Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll be inundated with disclosures and other documents. Most of them are digitized now, so you won’t have to sift through mounds of paper as you would have done decades ago. However, it’s essential to read and understand them nonetheless.
If you’re selling your home, it’s also crucial to be thorough and honest in disclosing information about the property — the good, the bad and the ugly. These are legal disclosures, and you’re declaring by signing them that you’ve answered all questions accurately. If you leave something out, even inadvertently, it could come back to haunt you.
These disclosure documents vary by state and even by county and city. If you’re selling your home here in Florida and moving to California, you’ll notice multiple differences in the disclosure forms. However, you need to know precisely what kinds of issues you must disclose to buyers. This could range from a termite problem you had a few years back to upgrades to the flooring to a sinkhole that opened up down the street last year.
Your realtor can offer guidance about what kinds of things you need to disclose. Generally, when in doubt, it’s better to disclose something than leave it out, even if you fear that a potential buyer may back out of the deal or ask for a lower price. If you don’t disclose something and it becomes a problem for the new owners, they may be able to sue you years later.
If any major upgrades or renovations were made to the property without the proper permits, that could be a serious problem. If local building codes aren’t followed, a property could have hidden hazards.
These disclosures are no replacement for inspections. Buyers should always have their property inspected by an independent professional. They often find flaws that laypeople wouldn’t notice. They can also differentiate between cosmetic issues and those that can be dangerous or impact the property’s value.
If you are accused by a buyer of not being honest in your disclosures about your property after the sale is completed, or if you learn that the previous owner of your home failed to honestly and completely disclosure information before you completed your purchase, you should seek legal guidance. Real estate contract disputes can be costly. You should not try to handle them on your own.