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Property disclosures: The facts

If you’re considering selling your home with out the use of a realtor, then you need to understand that there are conditions backed by laws of the state and federal government governing the sale of your home. By following the rules and regulations you will save yourself money, time and later possible unpleasant legal ramifications. All of these conditions must be investigated and settled before you attempt to advertise your home for sale. Ideally make sure you understand first the full responsibility of selling your home independently before you place your home on the open market, and realize that this is the first step in the process of home selling.

Most states in the US require that if you’re selling your home whether through a real estate agent or as a FSBO (For Sale by Owner) you must give to a potential home buyer a Seller Disclosure of Property Conditions form. This form discloses information about your property that would affect the living conditions or the resale able value of the home. Disclosure of property conditions includes any past or current problems with the property. Check out the different categories of property disclosure, and make sure that you list the necessary information required under each one. This list may or may not include issues that you would need to be concerned about, so make sure to check with your state and local agencies for complete information.

• House Systems – Includes areas such as plumbing, electrical, appliances, doors and windows, security system, pool, sprinklers, sump pumps, cooling and heating. • Foundations/Structures/ Basements – Includes leaking and repair issues and drainage problems surrounding the house. • Roof – Includes age, leaking and repair issues, second and new roof installation, time frame of roof repairs, and when or how often the roof leaks. • Land/Drainage – Includes soil permeability issues such as drainage or flooding problems, or are there any other water sources such as a lake, spring or creek. • Boundaries – Includes survey issues such as boundaries of property line, markage of known property lines by what means, such as moveable property stakes as rocks or trees. The allowable property easements for your area, as well as any other obstructions to property such as encroachments by other property owners. • Water – Includes source of water and water pressure issues, and purification systems and tests conducted on water quality. • Sewer System – Includes how property is serviced for sewage waste, such as septic, public utilities or cess pool. Dates of inspection and known sewer problems. • Construction/Remolding - Includes information on any new buildings or remolding to existing structure, and the necessary building permits. • Homeowner’s Association – Includes information of any homeowner’s association rules and guidelines. • Miscellaneous – Includes many areas to numerous to list, but some areas of information encompasses testing for radon gases, termite damage, abandoned under ground storage areas such as septic tanks or cisterns. Issues such as warranties, legal actions, or weather related damage such as tornadoes.

Just as important as you’re state and local laws is the federal laws that regulate selling your home. Two issues of primary importance are disclosing lead paint and the conformity to the fair housing laws. According to federal law you must disclose if your home was built or remodeled before 1978. This law was passed and is now enforced by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) because of test results that show that lead based paints can cause detrimental affects on human health, especially in babies and small children. Lagging mental function and stunted growth can occur if sufficient amounts of lead based paints are consumed or particles inhaled. Disclosure of test results and the opportunity to test is federal law. Also, fair housing laws require adherence to the selling of your house, although if selling as FSBO the regulations are a bit more lax. The Fair Housing Act, under the Civil Rights Act of 1968, requires that sellers may not discriminate when selling a property. Discrimination is not allowed based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familiar or handicapped status.

Another area to consider before you advertise your house for sale is how to weed out the lookers among the potential serious buyers for your home. Many FSBOs can request that buyers become pre-approved by a financial institution before a bid will be accepted. During the home tour you can set parameters too by inquiring on the buyer’s ability to quickly obtain financing. You might not want to wait while they must sell their house first in order to buy your house in a timely manner.

Sticky decisions concerning the contract should fully spell out the conditions of the sale, such as any deposits that are required and the ability of the buyer to have their deposit returned. Protection is provided to both when a contract is clearly written for both parties, as for example the ability of you to keep any monies from a buyer that backs out because of an unjust cause. Always make sure to consult an attorney when writing up your contract to sell your home. Remember too that laws fluctuate from state to state and being prepared is the best defense against an unsold home.

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