Full Disclosure: What You Don’t Know Might Hurt You

If you are in the market for a new home, you might have noticed a surprising lack of perfection. Just like people, homes have their quirks and issues and searching for the perfect home can lead to frustration. While all homes have problems, it is important to know about the issues and use that knowledge to form an opinion and perhaps even an offer to purchase. Read on to find out more about what the seller needs to disclose to you before the deal can be sealed.

What Must Be Disclosed

Each state has its own set of provisions concerning what must be disclosed to buyers. In general, if the knowledge of a particular problem could affect your decision to buy or how much you offer for the home, it must be disclosed. There is, however, a caveat. The seller must only disclose problems that they know about or should have known about. In most cases, sellers are honest and forthright, and real estate agents do a good job of educating sellers about the legal ramifications of failing to disclose known defects in a home for sale. 

Here are a few common disclosures that can pop up in many home sales transactions:

Foundations Issues – If the seller knows about cracks in the foundation, floor, or walls, they must disclose it. Even if the cracks have been repaired are hidden, this type of problem could create a very expensive headache for the new owners, and they should know about it before they make an offer.

Major System Issues – The roof, the plumbing, the electrical system, and the heating and cooling system make up the inner workings of the home. These systems can present any number of problems, some of them minor and some major and expensive. No matter how minor, the known issues must be disclosed.

Lead-based paint If the home was built prior to 1978, there is a chance lead-based paint was used to paint it. Residential paint no longer contains lead, but if the home you are touring is older, be sure the owners disclose lead-based paint. If they fail to disclose this major problem, they might be hiding other issues.

Homeowner's Associations This issue constitutes not only a financial issue as far as dues are concerned, but other aspects of your home and neighborhood. The rules should be reviewed before you agree to the home purchase since it can affect everything from the color you paint your shutters to what kind of pets you can have.

Deaths – If your home has had a murder or a suicide, it is very likely to be a matter of disclosure. There are cases where the present owners have been there so long that they moved in before this issue had to be disclosed, however.

Speak to your real estate agent for more information about disclosures.