign the papers and put the key in the doorknob, the house will fall off its foundation ... or the roof will cave in or the water heater explode."

Keep in mind the Latin phrase "caveat emptor," which essentially means "buyer, beware."

A friend once told me about a relative who purchased a home in a nice East Bench neighborhood. About a week after they closed escrow and moved in, the basement flooded with sewer backup. After a massive cleanup and replacement of carpeting and furniture, it happened again about three months later. The third time, a neighbor wandered by and stopped to talk to the clearly frustrated homeowner. "So you're the people that bought this plumbing disaster of a house," he declared. Apparently, the home had a long history of flooding due to some really screwy sewer lines. And the former owner didn't disclose that to the buyers.

There's the famous "snake house" in Rexburg, Idaho, where new owners caught 43 snakes after moving in. This wasn't a case of prankster friends filling scattering some rubber snakes—but a five-bedroom manse full of actual snakes. A local wildlife biologist told the press that the home might have been built on a den where garter snakes hibernate. No wonder the place was listed at half its value. The real estate agent responsible for the sale told the buyers in advance that the house had rumored snakes but that story was just "made up." The owners said their tap water tasted like onions (a similar odor to one snakes release when frightened). They later sued, but the case was dismissed.

It's also hard to find out if your home was built on the site of a graveyard unless you go way back into public records. Of course, our first Utah inhabitants didn't keep paper records where they buried their relatives. People all over the state find bones of Anasazi-era humans in their newly excavated gardens.

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