When you have decided to sell your home, when it comes to disclosures, each Real Estate agent you encounter can tell you different things. Some may say it’s not necessary to disclose that someone died on your property, even if that person was chainsawed into little pieces. Others will say you should disclose every nail hole in walls and every sink drip that’s occurred. The truth is laws govern all of these issues on disclosures. They do vary in each state, there are federal laws as well, the most notable of which is regarding lead-based paint disclosure. The best thing to do, especially if you’ve heard suggestions that seem too extreme one way or another, is to consult a local Real Estate attorney who knows your state’s disclosure laws.
The general rule of thumb is that anything that lowers the perceived value of the property or anything that would affect a buyer's decision to purchase or the price/terms the buyer offers should be disclosed including:
Pollution – noise, air, ground and water
Some disclosures are region-specific, such as:
California and Nevada earthquakes
Tornado's in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska
Hurricanes in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia
Mudslides in California
Wildfires in Wyoming, California, Colorado, Nevada
Bentonite soil in Colorado (expanding/contracting soil that makes concrete foundations, pads and patios heave, shift and crumble)
There are also special situations, such as:
Sex offenders in the area (in which a prospective buyer should be advised by their Realtor to visit the Megan's Law website prior to purchasing the home)
Dangerous dogs in the neighborhood
Possible “haunted” house status
Death on the property, especially if caused by a gruesome murder (In some states, you are required to disclose if someone died on the property within the last three years.)
In California it is required to Disclose Death, Meth and Weed. If anyone has had a meth lab on the property or grew marijuana that too must be disclosed.
Interestingly, if someone died on your property of AIDS, you may not have to disclose it since it may violate privacy and discrimination laws. It is always best to consult your Realtor on these items to make sure you are doing it right.
When it comes time to fill out the disclosure forms, you will be required to fill them out yourself. If a Realtor is inexperienced, they might think that it’s their job to fill these out for you, but in reality, it’s your job as a seller because only you truly know.
Some tips: Answer all questions to the best of your ability. Don’t sweat the small stuff, but make sure you disclose everything that you’d want disclosed to you if you were the buyer. If you don’t know the answer to a question (such as exact age of the roof if you’re not the original owner or the like), answer “Do Not Know.” But not having precise facts about defects you know exist does not permit you to answer “Do Not Know” to every question. This will always raise a red flag.
Make sure to use your common sense and be very honest and fair and consult your Realtor for any questions you might have.