Home sellers should resist any urge to fudge the facts when it comes to the home disclosures they are required to share with buyers. While home sellers might already know it’s wrong to lie about your leaky roof or dated electrical system, other potentially half-truths are less obvious.
Disclosure vs. Disclaimer
Using the same form, a seller may choose the route of disclosure or disclaimer. A disclaimer means that the seller offers the property “without representations and warranties as to its condition,” so it absolves the seller of responsibility, should a defect be later discovered.
However, even when choosing to offer a disclaimer, a seller must reveal latent defects of which they are aware.
There are federal laws requiring certain disclosures from sellers. For instance, if you’re selling a home built before 1978, you must inform buyers that the home could contain lead paint. And many states have specific disclosure laws, as well.
In general, a typical seller’s disclosure will include information on the state of the roof, any history of flooding or severe leaks, defects in the foundation, pest infestations, issues with plumbing, or boundary disputes.
If someone has lived in a property for several years, buyers should generally expect a seller to complete the disclosure section. Sellers would generally be aware of any major defects after living in a home for many years. If an owner chooses to sell with a disclaimer only (instead of a disclosure), buyers might want to think twice about whether the property is a good investment.
To forestall any future issues, here are some things to avoid saying—or writing—when describing your home to possible buyers.
1. All the appliances work
Even the tiniest details matter when it comes to home sales. So whether you’ve got a bum burner on the stove or your ice maker isn’t working, be sure to tell buyers the whole truth about your appliances’ health.
2. This neighborhood is so peaceful
While it could be tempting to hide unpleasant details about the quality of life in your home, you need to be upfront about any drama you’ve had with the neighbors or any major sources of noise.
3. All the renovations are trustworthy
One surprisingly common fib? Sellers stretching the truth about a remodel. Most communities insist that you have a permit before you are allowed to remodel your home. If it comes to light during the home inspection that un-permitted work was done, it will lead to major issues—and could scuttle the deal.
4. Mold problems? Nah.
You’ll have to reveal if your home has been subjected to mold or pest infestations—even if you eliminated them.
5. Nothing to see here
A seller with a home that has been through a natural disaster or that was the scene of a heinous crime must share the gritty facts with buyers. You can’t fudge or omit a property’s history. Hiding the information can make the property seem more attractive, but it risks putting the buyer in an unwanted situation.”
When working with buyers, the Whit Harvey Group strongly suggests having a thorough inspections done, making the deal contingent on inspection, even if the home is being sold as-is.
Sometimes a seller will sell a home in as-is condition, which telegraphs to prospective buyers that the property likely needs work (which could range from a thorough cleaning to a major renovation or rebuild). It also informs the buyer that the seller will not negotiate the price based on any issues with the condition the buyer may find with a professional home inspection.
If the seller agrees to a professional "information-only" home inspection contingency, then the buyer will have the right to cancel the deal if the property doesn’t pass inspection, or major issues are uncovered.
Sound confusing? Always work with a professional Realtor when buying a home! With over 45 years of experience, Whit Harvey can guide you through the process and help you make an informed decision.