Property Disclosures

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Property Disclosures

If you’re in the process of selling a home, you have faced an avalanche of paperwork. One of the most important documents is the Property Disclosure. And when it comes to disclosures, a dozen different real estate agents will tell you a dozen different ideas. Some will say that it’s not necessary to disclose that someone died on your property. Some will say to disclose every nut that’s been tightened and every faucet drip that’s occurred. The fact is laws govern this very issue. While they vary from state to state, there are federal laws as well, the most notable of which is regarding lead-based paint. Even three neighboring states I am licensed, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, have differences. You will receive access to the form early in the listing process. It is the sellers obligation to populate it.

The general rule of thumb is that anything that lowers the perceived value of the property or anything that would affect the buyer's decision to purchase or the price and terms the buyer offers should be disclosed: Natural hazards; flood plains; zoning changes; pollution – noise, air, ground and water; fire hazards. Specific to our New England region, Radon gas can be a natural hazard present. There are also special situations, including: sex offenders in the area; dangerous dogs in the neighborhood (i.e., pit bulls); perceived or real “haunted” status; death on the property.  However, if someone died on your property of AIDS, you may not have to disclose it since it may violate privacy and discrimination laws.

When it’s time to fill out the disclosure forms, you will need to fill them out yourself. It is best to give yourself some time and focus to complete the form. Some tips: Answer all questions to the best of your ability. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Make sure you disclose everything that you’d want disclosed to you if you were the buyer. If you don’t know the answer to a question (such as exact age of the roof if you’re not the original owner or the like), answer “Do Not Know.”  If you are unsure of a specific question, it is better to mark as "Do Not Know" than to guess. Some inexperienced sellers may believe that it’s the realtor's job to fill the form out. But in reality, it’s yours. But not having precise facts about defects you know exist does not permit you to answer “Do Not Know” to every question. This will always raise a red flag. Just use your common sense and be honest and fair.

Always remember that there are legal ramifications to the Disclosure Form. If you’ve heard a suggestion that seems too extreme one way or another, the best thing to do is consult a real estate attorney who knows your state’s disclosure laws. The form is required before prospective buyers can formulate offers. Get on it & get it back to me!