When you have to sell a house there's this tricky little form that goes along with it called the "sellers disclosure form". Most sellers will give you a disgusted look anytime you suggested this form but it is mandatory in most if not all real estate transactions. Even as a homeowner, if you are selling the home as is, you still have to disclose what you know about the property and, if you choose not to disclose something that you have knowledge of, it could come back to bite you in the butt.
But, what all do you have to disclose?
Repairs and remodels.
If the home has had nature remodels, additions or structural repairs that you know of you must put that in the seller's disclosure. Whether or not you had a permit pulled for the work done, you still have to disclose that it was done. Now, this doesn't mean every little light bulb change out or socket plate replacement, but, if you've done anything to the structure of the property that could affect the integrity such as building a deck, installing major appliances with new wiring or plumbing, taking out or removing load bearing walls or adding on rooms including bathrooms or parts of kitchens or bedrooms, this all should be disclosed in the sellers disclosure form.
If the home has had any damage from water leaks, natural disasters, fire, or other extenuating circumstances, even if someone ran into the house with a car, the future buyer needs to be aware of this.
Most homes built after 1978 do not have lead-based paint and homeowners that have an older home may not even know it existed in the home at one time. Chances are it's been painted over multiple times so it's fairly safe unless you have pets or small children gnawing on paint chips and the walls. If you don't know, you can simply say that you don't but, if you are aware of lead-based paint, you have to mention that you know about it.
Radon is a chemical element the comes from the natural breakdown of uranium. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil but in some cases, well water may be a source of radon. Depending on where you are in the country, radon testing may be required in the home inspection. If the house has high radon levels, which one in 15 American homes can test high for radon gas, it's not that easy to get rid of. Most homeowners don't realize there may be radon in the soil but if you have a well, it's important to get this tested. This doesn't necessarily mean that buyers will walk away from the deal after finding out there is elevated radon levels but they can negotiate with the homeowner to have a radon mitigation system installed and reduced radon test results before closing on the property.
Poor neighborhood or bad neighbors.
If you don't like your neighbors, you don't have to tell the next buyers. Buyers should do their own due diligence and find out for themselves if the buyer down the street is a hoarder with junker cars in the front yard or if the dogs barking incessantly throughout the night. However, in 1992 there was a court case that held sellers responsible for disclosing neighbors "pattern of offensive and noxious behaviors", which can include the operation of noisy equipment, or if there is some offensive or dangerous behavior in the neighborhood that the homeowner is aware of. This is a slippery slope and a tricky subject so it's important to navigate it with your real estate agent.
Your financial situation.
This is definitely something that the buyers don't need to be aware of. They won't have access or information on your bank accounts or even why you are selling the property.
Disclosing whether or not you think the home is haunted can fall under an umbrella of material facts. Most real estate laws require sellers to disclose material facts, which covers repairs, additions, and construction. But chances are a seller would not need to disclose whether or not the homeowner feels the house is haunted, but this can vary from county to county. It also depends on how famous the haunting could be. If you're selling a historical home that has a reputation for being haunted, that probably should come up somewhere in the disclosure form.
Death in the house.
If you are aware of a death in your house you may have to disclose it based on the state in which you live. Each state and county even have different laws. If an older person simply passed away in the home, that might not be as important to know as a horrific murder or homicide happening in the house. Some buyers to care less what others are extremely superstitious.
For Buyers: What do Sellers Try and Hide?
Again, state laws vary greatly but in the state of Florida, sellers are legally required to disclose known facts that materially affect the value of the property, and this could include drug-related paraphernalia or activity if it has affected the structural integrity of the property. For instance, if there was a meth lab in the basement, that will greatly affect the air quality and structure of the property, however, if previous homeowners lit up a joint from time to time, that's probably not required to be disclosed.
Again, it's important to discuss all of this with your real estate agent. You don't have to give everything away, but you do have to be honest and disclose as much as legally required.
Have a question about the seller's disclosure form? Give me a call at any time. I focus generally in the Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens real estate market of Florida.