What is the Real Estate Property Disclosure
Whether you are buying or selling a property, the Seller’s Property Condition Disclosure form is an important document in the transaction. This document is designed to protect both the Buyer and the Seller so both parties are aware of any conditions with the property that may affect the sale or decision to purchase. It gives the Seller a chance to disclose any problems with the property. It also protects the Seller from future legal action by giving them a place to disclose the condition of the property.
How Does A Seller Disclose Information
There are a variety of ways that a Seller can disclose information about their property, but the most accepted and common form is through the approved Seller’s Property Condition Disclosure Form. This form is filled out by the Seller and delivered to the potential Buyer within a specified timeframe as stated in the Purchase Contract. It is reviewed by the Buyer as part of their Due Diligence.
As a Seller, it is your responsibility to disclose everything that is important for the Buyer to know concerning the condition of the property. Seller’s can be held liable for failure to disclose information about the property even after the sale has taken place.
What Has to Be Disclosed
The disclosure form covers any defects or facts about the property that are important to the Buyer including (but not limited to):
- Roof & Structural Issues
- Gas & Other Utilities
- Septic / Sewage Issues
- Heating and Cooling Issues
- Renovations or Repairs
- Termites or other Pests
- Mold or other Moisture Issues
- HOA Details and Contact Information
- And much more…
Buyers should also cross check with the city building permits on any renovations or remodels. If the project was done without permits, it may be in violation of the code and could present a potential hazard down the road.
The disclosures cover a wide range of information about the property. In addition to the condition of the property, most Sellers take special care to disclose that square footage estimates are just that, estimates. Buyers should always obtain an independent measurement.
When Does A Buyer See The Disclosure
The Seller has to provide a copy of the Disclosure by a specific date as stated in the Real Estate Purchase Contract, usually within a day or two of having an offer accepted. It is the first timeline that is met, even before the Buyers Due Diligence deadline.
I always advise my Sellers to fill out the Disclosure as soon as we list the property so we can submit it when an offer is received. In some cases, it makes sense to have a copy of it the property so any potential Buyer can read through it before making an offer. This can be helpful if the property is in really good shape to give confidence to the Buyer. It can also be really helpful for a property that is run down because potential Buyers can read through it and know what they are dealing with before making an offer.
Real Estate Agents – Trained In The Marketing of Real Estate
When reading through the Disclosure, the first paragraph says:
Buyer and Seller are advised that the Company and its agents are trained in the marketing of real estate. Neither the Company nor its agents are trained or licensed to provide Buyer or Seller with professional advice regarding the physical condition of any property or regarding legal or tax matters. The Company and its agents strongly recommend that in connection with any offer to acquire the Property, Buyer the professional services of legal and/or tax advisors, property inspectors, surveyors, and other professionals to satisfy Buyer as to any and all aspects of the physical and legal condition of the Property. BUYER IS ADVISED NOT TO RELY ON THE COMPANY, OR ON ANY AGENTS OF THE COMPANY, FOR A DETERMINATION REGARDING THE PHYSICAL OR LEGAL CONDITION OF THE PROPERTY, including, but not limited to, legal uses of the Property, the condition of any appliances, heating/cooling equipment and systems, plumbing and electrical fixtures and equipment, moisture or other problems in the roof or foundation, sewer problems, the availability and location of utilities, the exact square footage or acreage of the Property, or the location of property lines.
Basically what that is saying is that the Buyer should obtain advice from a licensed and trained professional on any questions about the condition of the property.
Real Estate Agent and Brokerage are trained in the marketing of Real Estate, and nothing else. Buyers should always seek professional advice with any questions or concerns.
What If A Seller Lied
When it comes down to it, the information provided on the Disclosure form is provided by the Seller. If they want to mislead the Buyer about the condition of the property, it is easy to do so.
However, the Disclosure makes it clear that the Seller is obligated under law to make accurate statements about the condition of the property.
In Utah, lying on a Seller’s Disclosure in a way that induces a homebuyer to purchase your home is fraud and is punishable by law.
If you know of a water heater that went out and flooded the basement, disclose it. Don’t lie about it. Fill out the seller’s disclosures honestly and completely.
Don’t let the Seller’s Property Condition Disclosure Form intimidate you as a Seller or as a Buyer. Homes have issues that need and the disclosure form is the perfect place to disclose this information. Attempting to hide issues, even small, insignificant ones can Buyers and make it appear like you are trying to hide something more serious. Be open and honest and your Buyers will appreciate it.
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