What do I have to disclose when selling my home?
While you might not want to tell potential buyers everything there is to know about your home (including the fact that a few shingles are loose on the roof or that a post in the fence continuously breaks), there are some things you legally have to tell buyers, no matter how unpleasant they might be. These items that you must include in a written disclosure vary from state to state so it’s very important that you ask your real estate agent about any forms or guidelines that might be provided by the Association of Realtors in your state. Some of the most common things you’ll have to disclose are:
Deaths in the home. Different states have very different laws about this with some making it illegal to not tell potential buyers about any death in the home, while in other states you don’t have to disclose any death in the home. In Texas, if the death didn’t have anything to do with the property itself, the information does not have to be disclosed.
Nuisances. These are classified as annoying noises, smells, or sights around the property that irritate the property owners, but aren’t on the actual property itself. These nuisances could include things like train tracks, airports, industrial manufacturing plants, bad odors, smoke, landfills, and shooting ranges, to name just a few possibilities. While some states, like North Carolina and Michigan, do require that sellers disclose these nuisances, other states – such as Pennsylvania – leave the burden with the buyers to determine these nuisances for themselves.
Environmental and natural hazards. Hawaii has a law that sellers must disclose when homes are in a tsunami zone, while New York requires sellers to tell buyers if the home is in a flood plain or wetland. Again, different states have different requirements but if the home is at an increased risk of damage from a natural disaster, most states require that the seller disclose this information to any and all potential buyers.
Any information pertaining to the Homeowners’ Association. If the home is a unit in a condo building or part of another multi-unit building, there’s a good chance that there’s a Homeowners’ Association. It’s imperative to tell all buyers any and all information regarding the association, including past meeting notes and information regarding membership dues. These can often be quite costly and add greatly to the purchase price. Even when this information is not required by law to be disclosed by the sellers, it should be.
History of all repairs. While you’ll definitely want to tell potential buyers about recent repairs in order to increase the property price, you’ll also want to tell them about any repairs that have been done in the past, what exactly was done, and why. These repairs could become issues once again after the buyers have moved into the home and they need to know what to be watching out for. Water damage. Water damage can be one of the most disastrous, and most expensive, problems with a home so most states have a law in place that sellers must disclose all areas of water damage, repairs that have been done to repair it, and anything that puts certain areas at risk (like heavily watering the grass along the foundation).
Missing large items. While buyers do try to take a good look at the house and take note of everything that is or isn’t included, sometimes there are still some things that are missing and that buyers simply don’t notice during their many viewings. Things like missing water heaters, exhaust fans, and rain gutters can make it very difficult to live in a home but aren’t at the top of one’s list when they’re looking at homes. Only after they move in do they realize these essential items are missing and by then, they’re put in a very bad position. Some states, such as Michigan and Texas, have laws in place that requires sellers to provide a list of all the items that are included with the sale of the home so that buyers can read over it and determine what they will need to purchase before moving in.
Specialty disclosures. Some states have very specific conditions due to their location and the special issues or problems pertaining to that geographical area. Because termites are extremely common in Texas, the state has a law that requires sellers disclose that information, while other areas have special historical districts that place restrictions on what homeowners can and cannot do to their home in the manner of improvements. Sellers are usually required by law to disclose that information so that buyers are aware of what will be required of them upon purchasing the home.