Over the course of my career, I have seen some really interesting things. After participating in hundreds of inspections, you can only imagine what I have seen. Although I am most shocked (usually) by how some sellers participate in the home selling process when it comes to disclosure.
Disclosure laws vary state to state, but in general a seller is obligated to disclose all known material defects to a potential buyer. When I say I have been shocked it is because a home inspection is like putting someone’s home under a magnifying glass. It exposes most if not all material defects. Every now and then we will come across a seller who has not in good faith disclosed all material defects. Or in some cases, they have also gone to the trouble of trying to hide the defect. This is a big no no!
Not only will failing to disclose kill a real estate sale in the blink of an eye, it can also set a seller up for a law suit for any cost incurred by the buyer. And no one wants that, right?
So what must you disclose? My answer to this question is always the same, “When in doubt, disclose.” We coach our sellers to be extremely forthright when it comes to the condition of their home. We also go so far as to coach them to perform a pre-inspection of their home and attach it to the seller’s disclosure statement. Our goal is for the buyer and seller to enter into a contract with “eyes wide open.” And after a year of having sellers perform a pre-inspection, I can tell you that it has made for a much smoother process for both buyer and seller.
Back to the question: What must I disclose?
Here are some items that you certainly don’t want to skip over when filling out your seller’s disclosure:
1. Water leaks in the basement, crawl space, or roof.
2. Electrical safety issues.
3. Active plumbing leaks.
4. The existence of any health hazards such as radon, asbestos, or lead based paint.
5. Pest infestations such as termites or carpenter ants.
6. If the home is in a flood plain.
7. Multiple layers of roofing.
8. Mechanical disrepair when it comes to the furnace, a/c, or hot water heater.
9. A death in the home.
The last one, death in the home, is a tricky one. Several states only require this disclosure if the death was a suicide or murder. This is called a psychologically impacted property. That being said, the last thing that a seller wants is for the new owner of the home to find out from a neighbor that someone died in their new home. Whether the law requires it or not, this kind of a housewarming gift is always bad and can certainly cause bad feelings if not a law suit.
Again, “when in doubt, disclose,” is the best frame of mind to be in when completing a seller’s disclosure. Setting all legal reasons aside, isn’t it best for all parties when there are no surprises? As I have said before, I am a firm believer in putting good real estate mojo into a transaction. Mr. and Mrs. Seller: Your seller’s disclosure could be your first opportunity to plant a seed of good mojo into the sale of your home. And that seed should bear the fruit of a great real estate transaction.
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