Honesty is best when selling your home
Winston Churchill once said in a speech, "Honesty is, in fact, the policy that pays the best." When it comes to selling your home being honest about the condition of the property is not only required, but will undoubtedly bring you the most qualified buyer at the best possible price.
If you’re home is listed with a Florida real estate agent, you will be asked to fill out and sign a seller’s disclosure form. Although you are required to disclose any defects in the property to a potential buyer, you are not required to do so in writing by the state of Florida.
However, by not providing this information to your listing agent and future buyers, you will be sending a signal that you have something to hide. In addition, having a written disclosure provides legal protection in the event a buyer comes back at a later time claiming they were not advised of a particular problem.
Briefly, the seller must disclose any environmental hazards, shared walls or fences, easements and room additions or repairs not made with proper permits. The seller must also disclose any significant malfunctions or a defect in the existing home’s major systems.
A written disclosure goes into more detail including age of the roof and repair history, active termite activity or previous termite damage, sewage system and status of leaks or backups, status of well water, age and type of air conditioning and heating unit, problems with the electrical system, list of and condition of appliances, proposed changes to the neighborhood that could affect the desirability of the propert and the presence of underground tanks or toxic substances, among others.
If you’re purchasing a condominium, the condominium association must also disclose any problems associated with the common areas, upcoming increases in annual assessments or special assessments and existing or threatened legal action.
In addition, Florida law provides buyers of a condominium the right to read the condominium documents and review the financial papers of the association prior finalizing the formal contract of sale. These are items that must be provided by the seller for the buyer’s inspection.
As a seller you do not have to disclose your reason or motivation for moving and neither should your listing agent. 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, but if asked you would be obligated to disclose that the house is a rental property.
In Florida, you also are not required to disclose any psychological factors such as the home being the site of a homicide, suicide, death or ghosts. Although past tragedies may stigmatize the house, they are generally not interpreted as being a material fact that must be disclosed.
That being said, depending on the nature of the issue, sellers should consider that they have an ethical obligation to disclose something even though it may be considered a gray area.
Winston Churchill had it right – honesty is the best policy. Being scrupulous in your business transactions will ultimately bring you the best price for your property with the bonus of putting your conscience at ease.