Consumer rights in home purchases provide important protections for the buyer. Without these rights, home purchasers may be exposed to various risks and uncertainties regarding the property. Thus, consumer laws protect those interested in purchasing a residence, and require sellers to follow certain standards.
The rights of consumers in a home purchase may vary widely from region to region. However, when purchasing a home, most laws grant consumers the right to:
- Select and interview professionals who can assist you in the home purchase. These may include real estate agents, lenders, and inspectors
- Learn of an agent’s relationship to the property as well as the seller
- Use purchase agreements when accepting an offer on the property
- Approve/disapprove property based on the physical condition of the home (though there may be deadlines and timeframes associated with this)
- Negotiate for repairs on the home (even for new homes)
- Perform tests for structural or environmental defects in the home, typically at the purchaser’s expense
- Have any documents related to the home sale reviewed by a lawyer, usually at the purchaser’s expense
- Obtain a copy of any document that you sign in connection with the purchase of the home, and to have the documents explained by a professional
- Reject the purchase during the escrow period, if applicable
- Move into the home once the contract requirements are satisfied
Again, these rights and protections can vary from state to state- be sure to inquire with an attorney if you have any inquiries regarding a specific consumer right.
Nearly all home purchasers take out a mortgage loan when buying residential property. Mortgage borrowers are also provided with a number of consumer rights and protections. Again, these may also vary by state, but they generally include the right to:
- shop for different loans and compare the rates of different mortgage lenders and brokers
- be informed regarding the total loan costs, including interest and other charges
- request a good faith estimate of mortgage costs before you accept the loan and pay any costs
- know which fees are refundable
- know cancellation procedures for the loan
- inquire with a mortgage broker and have them explain what services they will provide for you
- know how much a broker will be paid by you and the lender
- inquire regarding any loan terms that you don’t understand
- be free from discrimination during credit approval based on your race, religion, sex, marital status, age, or national origin
- be informed of the reason(s) if your loan application was denied
Violations of consumer rights can lead to legal consequences for the seller. For example, if the seller refuses to provide copies of signed documents, it can greatly hinder the transaction process and may even expose the seller to legal liabilities. If you believe that any of your consumer rights have been violated, you should take the following steps:
- Take note of the circumstances leading up to the violation- you may wish to create a written account of what happened, while it’s still fresh in your memory
- Keep and make copies of any important documents that you have read or signed, especially any contracts
- Obtain as much information as you can from the parties involved, including witnesses and agents. Collect information such as contact info, licensing certificates, and testimony statements
These steps can help you be prepared in case you need to file a lawsuit in a court of law. Many of the items that you compile may be useful as evidence during court proceedings.
Home purchases are very complex and involved transactions that require the assistance of professionals. When purchasing a home, it’s in your best interest to hire a real estate lawyer for advice. Your lawyer can go over the various documents with you and can ensure that your rights aren’t being violated. In the event of a legal issue or dispute, your attorney will be able to represent you in court.