Who is the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau?

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has published a guide for Buyers seeking a mortgage entitled “Your Home Loan Tool Kit – A Step-by –Step Guide”. The link for this toolkit is set forth here.

It explains the mortgage lending process and how you can shop for a mortgage lender and a closing or settlement company. It also provides copies of the forms utilized. It also helps explain how to choose the best mortgage for you, define what is affordable, how to estimate your monthly payment, etc.

Another useful link is www.consumerfinance.gov/know-before-you-owe.

Should You Consider a Home Warranty?

Obtaining home warranties can be an important safeguard against problems big and small for new homeowners. But remember, home warranties are not insurance policies. They are policies that provide service for repair or replacement of covered items such as appliances, heating and cooling systems, plumbing and electrical systems. The cost of a one-year standard policy is approximately $350-$500 depending on the type of home (single family, townhome, condo, duplex, etc.) with enhancements like coverage for pre-existing conditions, pools, etc. available for an additional $100-$300 per year. Service fees of approximately $100 are due at the time of the repair call. Home warranties can usually be renewed after the one year period has expired. It pays to review the policy being offered to make sure you understand what is covered and what is excepted. A buyer can purchase a home warranty for himself or ask the seller to purchase the home warranty as a part of the sales negotiation. Do not be afraid to ask your realtor for advice concerning the home warranty being offered. Neither realtors nor real estate companies are permitted to receive referrals from home warranty companies. You can also check on line for reviews of the various home warranty companies in which you are interested at such websites as home-warranty-reviews and homewarrantyreviews. You should also know that home warranty companies are regulated in all 50 states under the consumer protection laws.


What’s Covered?

What’s covered? Most home warranty companies offer a variety of plans with differing levels of coverage so be sure to read the details. The following is a list of general coverage for home warranties. Remember to review each policy to ascertain what is covered and what is excluded.


Basic coverage often includes:

  • Plumbing systems
  • Range/Oven
  • Dishwasher
  • Garbage disposal
  • Exhaust fans
  • Sump pump
  • Water heater
  • Ceiling fans
  • Heating and air conditioning systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Built-in microwave
  • Whirpool tub
  • Rekeying the entire house to the same key for a nominal charge


Enhanced coverage often available:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Washer/dryer
  • Refrigerator
  • Garage door opener
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • Well pump
  • Septic system
  • Stand alone freezer

Central vacuum system

How a Survey Impacts a Home Sale in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania the title insurance companies and the mortgage lenders do not require a survey of the property each time a property is sold. Surveys do provide valuable information to the buyer of a property so the question of whether or not to obtain a new survey on a property deserves valuable consideration.


Survey without Stakes consists of a plot plan drawing of a property showing the location of the house, outbuildings like garages and sheds, recorded rights of way and easements within the property lines. The intent of such a survey is to inform the buyer, mortgage lender and/or title company of any physical encroachments, recorded set back violations and/or discrepancies with the deed description of the property perimeter. These surveys are a picture of the buildings on the land and to not include stakes with flags or any marking on the property itself.
Boundary Survey with Stakes is the physical staking and/or marking of the property corners defining the property perimeter. In addition to the staking and/or marking of the property corners a scaled drawing showing the house, outbuildings and recorded rights of way and easements within the property perimeter will be generated. Physical encroachments, recorded set back violations and deed description discrepancies will also be shown. Boundary Surveys with Stakes typically take more time and do cost more than a survey without stakes.


Survey Concerns

The following is a list of the major risks that could compromise your ownership of a property and/or cause added expense once you take ownership, all of which a Boundary Survey with Stakes would reveal, allowing the problem to be resolved prior to closing:

  • The lot being purchased is smaller than what was represented by the seller.
  • The lot being purchased is not located where represented.
  • The lot being purchased does not exist.
  • The lot was created by an illegal subdivision.
  • There is a gap between the lot and the neighboring property that no one owns.
  • There are easements giving others the right to use part or all of the lot.
  • There are buildings or other structures owned by others that encroach on the lot.
  • A building on the lot encroaches on the neighboring lot.
  • A building on the lot violates the building line.
  • A building that is supposed to be on the lot is not on the lot.
  • The lot has no access to a public road.
  • There are driveways, paths or other non-recorded rights of way on the lot.
  • The line forming the perimeter of the lot does not end and begin at the same place (this is referred to as the lot no closing).


Survey Waiver

If you choose not to purchase a survey, you will be required to sign a survey waiver at the closing. This survey waiver takes the following form:


I, (purchaser of the property) known as (property address) hereby acknowledge that I have been advised by Settlements, Ltd. to obtain a land survey performed by a professional land surveyor on the above property prior to completing the purchase of this property. I understand that such a survey may disclose such items as a discrepancy in the legal description, easements, rights of way, lack of access to a public road, encroachments of items on this lot onto adjoining lots or encroachments of items on adjoining lots onto this lot. I have declined to purchase such a land survey and agree to hold harmless and release from liability Settlements, Ltd. for failure to obtain such a land survey.

What To Look For During a Home Inspection

A general home inspection is essentially visual, and distinct from those of specialists such as mold, inasmuch as they do not include the use of specialized instruments, the dismantling of equipment or the sampling of air and inert materials. Consequently a general inspection and the report that follows will not be as comprehensive, or as technically exhaustive, as that generated by specialists, nor is it intended to be. The purpose of a general home inspection is to identify significant defects or adverse conditions that would warrant a specialist evaluation. You should, therefore, be aware of the limitations of a general home inspection. In addition, the general home inspection is not intended to document the type of cosmetic or obvious deficiencies that would be apparent to the average person, and certainly not intended to identify insignificant deficiencies. During the inspection, the inspector may take some pictures to help explain or document his findings. He may not take a picture of every defect. You should question your inspector if you are interested in such pictures.

Scope of Inspection

An inspector will evaluate and test conditions, systems, or components of systems, and report on their condition, which does not mean that they are ideal but that they are either currently functional or meet a reasonable standard at the time of the inspection. An inspector does not generally take into account the age of a home or allow for the predictable deterioration that occurs through time, such as cracks in concrete or plaster, scuffed or nicked walls or woodwork, worn or squeaky floors, or stuck windows. You should address any specific concerns you have about the property to the inspector before the inspection to make sure all parties understand the scope of the inspection. You should also ask the inspector what type of warranty or guarantee the inspection provides. The inspector will not normally comment on conditions such as termites, carpenter ants, carpenter beetles, carpenter bees, dry rot, fungus, mold, lead paint, asbestos, radon, methane, formaldehyde, electromagnetic radiation, etc. You should schedule any such inspections with a specialist in that field if you have any concerns about such conditions.


Mold is a microorganism that has tiny spores that are spread on the air, land and feed on organic matter. It takes many different forms, some of them benign and some of them toxic that represent a serious health threat. Some characterized as allergens are relatively benign but can provoke allergic reactions among sensitive people, and others characterized as pathogens can have adverse health effects on segments of the population such as the very young, the very elderly and people with suppressed immune systems. The molds that commonly appear on bathroom tile do not usually constitute a health threat but should be removed. Other molds that form on cellulose materials such as drywall, plaster, and wood are potentially toxic. If mold is to be found in a home it will likely be in the area of tubs, showers, toilets, sinks water heaters, evaporator coils, attics with unvented bathroom exhaust fans, and return-air compartments that draw outside air. Mold can appear as though spontaneously at any time. It is important to maintain clean air-supply ducts and to change filters as soon as they become soiled because contaminated air ducts are a common breeding ground for dust mites, rust, and other contaminants.


Asbestos is a contaminant that could be present in any home built before 1978. It is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that has been widely used in a variety of thermal insulators, including paper wraps, bats, blocks and blankets. It can also be found in products such as duct insulation and acoustical materials, plasters, siding, floor tiles, heat vents, and roofing products. Asbestos can only be identified by laboratory analysis. Single asbestos fiber is believed to cause cancer and is, therefore, considered a potential health threat. However, asbestos is considered dangerous when it is released into the air and inhaled. For this reason there is a distinction between asbestos in good condition, called non-friable, and asbestos in poor condition, called friable, which means its fibers can be easily crumbled and therefore become airborne.


Radon is a gas that results from the natural decay of radioactive materials within the soil and is believed to cause lung cancer. The gas is able to enter homes through spaces around pipes in concrete floors or through the floorboards of poorly ventilated crawlspaces, and particularly when the ground is wet and the gas cannot easily escape through the soil and disperse into the atmosphere. We cannot detect the presence of radon gas through sight or smell, and its existence can only be determined by laboratory analysis.


Lead is also a health threat. In the 1920’s it was commonly found in many plumbing systems. In fact our word “plumbing” is derived from the Latin “plumbum” which means lead. As a component of potable water pipes it can be a health hazard. Lead can be present in any home built as recently as 1940. Lead was also an active ingredient in many household paints which can be released in the process of sanding. Lead can be detected by laboratory analysis.

Most homes constructed after 1978 are assumed to be free of asbestos and many other common environmental contaminants.