What Does "As Is" Mean in New Jersey Real Estate Transactions
Buying a home can be a stressful process, especially for first-time home buyers. Unfortunately, the process can be more stressful when the sales contract contains an "as is" clause. The two most common questions asked by a buyer who is facing an "as is" contract are (1) "does this mean I cannot inspect the property", and (2) "does this mean that I cannot cancel the contract under an "inspection contingency?" In this post we explain what "as is" means to New Jersey homebuyers.
Buying an "As Is" House
When a New Jersey seller makes his sales contract "as is" it means that the seller wants to transfer (or sell) the property in its current condition with existing defects, and will not make repairs, improvements, or price concessions. According to the Court, "as is" implies that real property is taken with whatever faults it may possess, and that the grantor is released of any obligation to reimburse purchaser for losses or damages resulting from the condition of the property conveyed. K. Woodmere Assocs., L.P. v. Menk Corp., 316 N.J. Super. 306, 317 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 1998).
Keeping is as simple as possible, in most cases"as is" never actually means that you are buying a house sight unseen without inspections. What it means is that the buyer is going to do inspections but the seller is not required to make repairs.
Can I Still Inspect the Property?
Yes! Regardless of the fact that a house is being sold "as is" the buyer still has the right to conduct an inspection. Most real estate contracts contain a home inspection contingency clause. This clause allows buyers to cancel a contract if there are issues identified by a home inspector that the parties cannot agree to resolve.
It is important to always perform a home inspection before moving forward with the purchase. As noted above, buying a property "as is" simply means that the seller will likely not repair or give a credit for items identified in the home inspection report. However, the report will give the buyer good insight into the condition of the house and help them decide whether they can accept the property in its current condition.
What About the Inspection Contingency?
The phrase “as is” does not mean that a buyer waives any and all inspection contingency rights, meaning that it does not stand for the idea that a purchaser will buy the property regardless of what they find during inspections. In most cases, if there are issues identified in the inspection report, a buyer can still exercise his right to cancel the contract.
However, it is very important that you understand the complete terms of the contract and any riders. There are times when a contract contains specific terms that either attempt to prevent a purchaser from cancelling the contract regardless of the inspection results. For example, a contract may contain a provision stating the any inspections "are for information purposes only." If this language is in your contract, you will likely not be able to cancel the contract even if the inspection report reveals defects with the house.
When it comes to real estate contracts, a few words can have a major impact on your ability to seek repairs or credits, and more importantly, to be able to back out of a deal. You should never attempt to buy a house without an attorney. Even if you have an amazing realtor, you still need an attorney to assist you. In New Jersey, once you sign a real estate contract you have 3 days to have it reviewed by an attorney before it becomes binding.
If you are buying a house and the contract contains an "as is" provision, all is not lost. You simply need to make sure that you are working with an experienced real estate. attorney who understands the nuances of the "as is" language. While you need to look out for clauses that prevent you from cancelling the contract, an "as is" clause does not eliminate your right to inspect a property before you decide to move forward with the deal.
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