A recent KOMO story about buyers who purchased a "flipped" home illustrates an important "buyer beware" lesson. The KOMO story is about a couple who bought a home that had been flipped, only to find out after purchase that there were significant structural deficiencies as a result of the remodel the seller/flipper performed.
Washington is essentially a buyer beware state, with the onus largely put on the buyer to adequately research a property to their satisfaction. Accordingly, our local multiple listing service forms, which are used statewide, have a variety of built-in and optional contingencies.
For the buyers in the KOMO story, the issue ended up being a load bearing wall that had been removed to open up the floor plan, a remodel that would have required permits as well as a seller disclosure of whether permits had been obtained on the seller disclosure statement (more on the seller disclosure statement below). The buyers were unaware of the issue and the inspector they hired hadn't caught the issue as well. There was no mention of a buyer's agent involved, so I obviously can't speak to the job a buyer's agent did or didn't do in providing oversight and recommendations for the buyer.
The result of the improperly performed work was a ceiling that eventually started to sag due to the trusses being insufficient to hold the weightof the roof without the previously removed load bearing support... a serious hazard.
Sellers are required by state law to provide a "Seller Disclosure Statement" with answers to a variety of questions (it's a six page questionnaire), and sellers are required to disclose any known defects with the home. The problems with the seller disclosure statement is that although they are routinely and unfortunately filled out incorrectly by the seller, buyers are given the opportunity to review the disclosure (as a contingency) and also must be able to prove a seller knowingly concealed a defect if and when a dispute arises, which can be difficult to prove.
The buyers ended up paying $25,000 to remedy the issue and have filed a complaint with the state against the seller, who the story says was also the listing agent. Ugh (shakes my head)!
Long story short... this unfortunate incident for these buyers illustrates the importance of performing due diligence throughout the purchase process and working with industry/purchase related professionals who work hard to be at the top of their game in terms of client representation.
And please, get an inspection, even if it's a pre-inspection. The $400 or $500 it will cost could save you some serious headache... or at least give you peace of mind about your purchase.