What creepy things MUST you reveal to potential buyers?
By Diane Harrington
Halloween is behind us, but some houses are still a bit scary and harder to sell than others. What do you really have to disclose about a home's past to potential buyers? Check your state for specific laws, but in general, here's how to handle a few sticky situations:
The house is haunted.
In this case, disclosure is up to your state. In California, you have to tell the buyer if it's happened in the last three years. In New York, no one has to know. In an article for Fox Business, Kate Rogers discovered that Massachusetts says buyers must be told if the house is "psychologically" impacted — meaning you can feel the spirits. But in Virginia, the impact must be physical, like doors that always slam or windows that always break.
Someone was killed or died in the house.
It's a bit scary to know there's actually a website called DiedInHouse.com. The folks there say that 15 states say you have to 'fess up only if the buyer asks. Three states insist you disclose a death in the house that happened in the past one to three years, but the rest says the dead should rest in peace.
Some local construction is going to change things in the neighborhood or nearby soon.
There's no hard and fast rule here, but definitely check with your state. At some point, a buyer has to do some due diligence.
The neighbors are truly awful.
If they fight loudly every night, if they're always whining about where you put your trash can, if they have parties constantly - you don't necessarily have to tell a buyer about these things. After all, maybe the BUYER plans to have parties all the time! However, if it's a nuisance problem like a dog barking constantly, you may be on the hook. California has some of the toughest disclosure requirements, and that barking dog is included.
The house has structural or mechanical defects.
If the foundation has a crack that affects the home's safety, the windows leak or the basement fills when it rains, or the air conditioner doesn't work, you are obligated to inform potential buyers. Realtors probably already have a list of disclosures like this the seller must check off. If the house has had problems in the past and the seller has had them fixed, it's best to provide the paperwork and receipts to show that.
Sketchy repairs and remodels.
If the seller had work done on the house without getting the appropriate building permits, he must let the buyer know.
The bottom line when it comes to disclosure: you're better safe than sorry. Not spilling what you know about a house can lead to a lawsuit. Sellers could be accountable for as many as 10 years after a sale, depending on the state. Even if the new owners won't win, that's still a big headache for all concerned.