What To Know About Real Estate Disclosures

If you're placing your home on the market, you will very likely encounter a disclosure sooner or later. While a real estate agent can assist you in completing the disclosure forms, you should understand that it is your responsibility to accurately and honestly complete the paperwork. To learn more about this important facet of placing up homes for sale, read on.

What must be disclosed?

1. Lead-Based Paint: When it comes to federal law, you must sign a statement disclosing the use of lead-based paint. While the law states that a disclosure is required if the home was built prior to 1978, you may want to include this disclosure regardless of your home's age, just to be on the safe side. Lead-based paint is still for sale in the United States, so there is always the potential for danger from the paint.

2. Material Facts: This type of disclosure has wide-ranging possibilities, and in general it covers anything that you believe would influence the buyer's decision to buy the home, the price of the home, the terms of the sale and offers to buy. If you know about it, you must disclose it to potential buyers. Some examples of material facts that should be disclosed to buyers include:

  • Previous water or flood damage, even if there no current signs of damage.
  • A crack in the floor due to foundation damage, now covered by carpeting.
  • Knowledge concerning homeowner association rules, such as no vehicle parking in the driveway or rules about paint colors.
  • Past termite issues.
  • Problems with major systems, such as the heating and cooling, electrical or plumbing.
  • Knowledge of previous mold damage, even if it has been remediated.

3. Deaths in the Home: Most buyers expect to be told about any previous deaths, and most are not unduly alarmed or surprised by disclosures of natural deaths. When it comes to suicides or murders, however, some potential buyers might not want to go forward with the purchase if a violet or gruesome death was disclosed.

4. Miscellaneous External Disclosures: In some states, you must disclose the potential for the property being subject to flooding, earthquakes, zoning issues, nearby fire issues, noise issues, pollution, and more. For example, if a manufacturer that makes plastics is located nearby, you may need to alert the buyer about the potential for odors, traffic, noise, and fire.

5. Previous Repairs: While it may not be entirely necessary to inform the buyer about every repair you've made the home, doing so for many repairs could work in your favor. Buyers are interested in learning about what has been done to the home, why and how well it worked. For example, you might disclose that you discovered a leak under your sink and called a plumbing company. The leak was fixed and has not leaked since. Other important repairs the buyer want to know about include:

  • Roof replacement or repairs
  • Upgrades to the plumbing or electrical system
  • Termite damage repair and a record of clean inspections since that time.

Honesty is the best policy, so speak to your real estate agent for more information about what needs to be disclosed and why.