Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Disclose, Disclose, Disclose

A good rule of thumb when it comes to whether or not something should be disclosed about a home for sale: "If you can't figure it out, don't leave it out."

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - Sure it can be frustrating, exhausting and time-consuming to sell a home in today markets, but don't try to cut corners by failing to make the proper disclosures.

Not only is it illegal for you and your agent not to disclose certain material facts that can affect the value, desirability or salability of a home, most savvy buyers will quickly walk away if he or she suspects deceit.

If you lie by omission and get caught, not only can you face both local and federal charges, you'll still have a home to sell in a less-than-hospitable market. The extra time to sell your home and your day in court could stigmatize the property.

Of course, if you honestly don't know about an issue, or there's little if any chance you could have known, you obviously can't report it.

It's not a bad idea to get a home inspection so you do know. An inspection reveals your attempt at discovery, it will help you determine which items need repair or replacement (not that you are required to make certain repairs), you can use it to price your home and it's a good negotiating tool.

In any event, a good rule of thumb, when it comes to whether or not something should be disclosed: "If you can't figure it out, don't leave it out."

Otherwise, here's are some more specific disclosure tips.

• Each state has a different set of disclosure rules. Your local or state real estate association, as well as your real estate agent, has the proper forms. Both you and the buyer must sign and date the disclosure report to acknowledge delivery and receipt.

• Common items to disclose include, a noisy neighbor, trees uprooting the sidewalk, crime and proximity to busy streets, golf courses, equestrian trails and short term rentals, among a host of others. If you'd want to know, the buyer probably would too.

• Include any problems with construction or home systems. That includes problems with the foundation, roof, windows, doors, electricity, plumbing and the like. For a home improvement completed without a permit (which could itself stop the deal cold), get a permit and make sure the work is to code -- even if that means ripping out the old work and getting it done right.

Rather than reporting "repairs" -- which could imply a defect was permanently corrected -- explain what work you've had done. You called the electrician for faulty wiring at a junction box or you had a plumber fix a leak under the sink, for example

Likewise, you can tell the prospective buyer that you replaced the roof, installed a new water heater, added wind shear protection or installed a sump pump in the basement, etc.

• Disaster prone states often require sellers to disclose information about the home's proximity to fire, flood, earthquake and other hazard zones. It's not a bad idea to know if your regional climate is the victim of climate change, given today's earth-conscious buyer. Do disclose zoning, easement or local ordinance issues and the proximity to other natural hazards like mudslides, landslides, even noise, air and ground pollution, among others.

• Disclose insurance claims. Don't let the buyer discover insurance claims against the property when he or she applies for coverage. Give them a C.L.U.E (for Claims Loss Underwriting Exchange) report. Only home owners can obtain it, but buyers can make the deal contingent upon seeing a copy.

Available to property owners once a year for free from ChoicePoint, the report is a record of claims and claim inquiries on a given property. Insurers use the information to decide to issue a new policy, renew or raise rates.

• A federally mandated lead-based paint disclosure is required for all transactions if the home was built before 1978, but most agents advise making the disclosure for any property. The seller doesn't have to inspect for lead, but must give the buyer materials that discloses the hazards of lead-based paints and related consumer information.

• Among some miscellaneous disclosures that are required or should be considered includes the locations of registered sex offenders, housing market conditions, and, if they happened in the home, certain deaths and certain causes.

If the deceased won't walk into the light and you see dead people, you've got to report that too. Even if you haven't had any bumps in the night, but word's gotten around the house is haunted house, you've got to let the buyer know some ectoplasmic spirit already possesses the home.
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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