What Information Should I Disclose to Potential Homebuyers?

Posted by Florida Realty Marketplace on Friday, September 13th, 2019 at 8:00am

Caveat emptor is Latin for ‘may he beware” and applies to the sale of real estate property in most states. It’s sometimes referred to as “buyer beware”. This is not legal advice, and you should consult an attorney if you have concerns after reading this. However, from a seller’s perspective this is what should be disclosed in the homes for sale in Winter Garden, FL.

If In Doubt, Share

As a general rule, if you ask “should this be disclosed?”, it probably should. While disclosure might put the sale of the property in question, it’s better than concealing the information and having it revealed in a lawsuit later. You never want to have a conversation that starts out “But, Your Honor”, do you?

Most buyers will hire a home inspector if they are concerned about the condition of the house. While this is a smart decision, disclosure can be a great step toward protecting yourself as the seller, too. If you share information, and the buyer decides to buy after their investigation, you’re not responsible after closing in most cases.

What Does the Law Require Me to Disclose?

Federal law requires the seller to disclose any lead-based paint they are aware of in the house. Typically, there are disclosure forms provided by local real estate agents, and federal law says the seller must sign before it’s delivered to the buyers. If they don’t, it’s not a valid disclosure and could be subject to fines. Trust your agent to steer you through this one.

Next, would be any State-required disclosures. These can range from past flood or other water damage, mold, possible condemnation (involves eminent domain), natural disaster possibilities, such as earthquakes, pollution concerns, or if it’s subject to historic district regulations. Finally, some states require disclosure of criminal activity or death that has occurred in the house. Check with your agent if you know of any history that falls in these categories.

Specific Items to Disclose

Water damage or mold can be the worst thing for some people. Some folks are susceptible to mold and will know if there is any in the house almost instantly. Others will take some time to feel the effects, but it’s still a real problem for some owners. If water damage occurred, it’s best to get in front of it and let everyone know so it can be repaired.

Hazardous conditions exist when chemicals or processes have been used in the house, like methamphetamine production. But that’s not the only thing that needs to be disclosed. Are there any buried fuel tanks? Was there ever a business that used chemicals or processes run in the detached garage or other outbuildings? These should definitely be discussed.

Termite damage can be really scary, but if treated for and bonded, it can be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. A termite bond can be inexpensive compared to the damage those little guys can do to a house.

Insurance claims can be revealed by a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) Report, and any claims on a property stick with it for up to seven years. Think of it like a credit report for a house. Insurance companies will certainly request a report, and it affects the rate the buyers will have to pay. Be open about it, because it’s not something you can hide.

Repairs made should be disclosed so the home inspector can make sure it’s been resolved in a good, workmanship-like way. This would apply to work done by contractors and the sellers themselves.

Updates and expansions like adding a bathroom or finishing a basement would be disclosed as well. It’s best to get permits for that sort of work, too. If the work was done without permits it can be a problem. However, usually, it’s something that can be resolved with a call to the county or city to find out how to best handle it.

The bottom line, it’s in the seller’s best interest to disclose things so the buyer can satisfy themselves prior to closing. After closing, it becomes the buyer's problem so long as the seller has not tried to cover it up.

Don’t navigate this process alone! The experts at Florida Realty Marketplace have plenty of experience helping sellers disclose critical information. Contact us today to speak to a real estate professional.

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