What has to be disclosed when selling your house? It depends.
The things you are legally required to disclose always vary from state to state, but sometimes they can even be different in different counties or cities within that county.
Your best bet to avoid any potential legal liability is to work with your Realtor. You can then rely on her experience to cover the laws that apply to your specific property.
However, there are things that you must legally disclose in each state.
We have listed them below as general information.
What has to be Disclosed When Selling Your House?
As mentioned, disclosure laws vary greatly across the USA. However, a good rule of thumb to follow is that the law only requires you to disclose issues that you personally know about.
This means that you do not have to hire an inspector for the sole purpose of discovering problems to tell buyers about.
However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Some states DO have laws on the books that require you as the seller to let buyers know about specific potential problems, like termite damage.
For a way to check the specific laws in your state, click here.
Here are the most common disclosures:
Disclosing the presence of lead-based paint is a federal law, so it doesn’t matter which state you live in, you need to check for it if you own a home built before 1978.
This is because of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 (U.S. Code § 4852d). Most know it as “Title X” in the real estate world.
Because of Title X, you must:
- Let buyers know about any lead-based paint in the home.
- Provide buyers with information about the paint’s hazards, like the aptly named Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home pamphlet by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Include language in the signed contract of sale that warns buyers about the paint.
- Give buyers a 10-day opportunity to test the home for lead.
Things like mold and asbestos are common toxins that could be present in a home, especially ones built in the 1970s and earlier.
Other toxins to give potential homebuyers a heads up about would be formaldehyde, which used to function as an insulating substance, and radon, which is a toxic gas that leaks out from the ground and can cause cancer.
If your home has ever flooded, be it from a broken pipe, a hurricane, or an ice dam (even if it has had repairs done), it is important and ethical to let any potential homebuyers know about the occurrence.
This is especially true because water can often lead to mold. Mold, as mentioned, is another recommend (and sometimes required!) disclosure.
In California, you have to disclose if your home lies in a floodplain, an earthquake zone, or if the area near your home often has wildfires.
Be sure to check with your Realtor about the specific laws in your state to see if this applies to you and also needs to be on your disclosure checklist.
If the previous owners had only been honest about the ghosts living in the house, the plots of many horror movies would just be another show. While it might seem silly to some people, if you think your house might be haunted, or you have had an exorcism done, you should tell the buyer about it.
Some states (like Arizona!) require sellers to disclose “all known material facts” about a home. This could easily include any ghosts or other paranormal creatures.
Murders, Suicides, and Violent Crimes
If there has ever been a violent crime in your home, you need to disclose it to the buyer.
Disclosing a murder doesn’t necessarily have to correlate to a lower selling price. Especially if it happened many years (and many owners!) ago. Because of this, you do not need to be wary of telling the truth.
If you have termites in your home (or have had them at any point!), most states will legally require that you disclose their presence to any potential buyers – simply because of the immense structural damage that they are capable of causing.
Things like snakes, mice, bats, and raccoons can also make the pests list. If you are selling a condo and the one next door has bedbugs, you may want to mention it. You don't want the buyer finding out later and think you were trying to hide something from him.
Foundation Cracks or Sinking
Foundational repairs are a lot of work!
They take a lot of money and time to complete. Having a functional foundation is also extremely important because quite literally everything in the home depends on its functionality. Because of this, it is both legal and ethical to let a buyer know about any problems with your home’s foundation.
Does your home back up to frat row? Does your next-door neighbor have an aggressive dog that is always getting out? It is best, for the sake of fairness, to let potential buyers know about these problems so they can make a fair and balanced choice about moving in.
It’s also important to let buyers know about any potential property disputes or easement issues. For example, your fence might stand one foot into your current neighbors’ lawn. They might be okay with this – but what if THEY decide to sell? Then your buyer has a right to know.
Think of it this way: if it was you would you want to know? If so, tell them.
Want a low-cost agent that knows all about what to disclose in your area? List with Clever! For a flat fee, our agents will sell your house with no hassle. Call us today at 1-833-2-CLEVER or fill out our online form to get started.