What Must I Disclose When Selling My Home?

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Published date: Oct 04, 2016
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model house your deposit money

For decades, buying a home was a home buyer beware business - sellers didn't have to tell the purchaser a thing. Termite damage? Hush-hush. Leaky roof? Make sure to show the home when it's dry outside. Murder room? Never happened. 

However, states eventually started requiring home sellers to disclose certain facts about their property, especially ones that might reasonably make a difference in whether or not the buyer would still want the home.

Disclosure Statements 101

  1. Different property disclosure statements apply to every US state individually.
  2. You must hand in your Residential Property Disclosure Form in a written form. In most real estate markets, your house buyer will receive the disclosure after you take the offer.
  3. A disclosure is not the same as a house inspection report.
  4. You have to disclose negative aspects of your property according to your best knowledge! You are not required to conduct a special investigation to find every defect!
  5. The seller has to provide such a statement before listing their property on the market, and after accepting the buyer’s offer.

What are the rules?

Your state may have a mandatory or voluntary disclosure. Still, even in states where it is not mandated, a disclosure is a good idea as it can prevent you from having to deal with a lawsuit. A lawyer in your jurisdiction can advise you. Rules vary by state.

Did you know that in certain states, such as Wyoming, Arkansas, Alabama, North Dakota, and West Virginia, the house seller isn’t legally obliged to make anything known about the property’s physical condition? These are the Caveat Emptor States (let the buyer be aware), and the term refers to the contract law in charge of a real estate’s sale after the closing date. Explicitly, the piece of legislation recommends house hunters be alert when signing a real estate deal. You might wanna know more details about disclosures on real estate in some great US states to find out your selling options.

All in all, in most states, you can easily comply with disclosure obligations by filling out seller disclosure forms. They will include a range of questions: for example, whether there has been fire, wind, or flood damage that required repair if the property is in an earthquake fault zone, or if a death has occurred on the property within the last three years.

You can answer yes, no, or I don't know. The form’s purpose is to disclose all of the information you know already; you don't have to go looking for answers to the "I don't know" questions. Just be truthful, as the disclosure form is expected to be attached to the sale contract, lying could land you in hot water later.

What do I need to disclose?

woman looking holding pot under leaking

Material facts about the property for sale that could affect the market price or impact the home buyer's decision to purchase the home are the things that need to be disclosed. Think about things like plumbing, sewage, and water pipe issues and leaks (past or present); termite or carpenter ant infestation; roofing defects or leaks; HVAC problems; foundation or drainage issues; title irregularities; and issues with neighbors. Ask yourself what you would want to know if you were the home buyer, and ask your real estate agent or lawyer for advice as well. 

Basically, any structural defects or legal issues should be disclosed. Federal law will also require disclosure and time for testing if there is a reason to believe the house may have lead-based paint, lead pipes or repairs to pipes, or other toxic materials, including radon, mercury, asbestos, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde. 

Less frequent disclosure entries

Unlike the more typical seller disclosures mentioned above, extraordinary ones seldom fall inside of the “real property” definition. In some cases, the house is subject to zoning disputes, and or the property line has not been appropriately defined. Some sellers may disclose that the house was a crime scene.

You can also indicate that the property lies in a bad rep neighborhood in the statement. In other cases, they may disclose that the house is in the proximity of toxic materials storage. Also, the seller may report that their property is part of the Homeowners Association, which entails certain community obligations.

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Avert unpleasant surprises with a pre-listing inspection!

builder inspector looking to new property

It’s all about creating a detailed property selling plan and thinking one step ahead!

Before selling a house, have your own pre-inspection scheduled as soon as possible! Therefore, you will know any issues in time to have them repaired. If you start thinking about it, this preventive measure can bring you nothing but advantages. Let’s suppose you followed through with your realtor’s advice, and you could sell your home quickly. Oftentimes, a fast sale implies that you have found an interested buyer who pays upfront instead of a mortgage. Then, you have to act soon. And, once you have a professional inspection document, you will not have to waste time and energy with that anymore! 

Even if you re-consider the sale or postpone it, you find out the actual state of your home by having it inspected. Be sure, though, that you select an expert house inspector. If you don’t know any, contact your local real estate agent who can recommend a great one!

In addition, you may create and complete your own repair plan with a pre-listing examination. You can implement home improvements having the greatest impact on your house! Even small houses can be upgraded with easy home improvement ideas! There is no need to list the property until you have ensured that it is in good condition. You'll be able to place your house on the real estate market, knowing that any burning issues have been addressed.

What happens if I don't disclose?

If you fail to disclose known flaws, you could later be sued by the home buyer once the defect has been exposed. You could be held responsible for the costs of repairs and other damages or even be ordered to take the property back via an invalidated sale. You might even have to pay punitive damages to the home buyer.

While the home buyer, a real estate agent, or bank may require a home inspection, sellers do not have to do one unless it is in the contract. Since you only have to disclose things you know about, an exhaustive search for problems is not your job. However, honesty is the best policy when it comes to the things you do know about. And most homebuyers do go the home inspection route to ensure the property is to their liking. Feel free to read our blog about selecting a home inspector.

The aftermath of the inspection

handed small gray house

Can a house buyer have any objections about the results of a home inspection? House hunters will pick their own inspection company, so there should be no post-inspection misunderstandings. Sometimes a seller may believe that the report is false or misrepresentative for their property. Regardless of the home inspection outcomes, inspectors should not advise purchasers on whether or not to proceed with the acquisition. Auditors are only responsible for the inspection and an accurate account of their conclusion.

Let’s suppose they did uncover some significant flaws in your property. How long does your buyer have after a house exam to request repairs? Typically, it takes 5-10 business days to manage the inspection and submit a written request for any house improvements.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, home inspections can reveal hidden and severe defects on your private property, having ‘catastrophic’ repercussions. Either you have to lower the house’s initial price considerably or invest a fortune in a facelift. 

For this reason, the most practical and thoughtful way to dodge disclosure problems is bringing in a skillful real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of the business. A realtor will bring you up-to-date with state laws and supply you with proper forms accordingly. Not sure about what to disclose? An agent will guide you through that topic too!

Do you have a personal experience to share with us about your disclosure and a home inspection? Please write it down in the comment section below!

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