"Buyer Beware." It's the expression that makes home buyers shudder--especially the first timers. The concept of "due diligence" in their home search and property transfer process puts the onus on them to peel the onion back far enough to uncover all of the home's issues. They are cautious and sometimes scared, and rightfully so. They want all the information that's available for this monumental transaction.
Buyers combat this fear with extensive research. When it finally comes time to write the offer, they come to the negotiating table armed with data that would bring a smile to the face of any private investigator. The collected data (some provided by their agent) that not only includes what the home sold for last, but a full trail of previous owners and sale prices; the carrier of the current mortgage(s) and HELOCs as well as their estimated balances; whether or not there are liens, open permits or outstanding taxes owed; neighborhood crime statistics--including registered sex offenders; litigation, etc. However, even with all of this undisputable hard fact data and information, my favorite part of their investigation: They Google the names of the current homeowners and look them up on Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social media site. This gives the home buyers tremendous insight to the personal lives of the current homeowner. They often can't wait to tell the juicy details of what they uncovered! In addition, I have had many buyers look-up the Connecticut Judicial Court Cases to see if the homeowner is involved in any current or past filings. This uncovers issues of divorce and family matters, criminal charges, foreclosure, IRS tax issues, etc.
In the Fairfield County, Connecticut market, it is common that the listing agent does not identify the names of the homeowners on the listings and "Withheld" or "Per Public Record" is often used. This always gives me a chuckle. Property ownership is public record information. In just one or two clicks of the mouse, any future home buyer has that precious data that is thought to be held back "oh so" secretively.
The availablity of information is at our fingertips. And it's not going away. It's important to give sellers a "heads up" that both they and their property will likely be researched by prospective buyers. Some information that they think is private may in fact be available for the world to see--and it could offer just enough insight to give a buyer the upper hand in negotiations.
Yup, you guessed it. Information is now King.