By Kay Wilson-Bolton
May 28, 2006
There are new disclosure standards in the industry that reflect industry needs and trends. They have to do with disclosing repairs you’ve made to your home – not just yesterday but for a very long time.
There are good reasons for that and it has to do with what a buyer can expect in the future from repairs made on a consistent basis—like repairing cracks, painting over stains, pumping a septic tank, neighborhood conditions, new cabinets made to fit the changing shape of walls and levels of floors.
Everyone acknowledges that a home has its own personality with its squeaks, groanings, and the special twist of the knob that makes the door open easily. Unless disclosed up front, such traits are not usually discovered until after the close of escrow.
Whether or not they are considered defects is often a debatable issue and these examples are likely not defects. However, it is not up to the agents to decide that.
The lines blur when the new owners discover that the gutters don’t drain and water runs into the patio and under the sliding door; the sprinklers don’t work, the water heater begins to fail or the roof miraculously begins to leak after the first rain when it never had before.
Owners have a duty to disclose material defects and red flags to potential buyers and buyers have the right to rely on those disclosures. It is commonly known that what a seller perceives as unimportant may be important to a buyer. What a buyer perceives as material may not be to a seller.
Further, agents have a duty, not a suggestion, that they disclose items of concerns after a diligent visual inspection of the property.
It is so tempting to say, “Hmmmm, seems normal to me,” and let it slide. REALTORS® and agents needs to let buyers make that decision after careful investigation. It is our job to make information available and point out opportunities for investigation.
The “as is” clause is a common method of sale. It means, what you see is what you get, with the caveat that the seller has told you about things you don’t see and you agree to purchase the home anyway.
It is not uncommon for sellers to view some items as normal and not troublesome. This becomes problematic after the closing when the buyers decide it is more than a casual oversight.
When such situations occur, you are urged to contact the seller directly or continue to work through your agent or REALTOR®. Sellers should be given the first chance to correct a problem and satisfy their buyers’ concerns.
Most sellers would prefer to resolve the issue without legal proceedings and most purchase contracts provide the means for settling disputes through mediation and arbitration.
Your REALTOR® will want to help correct problems and soften this potential for dispute. The best approach is to let your REALTOR® guide you and it is always possible that you will need legal advice from an attorney who understands real estate matters.
Kay Wilson-Bolton is the owner and Broker of CENTURY 21 Buena Vista and brings a regional perspective to local issues. She can be reached at 805.340.5025.