If you’re getting ready to sell your home, or have already put it on the market, it can be tempting to gloss over a few of the negatives. After all, does the buyer really need to know about that ant problem you get in the summer months, or the fight you’re having with your cranky neighbor?
Well, yes, they do. Hiding any kind of problem that will cost the new owners time and money to fix, or make them regret buying the house, could land you in hot water. You may even be sued for substantial damages. Here are some of the biggest offenders.
- Lead-Based Paint
If your house was built prior to 1978, federal law requires you to disclose whether or not you are aware of the presence of lead-based paint.
If your home is listed with a real estate agent, he or she will ask you to sign a special form indicating whether you are aware of the presence of lead-based paint. If you don’t know, that’s OK—just check the box that says you are unaware of any lead-based paint. But you are still required to fill out the form and sign it.
- Any Asbestos In The Structure
Once upon a time, asbestos was a staple in home construction. Its fire retardant properties, combined with excellent sound absorption and insulation, made it a useful material. This was until, of course, it was discovered that airborne asbestos particles can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Asbestos is costly and dangerous to remove, and as a seller, you typically have two choices: get rid of it through a specialized firm, or disclose it and tell the new owners it’s their problem. No doubt they will want to reduce their offer so that they can pay to have it removed safely. They may just back out of the sale, too. But if you know about it and don’t disclose it, depending on where you live, you can be sued.
- Drainage Issues
If you’re touring a home on a sunny day, chances are the sellers won’t point out that their home has drainage issues when it rains. To uncover signs of past or potential water problems, look for cracks in sidewalks, retaining walls, fences, and foundations. Pooling water causes a plethora of problems, so don’t let clear skies mask a dark cloud of costly repairs in the presence of precipitation.
- Termite Damage
Treating a house for termites is expensive, and if fresh termite activity is found in the structure of your home, the buyer’s lender may refuse to loan money until the house has been treated and any damage has been repaired. If your house had termite damage in the past and you had the house treated, be sure to disclose the information (and show your receipts). Never try to conceal fresh termite damage. Most lenders require a separate termite inspection, so if your house has damage, they’ll find it.
- Foundation Problems
The foundation of a home is a big deal, so if there are problems with it, you have to fix them, or let prospective owners know what the issue is and an estimate of what it will cost to repair. According to Home Advisor, the average cost to repair foundation issues comes in at over $4,000, although it can go as high as $11,000 for a serious repair. That’s a big chunk of change that the new owners will have to fork over, and they won’t want to find out after they’ve moved in.
You would probably be better off getting it repaired yourself before putting the home on the market, as any sentence including “foundation problem” and “home for sale” is going to put a lot of people off. They may even think it’s going to cost way more to fix than it actually does.
- Pool Issues
If you’re buying a home with a pool, don’t assume your inspector is qualified to detect leaks and equipment issues that a seller fails to disclose. Pools have complex systems that require specific expertise to evaluate properly, and most home inspection reports include a disclaimer when it comes to pools. Before you take the plunge, hire a professional pool expert to review the structure and flag any costly potential problems.
- Remodeling Done Without a Permit
Most communities have permit regulations, and if you remodel your home without a permit, it’s understandable that you’d be leery about revealing that. While you might think no one will notice, failure to disclose this little fact will get you busted nearly every time. Your local building authority reports construction changes to the county Register of Deeds, so you could get caught when someone notices that your home’s existing configuration does not match the description on record. You could also be sued later if some of the remodeling you did was not up to building code. To be on the safe side, disclose it now.