Fill your potential home buyer in on the potential issues with your home
If you’ve received an offer on your house, congratulations! You’re ready to move onto the final stages of the selling process, including fulfilling your disclosure obligations.
Property sellers are legally required to provide buyers with information about the home’s renovations, damage, or other factors that may negatively affect the property value. If you purposefully conceal information related to your home’s value, you could face a lawsuit and criminal charges.
While disclosures typically happen after a home is in escrow—the buyer usually receives this information as part of the closing process—it’s never too early to fill out your disclosure documents to include any of the following issues.
If your house has a mold problem, then your future buyer should be the first person to know about it. Make your home buyer aware of the presence of hazardous agents like black mold that should be addressed by a local mold removal or remediation company.
While mold is a fairly common household problem, it can ruin an investment in a hurry. Check for warning signs of mold, such as a pungent smell or wall or ceiling discoloration, to catch the infestation before it gets worse.
2. Termite Damage
If your house has ever been treated for termite damage, you need to disclose the details of the infestation and treatment. Plus, most home inspections include a probe for termite damage, both current and past, so it’s better to disclose the issue early and not try to hide it. You might want to hire a local pest control company to evaluate the foundation boards before you list your home to avoid any surprises in the home inspection report.
3. Water Damage
Water intrusion can be a make-or-break factor in a real estate deal. Interior flooding or leaks can damage personal possessions, erode the home’s structure, and even cause mold growth.
With that in mind, sellers should disclose past or present leaks or current water damage to potential buyers. Some states require you to disclose any plumbing problems, roof leaks, water in the basement or crawl space, and damage from flooding.
4. Presence of Lead-Based Paint
If your house was built before 1978, it may still have lead-based paint, which is a potential health hazard. The lead from paint, paint chips, and dust can cause a myriad of health issues in children and adults, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires all sellers to disclose the presence of lead-based paint to prospective buyers.
If you’re not sure whether your home has lead-based paint, a professional home inspector can examine and test your walls for the hazardous material.
5. A Death in the Home
When it comes to the tough subject of disclosing a death in the home, follow the guidelines set by your state. Some states require sellers to confirm whether any type of death happened in the home, while other states only require disclosure of past suicides or violent crimes.
Even if your state doesn’t require disclosure of a death, it might be worth erring on the side of caution and being forthcoming about it with potential buyers. That way, you avoid accusations of negligence down the road and build a trusting relationship with your buyer.
6. Natural Disaster Zone
Suppose you live in a state that’s prone to earthquakes and other unpreventable forces of nature. If the house is in a natural disaster zone, you’ll likely have to fill out a Natural Hazards Disclosure before selling your house.
The six zones covered in the California code are flood hazard zones as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, potential flooding zone or dam failure inundation area, high fire hazard severity zone, wildland fire area or state fire responsibility area, earthquake fault zone, and seismic hazard zone. Check your state’s code to determine whether you’ll need to provide your buyer with this essential information.
7. Environmental Hazards
Does your home have a present and known environmental contamination? If so, you’ll need to provide your home buyer with all of the necessary details in accordance with your state’s laws.
For example, some states require that sellers disclose whether their home was formerly condemned as a location for the production of methamphetamine. In other places, you’ll need to disclose if the property contains toxic substance spills, radon, or has ever been a landfill site.
8. Neighborhood Nuisances
There’s nothing worse than moving to a new place and discovering something unsettling about its surroundings. That’s why home sellers have to disclose any nuisances around the property that could bother or harm new occupants.
While these disclosures vary by state, some designated “nuisances” include landfills, farms, airports, shooting ranges, and any nearby business—commercial, industry, or military—that may produce noises, odors, or smoke.
9. Governance by a Homeowners Association
If your home falls under the purview of a homeowners or neighborhood association, you need to disclose that information and its bylaws to potential buyers. Participation in a homeowners or neighborhood association often means annual or monthly fees, as well as rules that might be prohibitive to any changes a home buyer may want to make in the future. Since these details factor into a buyer’s decision to purchase a house, you’ll need to give them the full rundown of HOA or NA information.
10. Self-Made Repairs
Let’s say your former deck rotted down to the joists, and you replaced the whole structure on your own. You’ll need to disclose that kind of major repair to buyers so they can understand what repairs have been made and what potential issues—like water intrusion in the wooden deck boards—to be on the lookout for in the future. This is also a good place to mention upgrades you’ve completed to validate your asking price.
11. Other Possible Disclosures
Along with the main disclosures listed above, you should also provide your buyer with any additional information about the property that may be helpful to know. If there is a creek or a sidewalk near your home, there’s an element to disclose. You’ll also want to let the buyer know if your home is considered a historic property or located in a designated historic district because it may affect what kind of exterior alterations or repairs the new homeowner can make.