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Required Real Estate Disclosures When Selling Property

So what kind of real estate disclosures do you need to make to a buyer when trying to sell some real estate? In general, you have an obligation to disclose potential problems to a prospective buyer that could affect the value of the property you're trying to sell. In addition, it is considered illegal in most states to deliberately conceal major defects on your property. Several states have begun requiring property owners to put their real estate disclosures in writing.

Do I Have To Search For Problems?

In most states, property owners only have to make real estate disclosures for problems they're aware of. That means that you generally don't need to hire someone to inspect your property. Some states, however, have stricter requirements, and will identify specific problems that you are responsible to search for (e.g., termite damage). A few states, like California, have extremely detailed disclosure requirements, so search for the laws in your state and always consider consulting with a lawyer or real estate expert.

Should I Hire Someone to Inspect the Property?

Even though most states don't require it, it can be helpful to do so. If there are problems down the road, you can often rely on the inspector's report in claiming that you didn't know of a problem when you made your real estate disclosures. Inspections can be a double edged sword however, since once the inspector brings a problem to your attention, there's a good chance you'll have to disclose it if it could affect the value of the property. Still, there's a strong value in certainty, and getting an inspection can save you from a potential nightmare in the future.

Do I Need to Repair Problems I've Identified?

No, you only need to disclose them. You can let someone else deal with the hassle and potential costs of repair. The issues in your disclosures could affect the valuation that a buyer or appraiser places on your property, however, so it may be worth it to make fixes where appropriate.

Are There Any Federal Laws I Need to Comply With?

If the house you are selling was built before 1978, the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 requires you to:

  • Tell the buyers about any lead-based paint or related hazards in the house
  • Give buyers 10 days to test the house for lead
  • Provide buyers with a the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pamphlet entitled Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home
  • Include warnings set forth in the law in the sale contract
  • Obtain signed statements from all parties involved verifying compliance with all legal requirements
  • Keep the signed acknowledgments for three years as proof that you followed the law

How You Should Make Your Real Estate Disclosures

Most states require you to give real estate disclosures in written form, often on special forms that both the buyer and seller must sign and date. Even if your state doesn't require you to, it is still the best practice to make your disclosures in writing and get a signed written statement from the buyers that they received them.

Finally, because of the significant amount of money involved and potential complications, it may be worthwhileto consult with a real estate broker or attorney. In addition, local laws often control the kind of real estate disclosures you need to make, so check your local as well as state laws.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help guide you
through the process of selling your home.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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