"One of the things that's happening now is every house is in 'perfect condition,'" Irwin says. "The sellers really want to get rid of the properties, so they're failing to disclose any real problems."
Take the direct approach, he says. Ask: "Is there a problem with this house?"
Irwin recommends reminding sellers that with inspections and disclosures, chances are you'll find any problems. "So if the sellers just get it out in the open, they'll avoid wasting your time and theirs," he says.
Some sellers' agents recommend a home inspection before putting the home on the market, Boring says. If one has been done, ask to read it.
Some states, such as Texas, mandate disclosure forms in which sellers have to reveal any issues or problems with the house, says James Foltz, who recently bought a home there.
In his case, the disclosure not only provided information, but it also started a dialogue with the seller. Foltz learned that there had been a problem and that it had been fixed. In the end, Foltz says, "It wasn't that big a deal."