To Disclose or Not to Disclose

What the Seller’s Real Property Disclosures Are Really All About

When buying your home, the disclosures are a key piece of information – a history of the home, all in one handy document that will help you decide whether or not to move forward with the sale. And then comes time to sell, and often we end up wondering where we draw the line. What must be disclosed, and what might be too much?

The seller’s real property disclosures are required for all residential sales, and state law requires that all material facts are disclosed. A material fact is any fact defect, or condition, past or present, that would be expected to measurably affect the value of the property to a reasonable person. Material facts are things the seller has knowledge and control of, things that can be observed from visible and accessible areas, and sometimes things that have happened on the property.

An agent recently told us about the 142-page disclosure document from hell. The homeowner that wrote it was, unsurprisingly, an attorney. And a smart seller. Sure, a big scary disclosure document full of attachments and records is an intimidating read and might scare a buyer off, but as a seller, it’s better to disclose now than to be sued later for something that you didn’t think was material.

Hairy areas include deaths on the property – while it’s not required that a natural death be disclosed, most people do disclose it. A violent death should always be disclosed. More is more – think of it this way: the first thing your buyer is going to do upon moving in is meet the neighbors. The first thing the neighbors are going to do is tell them everything they know about their new home. You want to make sure there are no surprises.

Disclosures aren’t required for sales to a co-owner; spouse, parent, or child; sale by devise, descent or court order; foreclosures; sale by a lessor or lessee when land converts; first sale of a new property or of condos that are sold with a current public report. We say when in doubt, disclose. But maybe not 142-pages worth.

Photo credit: Olivier Le Queinec