I was not involved in buying the first house I ever owned. I was in the Army at the time, stationed in Austria while it was still an occupied country after World War II. My wife had been evicted from the apartment she was living in because she had just had our first child and there was a no-children policy. (Even a newborn baby?)
A few years after I was discharged, we decided to sell that house (in North Hollywood) and move into a brand-new tract house in Canoga Park. We put the North Hollywood house on the market, and in due time got a buyer and found ourselves at a real estate office signing the final papers.
You may find this hard to believe, but back then — this was around 1955 — we had to sign not more than six or seven documents. That was it.
Fast forward to 2012, and we are now selling another house. This time — and we aren’t even close to the final closing yet — we have already signed well more than 30 documents and initialed them in about 40 more places. They range from attesting that we are U.S. citizens and that the property will be sold to U.S. citizens, to one that attests that the house is not subject to any federal prison being built nearby within the next 99 years, to another that certifies that we have received various copies of other equally arcane documents.
OK, perhaps I am exaggerating, but not much.
In our case, the house needed some minor repairs, and they needed to be done before the bank would agree to lend the buyer the money. I was unwilling to pay for the repairs, but the buyer agreed to do so.
Now here’s the thing. I am still the legal owner of the house. I need to be assured that any work that is done to the house — especially in my absence — is done in a professional and workmanlike manner. Perhaps more important, I do not want to be responsible for any injuries to people working on my property or any damage they may cause while doing their repairs.
I asked about some sort of disclaimer that would protect my interests in this situation. Interestingly, despite all the reams of bureaucratic paperwork that I have been required to sign so far — including the guarantee that there are no plans for a federal prison to be built on the next block — there did not seem to be any provision (much less any concern) for my protection in this case. I also asked about who would inspect the repairs after the work was done to guarantee that it was complete and done properly.
Guess what? I was blithely informed that, “In this town, the people who do the work are responsible for inspecting it afterward.” Excuse me? How many times have you had the contractor who did the work, perform the final inspection and report that it was not done properly or is incomplete? Have you ever heard the phrase “conflict of interest”? A conflict of interest occurs when you ask a contractor to inspect his own work.
Maybe we need another form to sign.