This happened in MY house?! (Disclosure requirements for houses with not so pretty pasts)


When searching for or selling a new home, you’re usually see or presenting a house at its very best. It is vitally important to research and know the laws regulating where your home is located. When buying or selling, both buyer and seller want to get the best deal for their transaction. But not researching or not sharing significant issues in a home can cause a lot of heartache and ongoing issues for both parties.


Understanding real estate disclosures will help you evaluate what you should or should not be sharing and receiving. As a buyer or seller, you should always err on the side of caution if uncertain about disclosures. A seller’s lack of known disclosure can follow you for up to 10 years.


4 questions you should be asking about real estate disclosures

  1. What is a real estate disclosure? It can be anything from acknowledging (verbally or written) leaky windows to foundation issues to your house living in a natural disaster zone (think flood plains, earthquake zones). Disclosures have a wide variance from state to state and even down to city and county codes. Hiring a trusted real estate agent helps you as either the home buyer and seller on the importance of real estate disclosures.

  2. Should I still have a home inspection? Absolutely. Your home purchase will likely be the priciest thing you buy in your life. Once you own it, it is not easy to just move on or resell if there are persistent and troubling issues. Often, realtors recommend sellers do a pre-sale home inspection to catch issues unknown to the seller and as a good faith gesture.

  3. When do you give/receive the disclosure? Usually you’ll send or receive disclosures about the home after the acceptance of the offer. Generally, the disclosures are one of the contingencies of a home buyer to back out of a purchase.

  4. What you must disclose? Again, each state, county, and city has a wide range of laws for what you must or should disclose during a home sale. But, most require disclosure for significant physical issues that will be either expensive to repair or create a danger or deems a home uninhabitable while being repaired (certain types of mold, asbestos, lead-based paint). Some areas require disclosure around an allegedly haunted home, murder or death on the property. For some, it might not matter a bit, but it can impact some buyer’s desire to purchase.

Be sure to work with a trusted realtor during your home buying and selling. And when in doubt—disclose!

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2020 by Sarah Milligan, Realtor®