Disclosure documents are supposed to capture everything a seller is legally required to inform potential buyers, but not every seller is as forthcoming as they should be.
Failures to disclose important information can leave unsuspecting buyers with a pile of problems and debts.
What are the most common problems sellers “forget” to mention?
While sellers may seek to hide all kinds of things, the negative information that they usually try to hide tends to include the following:
- Deaths: Texas law doesn’t require sellers to disclose deaths in the home from suicide, natural causes or accidents (if they’re unrelated to the home’s condition) – but murders in the home must be disclosed – including those that predate the current owner’s occupancy if they know about it.
- Known hazards: Is the home in a flood zone? Was it built on a toxic landfill? Is there asbestos under the floor boards? If a seller knows about these problems, they need to disclose them.
- Nuisances: A nuisance is basically anything that unreasonably interferes with your use and enjoyment of the property – like those all night trains or the presence of a nearby airstrip.
- Repairs: Sellers are supposed to disclose both major and minor repairs on a home. When repairs show that a home has been kept up, that’s often to their advantage. But sellers may want to hide the fact that they had major hurricane damage, for example, so that you don’t look for hidden damage.
- Water damage: This is one of those situations where sellers may want to avoid mentioning repairs. A busted pipe can lead to mold in the walls, under the floor and rotted beams.
- HOA information: If you’re buying into an HOA, you need to know exactly how much that will cost you and how restrictive the rules are for the neighborhood to avoid unpleasant surprises.
- Inclusion in a historic district: There’s nothing wrong with buying a historic home, as long as you’re prepared for the restrictions that may exist on your ability to make alterations.
- Missing items: Your seller is supposed to disclose the fact that they intend to take the chandelier in the great room with them – and all the stainless steel appliances. If you find things missing after you move in, that’s a problem.
It can take weeks, months or even years for some hidden defects in a home to become obvious.
When sellers fair to disclose material defects in a property, they (and their real estate agent) may ultimately be liable for your losses, including whatever it costs to make necessary repairs.