Years ago, buying a house was considered by the law to be a case of caveat emptor, or “buyer beware.” Home sellers weren’t under any obligation to tell potential buyers about problems or defects with their property, and so, many of them didn’t.
Unfortunately, buyers sometimes got stuck with properties that had a laundry list of serious problems which they knew nothing about- until after they had plunked down their hard-earned cash for a house that was now worth much less than they had originally bargained for.
Today, though, it’s different. The laws do a much better job of protecting home buyers than they used to, and rightly so. Most states now require home sellers to disclose anything they know about their property that could affect its value- such as roof leaks, construction defects, title problems, and numerous other things.
As a seller, it might seem tempting at first to gloss over or sugarcoat any problems your property might have. But really, there’s no need to do that. Besides, NOT disclosing a problem could lead to far worse consequences down the road (such as a lawsuit) rather than simply dealing with it upfront, anyway.
Today’s savvy buyers understand that no house is perfect (and if they don’t already understand that, their Realtor® should set them straight). Not even brand-new homes are perfect! That’s why any house that buyers consider purchasing will come with a seller’s disclosure (with very few exceptions, like bank-owned properties- which are another whole discussion).
The document that will be used to inform potential buyers about your home’s potential defects is called a seller’s disclosure. It’s a document that’s used to tell a potential buyer about damages, defects, and any other problems or issues that could affect the value of your property. Your listing agent will provide you with a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire that asks questions about your house, the land, and related issues.
Be sure to complete this document honestly, thoroughly, and to the best of your ability (based on everything you know about the property).
After you complete the seller’s disclosure, it will be available for buyers’ agents to give to their buyers to read, sign, and acknowledge. Then, all potential buyers will have a true understanding about the property’s flaws, and you will have a clear conscience about selling it to them. (And don’t worry; the laws state that you won’t be held liable for any issues that you didn’t disclose regarding the property that you didn’t actually know about.)
In the end, providing a complete seller’s disclosure for all your potential buyers won’t hinder your sale; it will actually help it!
Rather than making potential buyers change their minds about buying your house, a completed seller’s disclosure actually tends to put buyers’ minds at rest, knowing that you’ve told them in advance about any problems or issues that you’re aware of.
Being informed about potential problems upfront tends to make potential buyers less skittish and likely to disappear. If you let those buyers find out about your home’s defects later on (or during the home inspection), or worse yet- after the closing, you’re very likely to end up with bigger problems later on.
Once potential buyers know about possible problems with your house, they’re free to concentrate on all the things that they LOVE about your property. Then they’ll be more relaxed, and a lot more likely to make a great offer on it.