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Protecting Yourself from Real Estate Fraud: An Interview with Marshall Tauber of the Law Offices of Marshall Tauber

Tell us a little bit about your firm and the areas of law you practice.

I opened Law Offices of Marshall Tauber in 1983 as a general practice located then in Waterford Township. Prior to that I had worked for a downtown Detroit-based law firm and had several freelance projects going when the opportunity to open my office came about. In 1987 we moved the firm to Bloomfield Hills and have been in this area ever since. I began to narrow the focus of the practice to residential and commercial real estate, criminal defense and traffic-related matters, probate and family business start-ups, and also succession planning which includes wills, trusts, and estates.

What are some of the biggest regrets you've seen new Michigan home buyers have when it comes to nondisclosure issues?

The biggest regrets I have seen new buyers of homes in Michigan experience usually comes from not realizing that everything in a home sale is subject to negotiation and that the buyers should find an attorney to assist in the purchase from the outset--meaning before a purchase offer is signed and submitted. Many buyers believe that lawyers are too expensive and that they should limit the lawyer's involvement if they decide they need one. That's actually a costly error because in the long run they may be cutting off their chance to engage in negotiations that could later prove to have been very favorable--so opportunities to better the deal are lost once the purchase offer is accepted.

Can you briefly explain what the most common cases of fraud or concealment are?

First of all, fraud and/or concealment is typically not a factor in most home sales occurring in this area if the buyers and sellers are dealing with reputable and experienced local real estate professionals. Even in most "for sale by owner situations," there are few incidents of fraud or concealment, but where there are such instances they usually involve failures of disclosure by sellers of certain problems or defects with mechanical systems, roofing and foundation leaks.

Often, these problems do not reveal themselves even when the purchaser hires a professional home inspection, and often the home inspectors guaranty is limited to a refund of the inspector's fee if it turns out that the inspector's opinion about the condition of the home proves to be incorrect. The other type of defect that occurs most often in "for sale by owner" homes are title defects, and again, those situations can be avoided if purchasers exercise a "buyer beware" philosophy and hire an experienced residential real estate attorney before signing a purchase offer or agreement. In both of these instances, good attorneys can potentially save their clients thousands of dollars and a great deal of heartache and misery if they are involved early in the purchase process.

What are one or two key things that not every buyer may know about Michigan law on residential real estate transactions in those cases?

First, that purchasers may have a right to cancel upon discovery of hidden defects if they are detected early enough, and second, that sellers can cancel a sale and retain a deposit if the purchasers have misrepresented a material fact, such as their ability to pay the contract price or a fact concerning a purchaser's identity.

How is an "As-Is" sale different when it comes to fraud or concealment?

"As is" sales make no promises or representations concerning the condition of the property, what you see is what you might get and the seller is not under an obligation to represent the condition of the premises. This may be necessary in many foreclosed property transactions.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your firm?

I may be contacted by phone at 248-723-5551 or by email sent to marshalltauber@yahoo.com. First telephone consultations are free, but the best advice is always more thorough, complete, and reliable so appointments are encouraged.

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