DISCLAIMER: As a friendly reminder, this blog post is meant to be used for educational purposes only, not legal advice. If you need assistance navigating the legalities of what to include on the Georgia seller’s disclosure form, HomeLight always encourages you to reach out to your own advisor.
If you’re about to sell or buy a house in Georgia, you may be wondering what sort of information the seller is required to disclose about the property.
Each state has its own set of disclosure laws, and Georgia’s are a little less defined than most.
To help you navigate these murky waters, we spoke with a top real estate agent in Georgia and researched Georgia home seller requirements to answer some of the most common disclosure questions.
What is a seller’s disclosure?
When transferring real estate in the U.S., it’s common for sellers to have to disclose certain details about their property to potential buyers before the transaction can take place. These legally-binding requirements are designed to enforce transparency in the dealings so as to avoid physical or financial harm to the parties involved.
In many states, real estate disclosure is made using what’s known as a “property disclosure statement,” “transfer disclosure,” or “real estate disclosure form.” These are standard documents that outline any known issues with a home or property being sold. The information listed in these documents can vary significantly depending on where you live, and some states don’t require them to be filled out at all.
Is a seller’s disclosure form required in Georgia?
Georgia sellers are not required to fill out a formal disclosure statement. They do, however, have to inform the buyer — at least verbally — of any known problems with the condition of the home that aren’t clearly evident.
That said, most real estate agents still highly recommend filling out a disclosure statement.
“In most cases, unless you’re working with investors, it’s very wise to have one completed for the seller’s protection and for the benefit of a smoother transaction,” said Deborah Morton, a top-selling real estate agent in Acworth, Georgia, who sells properties 42% faster than the average agent in her area.
When must disclosure be given?
Disclosure doesn’t need to be given in Georgia until after an offer is made on a home.
However, Morton likes to provide that information to potential buyers as soon as possible.
“We always provide the disclosure with the listing information,” she says. “From just a good-faith standpoint, it alleviates any confusion or questions in a buyer’s mind if they know what they’re getting in advance.”
What do I have to disclose when selling a house in Georgia?
Georgia home sellers are obligated to inform buyers of any known material defects in the home’s condition that would not be found by a buyer upon reasonable inspection.
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, a material defect is anything that:
- Has a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property
- May have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property
- Poses an unreasonable risk to people
A home’s systems and components include everything one might consider integral to the building’s structure and functionality, such as the following:
Sellers must also honestly answer any direct questions buyers ask of them. This can be anything from wanting to know what repairs you’ve done, to if anyone has ever died on the property.
Deliberately omitting facts, lying, or attempting to conceal pertinent information can open sellers up to potential litigation if the buyer purchases the home and later finds out the truth.
Later in this post, we’ll give you a closer look at examples of material defects and system/ component issues you’ll find on the optional Georgia seller’s disclosure statement form.
Federal disclosure requirement
Any home being sold in the U.S. that was built prior to 1978 is subject to an additional federal disclosure requirement.
Before entering into a purchase agreement, the seller must inform the buyer of any known lead-based paint hazards in the home.
To properly meet the requirement, the seller must do the following:
- Give the buyer an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet
- Provide the buyer with any lead hazard evaluation reports available
- Give the buyer 10 days (unless the parties mutually agree upon a different period of time) to conduct a risk assessment or inspection for the presence of lead-based paint hazards
- Include a specific lead warning statement in the contract
What doesn’t need to be disclosed in Georgia?
Georgia is a “buyer beware” or “caveat emptor” state. Meaning, buyers are charged with performing due diligence during real estate transactions to ensure they’re buying a product they’re satisfied with.
Home sellers in the state only need to disclose defects in the property that cannot be readily discovered by reasonable investigation. In other words, if a defect is pretty obvious, then the seller doesn’t need to mention it. Some examples might be clearly damaged walls, a broken railing, or a collapsed porch.
Once an offer on a home is accepted, the buyer is usually given a specified number of days to inspect the property. This is known as the due diligence period.
Per the purchasing contract, any problems the buyer identifies can be brought to the seller for further negotiation. If the buyer isn’t satisfied with the deal, then they may back out and receive a refund of their earnest money deposit.
Since much of the onus is on the buyer to make sure a home meets their standards, it’s usually recommended to have a home professionally inspected before purchasing.
“That due diligence period is the buyer’s only opportunity to find out for themselves the facts about the house,” Morton says. “Once they choose to move forward, it is buyer beware.”
Different disclosure forms available in Georgia
While not necessary, filling out a disclosure statement is the safest way to ensure you’re meeting Georgia’s disclosure requirements when selling a home.
The document used for a traditional home sale is the F301 Georgia Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement.
Here’s a summary of specific things the disclosure statement addresses:
- General: Year the home was built, and if it’s vacant, occupied, or leased
- Covenants, fees, and restrictions: Is the property subject to any such restrictions
- Lead-based paint: If constructed or manufactured prior to 1978
- Structural items, additions, and alterations: Foundation or support issues, additions made, code or zoning violations, or if the dwelling is a mobile, modular, or manufactured home
- Systems and components: Condition/history of the HVAC, questions about wiring, fireplace, moisture, etc.
- Sewer/plumbing: Water source, water heater, sewer or septic, leaks, backups, frozen lines, or other related issues
- Roofs, gutters, and downspouts: Roof age, leaks, and if the roof was ever repaired by the seller
- Flooding, drainage, moisture, and springs: Water intrusion, flooding, flood hazard area, etc.
- Soil and boundaries: Landfills, graves, settlement, encroachments, or boundary disputes
- Termites, dry rot, pests, and wood-destroying organisms: History, damage, or hazardous conditions
- Environmental, health, and safety concerns: Underground tanks, toxic substances (asbestos), meth production, adverse test results for radon, lead, mold, etc.
- Litigation and insurance: Related to negligent construction or defective building products, related insurance claims, etc.
- Other hidden defects: Any other defects not otherwise disclosed
- Agriculture disclosure: If within or adjacent to property identified as agricultural or forestry use, and if receiving preferential agricultural tax treatment
The form also includes a checklist indicating what appliances, fixtures, or equipment are part of the home sale, such as a dishwasher, stove, ceiling fans, chandelier, window blinds, and wall mirrors.
Other available disclosure documents and their uses include the following:
- F302 Georgia Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement – Latent Defects (this is used instead of F301 when the seller has not occupied the property long enough to complete F301 – for example, investors or a beneficiary).
- F304 Georgia Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement – Condominium
- F307 Georgia Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement – Lot/Land
- F310 Georgia Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement – New Construction
- F313 New Construction Seller Disclosures Exhibit (used in addition to F310)
Q&A: More expert tips about disclosures in Georgia
What if I accidentally leave something out of my disclosure?
Like everything in real estate, it just depends on the particular circumstances, Morton says.
“I have seen many sellers who just don’t know the age of the roof,” Morton says. “If they leave that line blank but write in the comments “Unknown,” can someone really hold them accountable for that?”
What if something breaks or is discovered after the disclosure?
Morton says the best way to handle a situation like this is to simply fix the damage quickly and keep the buyer informed.
“Let’s say the dishwasher breaks, leaks all over the floor and there’s some damage,” Morton says. “At that point, the buyer hasn’t purchased the home, so it would behoove the seller to fix those items and make repairs so it was as the buyer saw it. At that point, it would have to be handled between buyer and seller to come to an agreement prior to closing.”
Morton can recall one instance where something like this happened when she was working with a seller.
“We were under contract with a buyer and a tree fell on the house,” she says.
The tree took out a good portion of the roof, so the seller removed the tree and worked with their insurance company to repair the damage.
“Our closing was delayed, but the buyer was willing to extend the closing until the work was complete on the house,” Morton says. “If we could not put the house back together by the agreed-upon closing date, the buyer contractually could have terminated and walked away, because we couldn’t turn over a house in good condition by the contract date.”
What is my liability for lying or not disclosing pertinent information?
Withholding information that should be disclosed or outright lying about something either verbally or in a disclosure statement can potentially harm both you and the buyer.
If the buyer finds out you have not been truthful before closing, then they may choose to terminate the deal.
If it’s discovered after the purchase, then they could take legal action to force you to cover the damages to the home or possibly reverse the home sale altogether.
Depending on the degree of the offense, your state government could also charge you a fee for violating the state’s disclosure laws.
Morally, you could be putting the buyer’s safety or health at risk.
Morton says undisclosed water damage is perhaps the most litigious disclosure item.
“If it’s found out the seller knew about a water problem and didn’t disclose it, that’s something any buyer would be really upset to find out after the fact,” she says.
Are you ready to sell or buy a home in Georgia?
Disclosing your home’s defects may be difficult to swallow when time and money are on the line, but being sued by a disgruntled buyer for misrepresentation or breach of contract is ultimately much more expensive and time consuming. Using a property disclosure statement is the best way to ensure you’ve covered your bases.
As for buyers, spending the time and money to perform a thorough inspection of a home you’re interested in will certainly pay off in a buyer-beware state like Georgia. If nothing of concern is found during the inspection, at least you’ll have peace of mind.
HomeLight’s Agent Match can connect you with top-performing agents in Georgia who have the local experience and market knowledge to successfully guide you through every step of the home-selling or buying journey — from disclosures to closing, put a top professional in your corner.
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