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Caveat Emptor

There are certain things a home buyer should know about purchasing a home here in Massachusetts.  I have provided this section to help consumers better understand how business is done in our state and better prepare you for the process.  ---   Ronn Huth


Mandatory Agency Disclosure  

The state licensing board developed this disclosure to help consumers understand the types of agency available in Massachusetts.  It is to be explained to a consumer upon first contact. Beware of so called Buyer Agents who work in firms that also list property.  It's now called "Designated Agency", but working for sellers and buyers at the same time is dual agency.  

Lead Paint Disclosure

To meet state and federal requirements, every seller and real estate agent must give this before the signing of a Purchase and Sale agreement. It is likely that any homes built before 1978 contain lead paint.  Lead poisoning is serious!

Title V

The state environmental code requires inspection of septic systems no more than two years prior to the transfer of title. Weather conditions may postpone the inspection up to six months after transfer.  Results must be forwarded to the buyer.


What Sellers Don't Have to Tell You 

 In Massachusetts the seller is only required to disclose Lead Paint.  Buyers should ask specific questions about radon, asbestos, underground fuel tanks, etc. Use of the Seller's Statement is not yet required.  This link will give you a copy of our state Seller's Disclosure form.  This form is not mandatory in Massachusetts.

 Buyer's Brokers can help you ask the right questions and explore various concerns.

What Real Estate Agents Don't Have to Tell You

Real Estate agents must only disclose any known material defects. They must also answer all questions honestly and accurately.  They do not point out any deficiencies or reasons why not to buy.  They want to sell you the house.  A Buyer's Agent is the exception.  Their job is to advise and protect you.


The Offer to Purchase - This is the initial document that when signed by both parties is a legally binding contract.  Many brokers, sellers and buyers have a mistaken impression that an accepted offer to purchase is merely a binder.  Even the clause "subject to a mutually agreeable purchase and sale agreement" doesn't avoid obligations under the accepted offer.  Beware of numerous seller biased offer forms in our state.  Each Realtor Board has their own.

The Purchase and Sale Agreement - This multi page document is usually prepared by the Listing Broker and is typically signed by both parties within ten days of the offer.  This usually allows for the home inspection to be completed prior to signing.  This document supersedes the Offer to Purchase and usually incorporates its content.  The P&S typically goes in to more detail and should have an attorney's involvement.

Escrow Deposits - The Offer to Purchase is usually accompanied with an initial deposit check of $500 to $1,000 which is held in an escrow account.  A second deposit of 5% of the sales price (minus the first deposit) is customarily made at the signing of the P&S. All escrow moneys are usually held by the Listing Broker of Seller's Attorney.

Conveyance and Closing - Massachusetts is an attorney state and conveyance of title is usually done at the appropriate Registry of Deeds or in the conveyance attorney's office.  The conveyance attorney also issues and receives commission on Title Insurance.

Deeds - Deeds and other documents affecting interests in land must be recorded in the proper registry for the county in which the property lies.  Several counties have more than one registry of deeds.  In western Massachusetts Warranty Deeds are most commonly used; while in greater Boston, the Quitclaim Deed is more common.

Legal Decisions

Here are five Massachusetts court cases you should know about. 

Home Inspections in Massachusetts

Home inspectors must now be licensed.  The state disallows real estate salespeople to recommend inspectors, but Buyer Agents are the exception. There are two different national organizations that certify home inspectors and require continuing education.  They are the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the National Institute of Building Inspectors (NIBI).  Their inspectors are usually a cut above the rest.

Buying a Hazard Free Home in a Hazard Free area of Massachusetts

In addition to Lead Paint, UFFI, and Title V issues covered elsewhere in this section, buyers of homes in Massachusetts need to consider other issues including Asbestos, Lead Plumbing, Drinking Water Quality, Hazardous Household Products, Radon Gas, Underground Fuel Tanks, Carbon Monoxide, Wood Boring Pests, Pesticide Applications, etc.  You also should know where the state's hazardous waste sites are located.

The Homestead Act

Homeowners in Massachusetts can protect their property against attachment, seizure, or execution by judgment by filing a declaration of homestead.  The exemption for families or sole owners is $100,000 or $200,000 if over 62 or disabled.   

Request for Sex Offender Information

This two page request must be filled out and presented to the local police department. For more information, call Boston Criminal History Systems Board (617) 660-4600 and press extension 6 for the Sex Offender Register Information (SORI) board.