Buying a home is often a good investment, but if you are not careful during the initial home search and sales process, your purchase may come back to bite you. Luckily, contingencies and disclosures exist to help you navigate the process and protect your interests along the way.

What are contingencies and disclosures, and how do they come into play during the homebuying process?

Contingency clauses

A contingency is a contract clause that protects you in the event that something specific happens, or does not happen. A common contingency many buyers face is that they must sell their current homes before they have enough money available to buy a new one. Your contingency clause may also dictate that your purchase depends on your ability to obtain financing, or on the results of an upcoming home inspection.

While contingencies exist to protect you, be careful about including too many. Doing so may raise a red flag to the seller and make him or her more inclined to consider other offers.

Disclosures

Disclosures are the things about a property the seller has an obligation to share with you. If the house has any major structural defects, for example, the seller must disclose them to you. The seller also has an obligation to let you know if the home contains any lead paint. In Massachusetts, the seller also has to tell you about the condition of the home’s septic system.

Requests for information

If you have concerns about whether anyone died or committed suicide in a home you are considering purchasing, ask away. The seller may not have a legal obligation to disclose this information up front, but if you ask, he or she must answer truthfully. This holds true in other areas, too, so as a general rule of thumb, the more you ask, the more likely you are to get the full story on a particular property.