Lawsuits by home buyers who have “buyer’s remorse” appear to be happening more and more with the increase in sales and purchase prices in Colorado. What may have seemed to be a dream home, may have overextended the buyer financially or the upkeep of the large home may cause some “buyer’s remorse” which can lead a buyer to file a lawsuit against the seller in order to regain some financial ability to afford what maybe the buyer really should not have purchased in the first place. There are also just some people who feel “entitled” and “wronged” no matter what happens. Some people, and we all know a few, just like to fight and file lawsuits.
There are a few “warning signs” from these buyers before and after the home is under contract. Although you may be innocent and correct as the seller and the agent, lawsuits can be expensive and emotionally draining so to avoid them in the first place is the best practice. Here are a few warning signs that a buyer may be a lawsuit waiting to happen:
1. Multiple return showings. I am not talking about returning once again after the initial showing but several times and wanting to bring an inspector prior to even making an offer. If the buyer returns and returns, it may be that they are unsure about the home and/or want the home but really cannot afford it. Just because a buyer can qualify for a home does not mean they can afford the upkeep such as new furnaces, the utility bills, new roof, the insurance, the yard work, etc. The mortgage payment is just a portion of the cost of a home. Usually, the bigger the home, the more the upkeep and costs associated with the home. If the buyer really cannot afford the home, they may panic when something does happen which they must repair and attempt to get the previous owner to pay for it.
2. Numerous offerings with contingencies constantly refused. Clearly if a buyer puts many offers on a home after refusing to get rid of contingencies that the seller has refused, the buyer wants the home. WHY do they want it? Is it now a challenge to get the home? Is it really a home they cannot afford but they “love” it? Once “buyer’s remorse” sets in, especially on a home the buyer may realize will be taking up most of their money and time to upkeep and repair, they may seek something from the seller to “make up” for being too far extended financially.
3. Over-exaggerating repairs on Inspection. Nit-picking small items can be frustrating for a seller. “Repair the GFI on the porch.” “Touch-up the paint on the back door.” “Replace the one cracked tile on the sidewalk.” When the buyer, however, insists on a huge amount to replace a major item in/on the home if there is no real sound reason, this can be a warning sign. An example may be that the seller has engineer’s reports stating that the structure of a porch is in good shape and the buyer’s inspector says it “might need to be replaced in the future” but the buyer insists the entire porch needs to be replaced immediately for $30,000 based on one quote from a small company. The buyer knows a porch of that size cannot likely be replaced before closing so they offer to “split” the cost. Basically, the buyer just lowered the selling price (and what the buyer has to qualify for) by $15,000. Again, this can be a warning sign that the buyer cannot really afford the property and are trying to lower their costs. This may also lead to them making accusations of not reporting something when a large item in the home goes bad or breaks once they have closed. Let’s face it, repurchased homes have things go wrong. Even new homes have things go wrong!
4. Wanting lots of items to be left with the home. I just bought a new home. Awesome because no more repairs for a while, right? Sure, that expense may be gone but there are so many others things to consider when you buy a home. Furniture may not fit into the new house so you need to buy new or the home may be larger so you need more. Artwork for the walls, a fence for the yard, a lawnmower, and even different cleaning supplies for those beautiful wood floors you never had before. When a buyer asks for numerous items to be included with the sale of a home such as a riding lawnmower, the speakers in the living room, the high-top and chairs on the back porch, and the firepit, they may be looking at this big home thinking they cannot really afford to furnish it. It comes down to it again being the buyer not really being able to afford the extra expenses that often happen with a new home.
5. Buyer not being able to qualify for the home without lots of creative work. This does not always apply, but if a buyer of a home is not “pre-qualified” or “pre-approved” and wants to put a contingency on the sale of their home (which is not even on the market yet) as part of an offer, this may be a sign the buyer is strapping himself too thin financially. This is often when the buyer will look for a deal with a low offer and/or wanting significant financial concessions. It may also lead to “buyer’s remorse” and a lawsuit.
6. High concessions on a prior home purchase or prior lawsuits/settlements. It is not a bad idea to always check the history of the buyers of your home or your clients’ home. As stated in the beginning, some people like to fight and file lawsuits, but they also may want to feel like they got a “good deal.” Additionally, the buyer really may not truly be able to afford the home and in order to not have to file bankruptcy, let the house go into disrepair, or to be able to actually go on a vacation instead of working constantly for a mortgage payment, they may file a lawsuit hoping the seller will cave and settle the matter, giving them some money to continue to afford the home for a while longer.
Is everyone seeing a pattern here? It all comes down to money, as most things do. Foreclosures are again increasing in Colorado and people have been paying more for homes than the appraisal amount. Many are considerably upside down in their homes before they even move in. Some have gotten caught up in the bidding wars for homes and then regret their “winning” on a home that may not obtain any equity for several years, if ever again. Prices may still be going up in Colorado, although not every area, but not at the rate they have been in in the past year or so. With mortgage rates increasing, the home values will likely slow even more, stay stagnant, or even drop in the future. Sadly, this may lead to more “buyer’s remorse” and more lawsuits.