Full Disclosure

All homes have a history, some more colorful than others. Whether positive memories created or unexpected natural or unnatural occurrences, especially older homes have a story to tell. For instance, we lived in a 1905 boulevard park bungalow for about four years that has a full history.

The positive stories are comprised of the birthday parties in the backyard, the summertime BBQ’s on the front porch, the candle-lit dinners with my wife. I hope every home has many good stories to tell.

Some stories that we reflect on and can now (mostly) laugh about: Our sewer line that needed replacement within the first month of move-in; The used hypodermic needles we found in the rafters when cleaning (oh, and the former owner was not a nurse. We like to say he was in the “pharmaceutical business” ); The grapefruit tree that fell over in the middle of the storm; The leaky front porch stairs that where built without a permit and against Historic Preservation rules; The friendly neighbor that we met prior to moving in who boasted about our peaceful and quiet the neighborhood – sadly and ironic as it may sound he was an alcoholic, who invited the police and ambulances, what seemed to be nightly, to either break up a domestic argument or haul him to the hospital. He drank himself to death within three months of our acquaintance – R.I.P. Jimmy. OR what about the homeless people that would rummage through our trash cans in the middle of the night?; I could go on…

There is a sticky situation that arises when selling a home that has had some history. The seller always asks, “Do I need to tell the buyer about…. how the basement floods every year?; The time the tree limb fell through our roof?; The dog next door that barks us to sleep every night?; The addition we built without a permit; The roof leak that we think is fixed now?;” etc. The answer is “YES” to all of these questions.

No seller wants to say or disclose anything that will deter the buyer from falling in love with their home and go through with the purchase. However, it is absolutely necessary to be completely honest about the home’s history. The seller and many times the realtor too will end up in court over undisclosed items that are a detriment or potential detriment to the new owner.

The problem occurs when the seller and at times their realtor begin down the path of justification – “But that incident was so long ago” or, “We can just paint over that stain (evidence of mold)” or, “They will never find out about the dry root if we nail a board over it” or, “I can just claim that I was not aware of the _________ “ or “Everyone know that all houses have rats living in the attic.” You get the point. Do you? BY LAW, YOU MUST DISCLOSE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE HOUSE’S HISTORY THAT YOU ARE AWARE OF, or YOU ARE LIABLE AND MAY BE SUED.

I can hear it now, “But what about…..” The gears of your brain are turning, looking for loop holes and ways to avoid disclosing everything. Yes, there are some loop holes and exceptions, but the rule of thumb is this: The buyer should not be surprised by a pre-existing condition that negatively affects them regarding the home and its surroundings. Rule of thumb #2: If you don’t disclose, one of the neighbors will rat you out – They will inform the new buyer about your home for you! Then you begin down the path of, “I hope I have a good attorney?!”

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I’m curious about your disclosure stories and questions you might have about what does and does not have to be disclosed.

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