How Caveat Emptor affects you (or what does “buyer beware” mean in Virginia)?

Homes don't come with a Money Back Guarantee

Homes don't have guarantees

Caveat Emptor is a word translated from the Latin language which means “Buyer beware”.  In the past, the term Caveat Emptor was used for any product sold or bought where it was the responsibility of the buyer of an item to determine whether it was suitable for his purposes.  Nowadays, it is usually used in Real Estate transactions to mean that buyers must do their homework before buying a home because the seller is not guaranteeing anything about it.

In the State of Virginia, buyers must do their homework

In the State of Virginia, buyers must do all the discovery work themselves since sellers aren’t required to disclose specific facts about the home – unless they are aware of them.

In other States, such as in California or in Nevada, sellers must provide all buyers with a detailed disclosure statement.  This disclosure statement, as well as informing buyers of outside elements affecting the home (such as the nearby airport’s flight path), it informs buyers of elements within the home of which they must be aware (sellers must conduct a home inspection prior to listing their home for sale and share the home inspector’s findings.).

But in Virginia, the law is different

Traditionally, the State of Virginia is different from other States in that its real estate law does not require sellers to provide detailed disclosure statements.  Virginia law only requires sellers to provide buyers a disclaimer form (called a “Disclosure”) which states that the seller offers no guarantees and it is the buyer’s job to figure out if there is anything to be aware of before buying the home (i.e. Caveat Emptor).

For example, the Virginia “Disclosure” form makes the buyer aware of the possibility that the property is in a Historic District (with strict restrictions for renovations, etc.).  Another paragraph in the disclaimer form mentions Megan’s Law (for the buyer to check for registered sex offenders nearby), and there are several paragraphs with other items for the buyer to investigate (like Dam Break Inundation zones).

But this disclaimer form isn’t the only way Virginia law is different

In Virginia, sellers are NOT required to conduct a home inspection prior to listing the home

Sellers in other States are required to conduct a home inspection prior to listing the home and to provide the inspection findings to all buyers.  In Virginia, sellers sell their homes “as is” and it’s up to the buyer to find out if the home they’re looking to buy is the right one for them.

So, how can a buyer ensure she’s buying the right home?

There are many elements involved in making sure that the home you choose is the right one.  And one of the best things to do is to get yourself a REALTOR® who is your dedicated buyer agent.  But not just any buyer agent, s/he must also be very knowledgeable of the specific area where the home is located (otherwise, how can she know that the airport flight path goes right over the home?).

As an example, let’s look at how Jennie saved $25,000

Jennie found a home she likes in the Herndon high school boundary, so she contacts the Herndon HS boundary specialist.  The boundary specialist, Kathi (a REALTOR®), tells her that certain homes in this school boundary are considered to be within Herndon’s historic district and after checking the official records, she helps Jennie confirm that this is the case with this home.

Jennie is ok with the historic district rules, so she makes an offer on the home and she adds certain contingencies to minimize her expenses due to the home being in the  Historic District.   Thanks to Kathi, Jennie saves over $25,000 in architect expenses that she would have had to pay if she didn’t have Kathi’s local expertise.


1. Caveat Emptor is Latin for “Buyer Beware”. It means that you must do your homework prior to buying a home.

2. Buyers must do their homework because in Virginia, home-sellers don’t provide detailed disclosure statements.

3. Without a seller disclosure, buyers must seriously consider working with a dedicated buyer agent to give them the “local scoop”.

4. The buyer agent must be a REALTOR® who is highly knowledgeable of the specific area where the home is located – a County-wide agent can’t know the specifics of every little area.

Do you have further questions about “Caveat Emptor” in Virginia?  Ask in the comments below and we’ll be delighted to answer your questions.

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