JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- John Lewis is in the market for a house; he is not a first-time homebuyer.
"This is the third time that we have downsized," said Lewis. "We went from 5,000, down to 3,500, down to 2,900 and this is 2,000."
As in square feet, but with each purchase, Lewis said he depends on the experts to steer him from problems.
He said he trusts his realtor.
"For realtors that want to continue in business," said Lewis, "They would rather be upfront and tell you the good, the bad the ugly."
Gene Jones of ERA Dan Jones is Mr. Lewis' realtor
"The basic rule of thumb is disclose, disclose, disclose," said Jones.
But there are some things a realtor won't tell you.
Due to fair housing law:
-Realtors can't tell you demographics, race or religion.
-Realtors can't tell you about the quality of the school districts.
-Realtors can't tell you crime stats or if there's a sex offender next door.
You will have to get that information from other sources like law enforcement. And now, there's another concern: whether the property was previously a meth lab.
Pamela Key and her husband rented an apartment in St. Augustine that had previously been busted as a meth lab.
When we spoke to her last year, she told First Coast News they weren't told the history of the property before they signed a lease.
"A couple weeks after we moved in, Brent the maintenance man at the time told us he'd cleaned it up that it had been used for drugs," said Key.
Key said she was told the full story by a neighbor.
"Another lady across the way told us it had been used as a meth lab but that was never disclosed to us in any way," she said.
As a buyer, the burden is on you to search the internet for homes that are registered as a Meth Lab. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has what's a called a clandestine lab register of properties that were used for a meth lab. (See Florida's registry)
"We have a duty to disclose anything we know," said Carol Zingone.
Zingone is president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors.
"There isn't any federal law that states that you have to disclose the property has been used as a meth lab," said Zingone, "and if it is an out of town landlord, the landlord may not know. That is where an inspection comes in."
Again, it is up to you the buyer to do your "due diligence." Have someone you trust completely inspect the house before it becomes your home.
Lewis did and said he knows exactly what he's buying.
"I feel totally comfortable about this house," said Lewis.
NEFAR members use a five form report which requires the seller to disclose everything he or she knows about the property and for the buyer to review the information before closing on the sale.
First Coast News