Friday, June 7, 2013

Blown Over Tree Cancel Your Home Sale? Understanding Risk of Loss

We are currently experiencing a real estate market rebound and though it may seem unrelated a crazy storm weather pattern. With the summer storm season is upon us and sold signs appearing on homes throughout the Minneapolis/St Paul metro, there are bound to be homes that will sustain storm damage before closing.  

So what if the unthinkable happens and a few weeks prior to the closing, straight-line winds blow through town and damage your property. Maybe picturesque hundred year old oak trees that gave the home character have been uprooted. Or worse yet, what if one of the huge oaks fell onto your house severely damaging the roof. What happens now?

What you might not realize is that this situation has been addressed in the purchase agreement you have signed. Risk of Loss is one of those “boiler plate” clauses on page four of the purchase agreement used for almost every real estate transaction in the State of Minnesota. Being preprinted, some agents and/or their clients will gloss over this clause when dealing with closing dates and net prices but it is a very important concept to understand, as is every other line in the document you sign to buy or sell a home.


This paragraph clearly states that the risk of loss due to any reason whether an act of God or the acts of vandals will be the responsibility of the seller from the time the purchase agreement is signed until the date of closing. That means if there is a fire or accident the seller will be required to bring the home into the condition that it was in at the time the contract was written and signed.

So if that temperamental decade old washing machine goes on the fritz, the seller is required to replace it. If a neighbor backs over the mailbox at the end of your driveway, it must be repaired or replaced with a new one. Final walk-throughs of the property are essential to ascertain the condition of the home is acceptable to the buyer prior to signing the closing documents. 
But what happens if it is irreplaceable picturesque trees that have fallen on the roof?
 
Even if there is substantial time prior to a closing, for the seller to call their insurance company and have the home repaired, that may not be enough. But, Is it the same house? And more importantly does the buyer still have to buy the home? In a word, no.

The clause goes on to say that in the case where there is substantial damage to the home or property, it is the buyer’s option to cancel or continue with the purchase agreement. The situation outlined above is common situation where the landscaping is changed due to storm damage. Often this cannot be replaced. The damage to the home could also result in an insurance claim that would now be reflected in a
CLUE insurance report. This could affect the cost to insure the home. Buyers can opt to cancel the contract in this situation with all earnest money refunded.

Risk of loss comes into play from time to time in residential real estate transactions. In most cases the repairs are made quickly to both the buyer’s and seller’s satisfaction and the contract will close on time. But when the property sustains significant damage as determined in the buyers' eyes, they have the option of continuing to closing or walking away from the deal. Boilerplate or not, risk of loss is an important clause to understand when buying or selling a home.

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