We have all heard the questions… “We’ve lived here for 10 years and never had water in the basement until that really bad storm last year. Do we have to disclose that?” “The fireplace can’t be used because it needs a new liner, but it was like that when we bought it. Do we have to disclose that?” “We had a fire several years ago, but as you can see…it’s like a brand new house. Do we have to disclose that?”
The list can go on and on, but you get the idea. Since we are the real estate professionals, sellers are constantly asking us what they should or need to disclose when it comes time to put their house on the market. I don’t believe they ask us these questions because they are trying to hide something. I believe they ask because they really don’t think there is an issue with not disclosing something that was a one time occurrence or something that was repaired.
Although some jurisdictions don’t even have disclosure laws and statues and the jurisdictions that do have very different criteria, I believe that common sense should take over at some point. When in doubt, the answer is “yes”, you should disclose (unless you are in a jurisdiction that does not require disclosure and the seller directs you not to disclose certain information).
I say you should disclose because it is the right thing to do. Buyers deserve to know what they are buying. In most cases they make an offer on a property prior to having a home inspection, so they are depending on the seller’s disclosure to give them an idea as to the condition of the property. If they knew the property had lots of little (and sometimes big) issues, they probably would have made a different offer.
Another reason to disclose…neighbors. Almost every neighborhood has a neighbor who thinks they know everything about every one. Can you imagine the buyers meeting the neighbor for the first time and the neighbor asks, “so you’re the people who bought the house that caught on fire last year”. How do you think the buyers will feel if they had no idea the house they just moved into had a major fire? More than likely they will feel deceived and begin to wonder what else wasn’t told to them. Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Why not just tell buyers upfront and let them make an informed offer. In my opinion, when it comes to disclosure…if you have to ask the question, than you need to disclose it…period. Be prosperous!
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