When you buy a car, there are “lemon laws” that protect customers from fraudulent sales. When you buy a house, Tennessee’s real estate laws also help you understand what you’re signing up to own. Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you make in life.

Tennessee requires house sellers to notify you of known problems with a residential property disclosure form. This includes whether the home was built to code, existing plumbing or electrical issues and any infestations. However, the sellers might not know about every problem with the property. They could even illegally hide certain flaws in order to make a sale.

Although property disclosures can inform your decision, they are far from foolproof. To avoid getting locked in to ownership of a house with dangerous or expensive defects, you can take additional measures to find any risks.

First, a responsible real estate agent should guide you through critical tours of the home. Your agent may be able to point out both highlights and problems without pressuring you to be overly optimistic toward the house. In fact, you might want to bring a friend or family member to join you for initial walkthroughs. The more eyes on the property, the greater likelihood you will notice visible flaws.

After you place an offer on the home, you should schedule an inspection with a licensed professional. An inspector will examine the property in-depth to test out pipes, windows, electrical connections and the furnace, among other features. It’s a good idea to attend the inspection so the inspector can show you exact concerns. They should have the expertise to see technical errors that you couldn’t have possibly caught during your tour. Although inspections usually aren’t free, this is typically a good investment in the safety of your home.

While going through these steps can increase your chances of sniffing out a “lemon,” some homebuyers still end up with extremely problematic properties. Whether the seller concealed known defects or the inspector was negligent, you might require legal action to recover the damages.