putting your home on the market, better be sure you're ready to tell all - good
The majority of lawsuits or claims that occur are as a result of buyers finding
out about something that is wrong with their property after the close of deal
and coming to the belief that the seller knew but didn't tell them.
is vital. In one extreme case, it may have spared a seller from going to jail
and even saved lives. The New York Times reported on a trial in the late
eighties that found the seller of a home guilty for not disclosing to the
buyers that the home's heater had malfunctioned. The buyers and one of their
children were asphyxiated by fumes from a gas-fired heater used to de-ice the
driveway of their home. Only their 4-year-old child survived. The seller was
convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
This case is believed to be the first of its kind where a home-seller was held
criminally liable for the sale of a home that had a fatal defect.
While certainly this isn't a typical scenario, it gives good reason to pay
attention to the details that you're disclosing when selling your home. It's
not worth it to leave off some important details just because you think the
home won't sell or will sell for less money if you disclose any problems.
BUYER CAN DECIDE
might adopt the attitude that there was something wrong but it's not any more;
therefore, he does not have to disclose it. This is fairly risky. If Seller’s
haven't disclosed it and it turns out to be a problem, then you have a
potential significant issue, whereas if it's been disclosed, then the buyer can
elect what to do with it."
In most cases, the buyers won't decide to do anything further. He says this is
because the problem has been disclosed by the seller and reported that it's
been fixed. This will allow the buyers to feel that the problem has been
completely resolved and therefore will not hold up the sale of the home. Buyers
are not unreasonable and if you are honest with them they will feel safe in the
Reporting all problems with the home, regardless of whether they have been
fixed, is the safest way to sell your home. Making sure you keep good records
is vital because, as the years pass, many sellers forget about all the repairs
they've done to the property.
It is also a good idea for every homeowner to have a file of everything they do
to the house. This file could be given
to the buyers for them to review. The file should show all problems and how
they have been repaired, complete with receipts.
Even though legally there's no real requirement to tell about fixed problems,
those are as critical as the existing problems. When you don't report a
problem, buyers generally learn about it from neighbours and then assume that
you were not telling the truth when you sold the home.
Sellers often resist disclosing problems for fear that their homes won't sell
but that's generally fallacy. If the problem is major you cannot take the risk
of not disclosing and if the problems are minor, rather negotiate now, than
face later litigation - creating a huge
If the seller properly discloses all issues with the home, the buyer can make
an educated decision to buy or not. The fact is that the vast majority of
buyers don't walk away. They decide to buy a house because they've determined
it's the house for them. Once they've made that decision they usually find a
way to make it work.
WHEN TO DISCLOSE
best time to disclose? Right away. The good real estate agents will get
whatever negative information there is out there as fast as possible, as the first opportune time. Once
buyers make a decision to go forward they will have made their decision based
upon all these factors, including the not so good. Professional agents are also good
negotiators – they will make sure you get the best deal possible – despite
disclosing some problems.
When you tell all before you sell, you're positioning yourself not only for a
successful home sale but also a headache-free post sale.
as a matter of standard procedure have all our sellers complete a
Seller Declaration form and recommend you report ALL known defects on
the form, prior to commencing with the
marketing programme. This allows us to discuss if necessary, with legal
which issues should be raised within the contract and which not.
our experience, this shows the Buyer that you are transparent and puts
them at ease - after all, they are buying a second hand home and are
expecting certain defects to be in place
For a legal understanding of Voetstoots go here
Back to Sellers Section
For Finance issues go here, or check out the Legal Section
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