Vol 6 No. 7 - November 9, 2005

Disclosure important during the sale

By Louise Bolger

SUN STAFF WRITER

Selling real estate can be like playing a game of chess. There are some things that you must disclose and some that you have no mandate to disclose. And then there’s that fuzzy area in between where good judgment and just plain common sense should take over.

The state of Florida has very specific disclosure laws when it comes to selling residential property. Sellers must provide a seller’s disclosure statement to buyers of their property. The form is signed and dated by the buyer or buyers and becomes part of the permanent record of the transaction.

The seller’s disclosure is designed to disclose to a buyer all known facts that materially and adversely affect the value of the property that are not readily observable. The disclosure is the seller’s knowledge of the condition of the property as of the date signed by the seller. It is not the intention of the state to use this disclosure as a substitute for an inspection of the property.

Some of the questions and information on the disclosure form are as follows:

Is the seller aware of land fill, earth movement, settling, etc.? Is the property in an earthquake or flood zone? Are there drainage problems? Are there encroachments or boundary line disputes?

What is the age of roof and has it ever leaked or had repairs?

Does the seller have knowledge of active or past damage to the property by termites, dry rot or pests?

Are you aware of any movement, shifting, deterioration or other problems with walls or foundation? Is there a crawl space and sump pump?

Are there any additions or structural changes and were necessary permits and approvals obtained?

Is drinking water public or well? What is the type of sewage system, and the date when it was last serviced? Have there been leaks or backups?

What type of air conditioning and heat system is used? Are there problems with the electrical system? List the condition of equipment and appliances.

Are you aware of any proposed changes to your neighborhood that could affect the desirability of your property? Are there underground tanks or toxic substances present on the property?

Condominiums and homeowners associations must also disclose any problems associated with the common areas, potential increases in assessments or fees and existing or threatened legal action.

By now you’re probably thinking, “What’s left not to disclose?” You don’t have to disclose your reason or motivation for moving and neither should your real estate broker without your permission. If a buyer perceives a strong motivation to sell or a hardship it could be a negative influence on the negotiating process. If one of the reasons you’re selling is because the house next door just sold to buyers who plan on renting it, you have no obligation to disclose this fact. A rental property is not considered a nuisance. However, if the buyer asks if there are any nearby rental properties, then you must disclose.

Most sellers are honest and try to do the right thing, and most buyers will try to honestly negotiate. But moving around the chess board of real estate is tricky, so choose your moves carefully, be honest and stay out of the fuzzy zone.

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