What Are You Required to Disclose When You Sell Your Home?
When you set out to sell a house, most states require you to make certain “disclosures.” Disclosures refer to any “material defects” in the home, and in many states you will be held liable if you don’t tell the buyer about them upfront.
To avoid getting in legal trouble, it’s imperative that you know what you should and need not disclose when you fill out your own disclosure statement. We’ve done all of the legwork for you and pulled sample disclosure docs for every single state.
In this article, you’ll be able to read up on the disclosures in your state and take a look at a sample disclosure form in order to prepare yourself to fill out the real one.
What is a seller’s disclosure statement or seller’s disclosure form?
In a nutshell, the basis of most state disclosure documents is the same. You’ll be asked a series of questions about the condition of your property and if anything is broken, damaged, or does not work. This includes things like the foundation of the house, skylights, the plumbing, pool, HVAC, etc.
Some states require you to disclose problems with the land; others just with the structure of the home itself. Other states have additional disclosures that you need to note. For example, in Washington, you must disclose if you live near a farm.
In some states, like California, your real estate agent is not legally allowed to help you fill out the form, so you’ll need to complete it on your own.
Chris Murray, a top-selling real estate agent in Hemet, California, explains how filling out his state’s disclosure form, called the “Transfer Disclosure,” works during a home sale. “So we hand [the form to the seller], they can fill it out, and then that is what we provide to the buyer to relay any of the seller’s known issues with the home.
The key is, it’s known issues. They’re not going to dig into investigating anything. It’s as simple ‘Are you aware of …?’ and they say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If they’re not aware of it, that’s the end of it. They don’t have to investigate to get a clear answer.”
If you do need help filling out a disclosure document in a state where you cannot ask your agent for help, you will need to consult a real estate lawyer.
Why do disclosure documents matter when you sell your home?
Imagine that you’re adopting a puppy from an animal shelter who is very afraid of cars. You adopt the pup, attach his leash to his collar, and set out to put him in your car to bring him to his cozy new home.
All of a sudden he starts crying and jumps into your arms and you have no idea why. You bring him back into the shelter to ask what’s going on, and they finally disclose to you that he has a fear of cars.
If the shelter had disclosed the pup’s fear of cars, you may have acted differently. You may not have adopted the pup knowing that your life revolves around driving your car to and from work, to get the kids, to run errands, or on long road trips for months at a time.
Or, you would have adopted the dog knowing full well that you’d need to walk him home the first time, and that you would need to work with him to help him conquer his fear once and for all.
It’s similar to a house. If you know your house has a large crack in the foundation, the roof leaks when it rains, or has any other issue, you need to disclose it to the buyer before they purchase it.
If the buyer knows full well what they’re getting into with your house, it lightens your legal liability. Then, the buyer can decide if they’re willing to deal with any issues in your house or if they want to walk away completely.
What do I have to disclose when I sell my house?
Every state’s disclosure laws are different, even though the core of most disclosure statements are similar. That’s why you need to take an in-depth look at the disclosure document for your state. If you want to dive into the legal code for your state, you can also check out the disclosure laws for all 50 states.
Some states do not have a standard disclosure document but instead, employ the “Caveat Emptor” or “Buyer Beware” rule. This rule states that it is the buyer’s responsibility to figure out if there are any issues with the home.
The Caveat Emptor rule does not apply if the seller lies about anything that is important that has happened in the home or any important defects within the home.
Find your state to read sample disclosure documents and to find out more on what exactly you need to disclose to the buyer when you sell your house.
Alabama: “Caveat Emptor” Rule, unless the seller or real estate agent knows about something that would impact the “Health or Safety” of the buyer.
Alaska: Residential Real Property Transfer Disclosure Statement
Arizona: Residential Seller Disclosure Statement
Arkansas: Is a Caveat Emptor state, and the real estate agent must “exert reasonable effort” to find any issues with the house.
California: Transfer Disclosure Statement; real estate agents cannot help
Colorado: Seller’s Property Disclosure (Residential)
Connecticut: Residential Property Condition Disclosure Report
Delaware: Seller’s Disclosure Of Real Property Condition Report
Florida: Florida Realtors Seller’s Property Disclosure – Residential form (SPDR)
Georgia: The seller should disclose known problems with the home.
Hawaii: Hawaii Seller’s Disclosure Statement
Idaho: Property Condition Disclosure Form
Illinois: Residential Real Property Disclosure Report
Indiana: Seller’s Residential Real Estate Sales Disclosure
Iowa: Seller Property Condition Disclosure (covers asbestos and lead paint too)
Kansas: Seller’s Disclosure And Condition of Property Addendum (Residential)
Kentucky: Seller’s Disclosure Of Property Condition
Louisiana: Louisiana Residential Property Disclosure
Maine: Seller’s Property Disclosure
Maryland: Maryland Residential Property Disclosure And Disclaimer Statement
Massachusetts: Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification
Michigan: Seller’s Disclosure Statement
Minnesota: Seller’s Disclosure Statement
Mississippi: Property Condition Disclosure Statement
Missouri: Seller’s Disclosure Statement for Residential Property Sellers also needs to disclose if methamphetamines were ever made in the house and if a child welfare was ever endangered.
Montana: Owner’s Property Disclosure Statement
Nebraska: Nebraska Real Estate Commission Seller Property Condition Disclosure Statement Residential Real Property
Nevada: Seller’s Real Property Disclosure Form
New Hampshire: Property Disclosure – Residential Only
New Jersey: Standard Form Of Seller’s Property Condition Disclosure Statement
New Mexico: New Mexico’s disclosures care most about taxes and ask that the seller disclose known material defects.
New York: Property Condition Disclosure Statement
North Carolina: Residential Property And Owners’ Association Disclosure Statement; Sellers can select “no representation” for certain answers, which is a completely neutral response.
North Dakota: Caveat Emptor State
Ohio: Residential Property Disclosure Form
Oklahoma: Residential Property Condition Disclosure Statement
Oregon: Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement
Pennsylvania: Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement
Rhode Island: R.I. Real Estate Sales Disclosure Form
South Carolina: State Of South Carolina Residential Property Condition Disclosure Statement
South Dakota: Seller’s Property Condition Disclosure Statement
Tennessee: Tennessee Residential Property Condition Disclosure
Texas: Seller’s Disclosure Notice
Utah: Seller’s Property Condition Disclosure
Vermont: real estate agent to disclose “material facts”
Virginia: known mining ops; Residential Property Disclosure Statement
Washington: Disclose if you’re close to a farm; Seller’s Disclosures
West Virginia: Caveat Emptor state; real estate agents are under the obligation to be honest with buyers.
Wisconsin: Disclosures By Owners of Real Estate
Wyoming: Caveat Emptor state; Real estate agents should be honest with buyers.