There are a seemingly endless number of tasks and to-do’s when selling your home – preparing the house, taking photos, listing the home, open houses, showings, and so much more. No matter where you are selling your home there is always real estate “paperwork” (it’s weird we still call it paperwork since it is mostly digital now) in the form of contracts, disclosures, and advisories. One of the toughest choices when completing all of the paperwork is determining what needs to be disclosed to the buyers by the sellers.
Regardless of whether you are filling out California’s Transfer Disclosure Statement, a California state mandated seller disclosure form, or Texas’s Seller Disclosure Notice (TREC OP-H), we recommend you take our advice and disclose anything and everything that might affect the desirability of the home. That means if there was a large construction project, you should disclose that to the buyers. If there was smoke damage from a fire, you should disclose that to the buyers. If your cat made pawprints in the patio cement when it was being poured, you should disclose that to the buyers.
Aside from the fact that it is just the right thing to do, the other reason you should always err on the side of disclosure is because in most states the law requires it. The reason state laws require disclosure is because, unlike when buying a car, the cost to inspect a home thoroughly would cost thousands of dollars and would require opening up walls, ceilings, appliances, and more. Imagine you are buying a home and the previous seller took out a load bearing wall. For you to discover that you would need to either open up every part of the ceiling or to pull blueprints of the property from the city and to have both a structural engineer and an architect review both the blueprints and make new plans to determine what changes, if any, were made to the home and whether those changes impacted the structural integrity of the home. Now imagine that same home you wanted to test the electrical, plumbing, foundation, and the HVAC system. The costs and damage to the home to test just a handful of items would be so costly no one would ever buy or sell a home again especially when you consider at the end of it you have a home which needs to be repaired from all of the holes in the walls and ceilings from testing the property. Because of this time intensive, costly process to inspect a home, states have shifted away from buyer beware laws toward seller disclosure laws.
Sellers who fail to disclose changes or repairs to something that could impact the desirability of a home open themselves up to costly civil litigation and damages which if determined to be fraudulently withheld could also open them up to treble or punitive damages.
For all parties involved, disclosure is the best and safest approach to selling a home.