Selling a home often involves presenting the property in its best condition. However, sellers also have obligations to potential buyers. In order to minimize future liability, sellers should confirm that they have given buyers a full picture of the home's condition. Some rules are based on the city or province. Others are more closely related to convention. With this information, sellers will understand how they can provide buyers with useful and accurate data about the property.
1. Unknown vs. Known Faults
The information that a seller gives to a buyer is primarily a matter of liability. Sellers are liable for the details they provide about the home to buyers. As such, they are on the hook to be honest and truthful when completing disclosure or answering questions. However, as a general rule, sellers are only obligated to answer insofar as they know. For example, a seller who has lived in a 50-year-old home for 5 years may not have a thorough understanding of the property's condition. This is why many disclosure forms give sellers the opportunity to say that they do not know about a particular aspect of the home.
2. Patent vs. Latent Defects
As sellers start to think about the defects of the home, they should consider what is obvious, and which ones may be hidden from buyers' view. Patent defects concern issues with the property that the buyer might be able to see during a showing. Most patent defects would come up during a home inspection. Latent defects may be so concealed that even the current homeowner does not know about them. There are certain kinds of latent defects that could render a home uninhabitable, such as:
- unremediated water or fire damage
- chemical residue
- toxic substances on the property
Sellers must disclose any information about latent defects, and take care not to hide them from buyers.
3. Remediation Records
Of course, during a homeowner's tenure on a property, they are likely to encounter certain types of problems that they must repair. For example, someone who experiences mould or a flooded basement would probably hire a professional to fix it. In these cases, homeowners should be prepared to provide information to show that they have taken the proper steps to solve the problem. Keeping complete records of all repairs and home improvements for buyer review can minimize the likelihood of issues during the selling process.
4. Types of Disclosures
Sellers may not be required to fill out any disclosures in order to sell a piece of real estate. It depends on the province. Some buyers will request a form like a Seller Property Information Statement or Property Condition Disclosure as part of a purchase offer. Sellers should ask their real estate agents which disclosures are most appropriate for the region and the property. As they fill it out, they may need to consult with the agent about how to answer comprehensively and correctly. The answers put on the disclosure can affect the liability the seller faces, if there is a major problem with the home.
5. Buyer and Seller Responsibility
Above all, sellers should keep in mind that they are required by law to answer any question as truthfully as they can. This applies whether the buyer is personally asking about individual aspects of the property, or looking at a disclosure form. Buyers have the responsibility to investigate the home to ascertain its condition, usually through a home inspection. Buyers can take sellers to court for serious defects in the property. However, they usually have to prove that the seller knew about it and failed to properly disclose it.
The Springbank Hill home selling process often involves answering a lot of buyer questions, particularly about the property's condition. By understanding their responsibility to buyers, sellers can reduce the likelihood of issues that may prevent the sale from progressing.