Seller disclosure is a serious issue, one that can get you sued if you don’t know how to navigate it. Homeowners who have decided to put their property on the market may sometimes be reluctant to mention problems that may discourage buyers from purchasing it. However, a failure to do so can create a bunch of legal problems.
How Much Should You Disclose?
The tricky thing about disclosure laws is that they vary from one state to another. Sometimes even cities within the same state will have disclosure laws which differ. While it is highly recommended to seek legal advice when you’re ready to sell, here are some general guidelines that will help you decide what should be disclosed when putting your home up for sell.
Disclose Inspection Reports
Most states in the U.S. do not currently require home sellers to provide inspection reports, but it is highly recommended. Buyers would be wise to request it before shelling out cash for a property, but many will not. Providing an inspection report to a potential buyer can help you avoid a long and costly legal battle down the road. It covers you as the seller because once the potential buyer has them in their possession they can’t come back later and say they weren’t warned.
While many sellers think that it is a good idea to be Machiavellian and reveal as little as possible when selling their home, this mentality can backfire in a costly way. This is the one area where it is important to be transparent about the condition of the home, good or bad. Remember, if the home has issues the price tag can always be adjusted to reflect it, but if you deceive the buyer you may pay for it later on.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to selling your home. The problem with a legal battle is that it will be your word versus the buyers, and it can be difficult for the court to know what you did or did not know. For example, claiming ignorance about the termites in your home of the susceptibility to flooding in the basement may be difficult to sell in court, and even if you somehow win the case, you would still be hit with costly legal fees that could be crippling.
The best way to approach selling a home is to not play the ignorance card. Make it your responsibility to find out what issues exist with the home, and either get them resolved before selling the property or put it on the market with the full disclosure of what the problem is. Your transparency will actually work to your benefit, making many buyers interested in doing business with you due to your honesty. While there is a time where you should not reveal too much information to others, this is not a good idea when selling a home. You should essentially be an open book, as this is the best way to avoid litigation.