It’s highly possible that an experienced home inspector could fail to find something wrong with your house. So it isn’t out of the question that you might not know about something wrong with it. But considering you live there, unless it’s something truly lurking below the surface that only a trained eye could find, the chances are you know a thing or two that’s wrong with your house.
And if you do, you should disclose the issue(s) to potential buyers. But, according to a recent REALTOR Magazine article, 94% of homeowners do not disclose known issues with their home, hoping buyers wouldn’t notice. Well, they do notice, because 90% of buyers surveyed reported finding issues with the home after closing, including:
- Electrical (88%)
- Fixtures (58%)
- Plumbing (58%)
- Exterior structures (like sheds) (54%)
- Leaks (54%)
- Basement (52%)
- Water damage (46%)
- Heating and cooling (43%)
- Exterior facade (42%)
- Mold or termites (39%)
- Major appliances (34%)
- Roof (31%)
- Foundation (27%)
Even if it’s something you’ve tolerated for many years (a common excuse sellers make), it doesn’t mean it’s something the buyer of your house should be expected to figure out and be okay with once they’ve lived in the home for a while. For instance:
- Is there a light switch that doesn’t actually work? It might aggravate the heck out of you, but you never wanted to spend the money to get it fixed, and maybe you hope the buyer just won’t notice until they live there.
- Or perhaps there’s a pipe that clogs once or twice a year and requires a plumber to come out to professionally snake it. That could easily go unnoticed during an inspection. But you know within a year they’ll have to deal with it, and within two years they’re going to figure out it’s something that happens regularly, and probably has been for years. But at that point, you’ll be long gone.
- Does your basement flood when it rains really hard? You may be able to paint over any water damage and get the musty smell out before listing your house, but that doesn’t fix the fact that your buyers will need to put on some boots and wet-vac an inch of water like you did after a heavy rain.
Those are just a few examples, but what are the things that aggravate you about your house and your buyer will have to deal with? Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes (or boots, if you will), and have some empathy. Ideally, fix it for them before even selling it. (Oh, and you should disclose a known issue even if you fix it, by the way!) But if you can’t, or just don’t want to fix something, at least disclose it and let the buyer make an informed decision.
Why should you disclose known issues, when 94% of sellers don’t?
While buyers should do their due diligence, and their home inspector should catch any issues (and could be liable for missing things), there’s still a responsibility on the owner to disclose any known issues.
If you fail to disclose, you could be liable! Just because the buyer didn’t realize there was an issue before closing on the purchase of your house, does not mean they can’t come after you for not disclosing a problem.
Disclosing issues with your house to potential buyers isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s your legal responsibility. Just because “everyone else does it,” and you may get away with it, isn’t a good reason to throw caution to the wind.
Besides, just because there’s an issue and you disclose it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fix it. That’s always negotiable, and the buyer can take it into consideration when making their offer. It may not even affect how much they’re willing to offer for your house. But if you try to hide it and they find out, you could find yourself losing a deal, or worse…a future lawsuit!