What Are You Required to Disclose When You Sell Your Home?

When you set out to sell a house, most states require you to make certain “disclosures.” Disclosures refer to any “material defects” in the home, and in many states you will be held liable if you don’t tell the buyer about them upfront.

To avoid getting in legal trouble, it’s imperative that you know what you should and need not disclose when you fill out your own disclosure statement. We’ve done all of the legwork for you and pulled sample disclosure docs for every single state.

In this article you’ll be able to read up on the disclosures in your state and take a look at a sample disclosure form in order to prepare yourself to fill out the real one.

A pool that must be disclosed when selling real estate.
Source: (Sterling Davis/ Unsplash)

What is a seller’s disclosure statement or seller’s disclosure form?

In a nutshell, the basis of most state disclosure documents is the same. You’ll be asked a series of questions about the condition of your property and if anything is broken, damaged, or does not work. This includes things like the foundation of the house, skylights, the plumbing, pool, HVAC, etc.

Some states require you to disclose problems with the land; others just with the structure of the home itself. Other states have additional disclosures that you need to note. For example, in Washington, you must disclose if you live near a farm.

In some states, like California, your real estate agent is not legally allowed to help you fill out the form, so you’ll need to complete it on your own.

Chris Murray, a top-selling real estate agent in Hemet, California, explains how filling out his state’s disclosure form, called the “Transfer Disclosure,” works during a home sale. “So we hand [the form to the seller], they can fill it out, and then that is what we provide to the buyer to relay any of the seller’s known issues with the home.

The key is, it’s known issues. They’re not going to dig into investigating anything. It’s as simple ‘Are you aware of …?’ and they say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If they’re not aware of it, that’s the end of it. They don’t have to investigate to get a clear answer.”

If you do need help filling out a disclosure document in a state where you cannot ask your agent for help, you will need to consult a real estate lawyer.

Neighborhood full of houses that must disclose items when selling.
Source: (Frank Taylor/ Pexels)

Why do disclosure documents matter when you sell your home?

Imagine that you’re adopting a puppy from an animal shelter who is very afraid of cars. You adopt the pup, attach his leash to his collar, and set out to put him in your car to bring him to his cozy new home.

All of a sudden he starts crying and jumps into your arms and you have no idea why. You bring him back into the shelter to ask what’s going on, and they finally disclose to you that he has a fear of cars.

If the shelter had disclosed the pup’s fear of cars, you may have acted differently. You may not have adopted the pup knowing that your life revolves around driving your car to and from work, to get the kids, to run errands, or on long road trips for months at a time.

Or, you would have adopted the dog knowing full well that you’d need to walk him home the first time, and that you would need to work with him to help him conquer his fear once and for all.

It’s similar with a house. If you know your house has a large crack in the foundation, the roof leaks when it rains, or has any other issue, you need to disclose it to the buyer before they purchase it.

If the buyer knows full well what they’re getting into with your house, it lightens your legal liability. Then, the buyer can decide if they’re willing to deal with any issues in your house or if they want to walk away completely.

A notebook used to disclose real estate items.
Source: (Engin_Akyurt/ Pixabay)

What do I have to disclose when I sell my house?

Every state’s disclosure laws are different, even though the core of most disclosure statements are similar. That’s why you need to take an in-depth look at the disclosure document for your state. If you want to dive into the legal code for your state, you can also check out the disclosure laws for all 50 states.

Some states do not have a standard disclosure document but instead employ the “Caveat Emptor” or “Buyer Beware” rule. This rule states that it is the buyer’s responsibility to figure out if there are any issues with the home.

The Caveat Emptor rule does not apply if the seller lies about anything that is important that has happened in the home or any important defects within the home.

Find your state to read sample disclosure documents and to find out more on what exactly you need to disclose to the buyer when you sell your house.

This article does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult a real estate attorney.

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