STEP #6: PROVIDING DISCLOSURES
California, like many states, requires its residential property sellers to disclose, in writing, details about the property they have on the market. The reason these disclosures are so important is that potential home buyers need to know as much as possible about a property in order to evaluate whether they really want to buy it and the resources they need in order to make the purchase. This includes offering an appropriate purchase price and knowing about any potential repairs or upgrades needed to areas of the home.
Get ready to disclose. Anything you know about the property you will need to disclose. Is there a leak? Was there a leak recently? Does the roof need some repair? Does the garage door not close properly? Are the neighbors noise? If in doubt disclose, disclose, disclose.
Sellers are required to report all known defects in the home to potential buyers, which can range from unseen mold under the shower tiles to loud neighbors or an absence of street parking.
It is always in the seller’s best interest to disclose everything because the buyer can come back and sue the seller if problems arise that were not disclosed, even many years after the sale. There are some problems a seller could legitimately be unaware of, like a cracked foundation or termites embedded deep in the walls, and the seller may not be held responsible. A typical seller disclosure form asks about known defects in the following areas: Roof, Foundation, Electrical, Heating, Plumbing, and Septic.
Sellers are encouraged to “come clean” on all aspects of the home and its history, such as the presence of hidden mold or a prior flooding problem. Anything that can negatively affect the value, enjoyment or safety of the home must be disclosed at this point, or the seller is setting himself up for a lawsuit he will probably lose.
California has some of the strictest disclosure laws in the country, and the buyer will have to wade through 50+ pages of documents that cover everything from a Natural Hazards disclosure and Lead-Based Paint disclosure to Market Condition advisories and even a Megan’s Law disclosure to identify nearby sex offenders. Common disclosures include pets, pest problems, neighborhood nuisances, property line disputes, and knowledge of major construction projects in the area. Some disclosure documents in the Golden State are very detailed, asking the seller about bankruptcy proceedings, liens on the property, non-tempered glass on shower doors, unusual odors in the neighborhood, and recent deaths on the property. Part of the Natural Hazards disclosure discusses earthquake faults, fire and flood zones, so Californians should zero in on that section of the form.
The Transfer Disclosure Statement
The Transfer Disclosure Statement or TDS is one of the most important disclosure documents that a seller gives to a buyer in a residential real estate transaction. It is important not only for the information it provides to the buyer regarding the property, but also because the law places upon this disclosure an enormous importance. It is a disclosure that cannot be waived by the buyer, and if the TDS is given after an offer is made or at any time materially amended, the buyer may be entitled to cancel the contract and to get back his or her deposit. Therefore, it is important for the Realtor to have a thorough understanding of the TDS.