A Seller’s Disclosure helps protect the buyer from defects or problems with the home and surrounding property. The Seller’s Disclosure provides a list of any known problems or issues, providing the buyer with advance notice of any repairs that may need to be done. Not only does the disclosure inform buyers, but it also protects the sellers from any future legal actions. The Sellers Disclosure is usually provided to a buyer before an offer. However, in some markets it is provided once the offer is accepted. Smart sellers provide this disclosure before an offer. This saves both the seller and buyer time, hassle and expense by preventing deals from falling apart once they are in escrow. Buyers are required to sign off on all disclosures and reports. So it’s important to review the documents carefully and ask questions if you need to.
Sellers are only required to report what they know. They are not held responsible if they answer “no” or “unknown” to one or more disclosure questions. The disclosure paperwork defines the scope of liability for the seller, who “is not liable for any error, inaccuracy or omission for information that is not within his/her actual knowledge.” For example, a seller could legitimately be unaware of a serious problem- like a cracked foundation or termites deep in the walls or a roof on the verge of leaking. Under those circumstances, in most cases, the seller wouldn’t be held responsible. Standard disclosures include existence of pets, termite problems, any history of property disputes and or malfunctions with major systems or appliances.
Federal Law requires certain disclosures, such as existence of asbestos or lead-based paint in the home, or other known health or safety risks. A typical Sellers Disclosure will include the following topics/areas of concern regarding the home.
Structural, Electrical and Plumbing issues
Hazards such as radon, toxic mold, asbestos and lead-paint
Flood danger or existing damage from floods
Property issues such as soil condition and contamination
Title, property rights and ownership