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Homesellers: Don't Break The Law

Tuesday, March 12, 2019   /   by Dennis Isip

Homesellers: Don't Break The Law

As a rule of thumb, sellers have an obligation to disclose potential problems to a prospective buyer that could affect the value of the property being sold. In fact, it is illegal in Washington State for the seller to deliberately conceal major defects. So what kind of real estate disclosures do you need to make to a buyer when trying to sell some real estate? 

Do I Have To Search For Problems?
In general, 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, though that is my personal recommendation for a host of other reasons. (Some states 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).

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Should I Hire Someone to Inspect the Property?
While not required in Washington, it can be helpful to have a home inspection, and it can potentially have a substantial impact on the proceeds you will receive after closing on the sale. If there are problems down the road, you can often rely on your own 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.

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Additional Articles

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Don’t Shoo Away Buyers From Seeing Your Home 

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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 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
Spokane real estate agents use the standard Form 17 Seller Disclosure Statement. Sellers are required to personally fill up this form. Each and every question must be answered by YES, NO, DON”T KNOW, or NOT APPLICABLE. No line item should be left blank. Real estate agents are prohibited from filling up this 6-page form, on behalf of the seller. In cases where the homeowner is either deceased or incapacitated, their legal representative has the responsibility of filling up the form. In extreme situations, the listing agent may declare that a Disclosure Form is not available. Buyers will be required to acknowledge and sign this form as part of the escrow process. 

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Bottom Line
If you're selling a home, you need to make sure you disclose certain facts and conditions, such as the presence of termites or lead contamination. If you have concerns about such disclosures or need additional clarity, you may want to speak with a legal professional. Find a real estate attorney near you to learn more.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to me directly,

Dennis Isip | Spokane Realtor
Haven Real Estate Group
Dennis@SpokaneHaven.com
(509) 795-0202

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Haven Real Estate Group
Cambria Henry
304 W Pacific Ave; Suite 360
Spokane, WA 99201
509-590-4701

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