Virginia is a “caveat emptor” state. Latin for “let the buyer beware,” buyers must perform their own due diligence to discover any defects in the contract property. While the seller cannot intentionally conceal any defects, they are not required to represent the condition of the property (with rare exception). This puts the buyer in a vulnerable position.
There are several recommended ways for the buyer to perform due diligence:
The Home Inspection: Buyers are encouraged to obtain a home inspection by a trusted, thorough home inspector (whether or not there is a home inspection contingency in the contract). However, even a thorough home inspector will not be able to investigate every feature of the home. For instance, aspects of a roof or foundation not easily reached may not fall within the scope of a standard home inspection, and a prospective buyer may want to get a specialized inspector for any unusual or concerning features not covered by the generic home inspection.
Survey: With the sticker shock of closings costs, a buyer may be tempted to decline purchasing a survey at settlement to save a few hundred dollars. But surveys can reveal issues that may cause problems for the buyer down the line, including boundary line, easement, or encroachment issues. With a survey, the buyer can discover and attempt to resolve such issues prior to closing. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that title insurance does not cover issues that would have been revealed on an accurate survey. With lack of recourse to resolve boundary line issues after settlement, buyers are encouraged to purchase a survey and review prior to signing settlement papers.
Title Insurance: Though issues that would be revealed on an accurate survey are not covered by title insurance, many defects are covered. Certain encroachment or building permit issues, zoning issues, lack of access to the property, and a number of other encumbrances contained in the owner’s title policy will potentially provide the buyer with recourse for defects discovered post-closing.