Williamstown real estate agent and Broker Paul Harsch has 40 years of experience in Berkshires Properties and he recommends:
Seller’s Property Disclosure Forms – Make This A High Priority
There is a lot push pull going on right now over the use of real estate agents promoting Berkshire seller property disclosure forms to their clients. Some agents and interested parties have been advising their Berkshire home seller clients not to complete a seller property disclosure form. Why do agents advise their seller clients not to disclose? Here is why.
Attorneys advocate for their clients. If you are a Berkshire property seller and If you are utilizing an attorney you owe it to your self to carefully consider counsel. That is prudent and practical advice. Interestingly however, the vast majority of single family residential real estate sales across this nation seldom have attorney involvement.
In the northeast most transactions involve attorneys who handle the closings. However title companies handle the majority of home closings throughout the nation. A Berkshire attorney representing a buyer they would most definitely want to see a seller property disclosure form.
Property disclosure forms were originally developed across the nation as a means of reducing liability for both buyer and seller. An argument can be made if a seller makes a misstatement of a fact on the form, it leaves them exposed for a lawsuit.
Seller property disclosure forms are very clear that the responses are “to the sellers’ best knowledge” and that “the sellers are not experts “and “buyers are advised to verify all facts themselves”. This is similar to the advice of good counsel meaning "verify all facts prior to making an offer" and certainly prior to closing.
Seller property disclosure forms advise the sellers to only answer in the affirmative or negative to questions if they have actual knowledge of the facts, otherwise they respond they don’t know.
Therefore as long as the seller is completing the form thoughtfully and of course, honestly, there is no risk at all. Seller property disclosure forms are a good faith attempt to provide the potential buyer with the personal knowledge the Berkshire home seller has of the property.
It is well known that seller property disclosure forms are subject to the fact that most real estate purchase forms require the parties to seek solutions to problems via mediation.
Seller property disclosure form were created out of a desire by state regulators and real estate associations to reduce the number of lawsuits that proliferated in the days before their use because of so many undisclosed problems. The use of disclosure forms has greatly reduced the number of lawsuits in real estate transactions.
A buyer who is properly represented by a capable broker, agent or facilitator will know they need to use extra care in researching the property if no sellers property disclosure is offered. Lack of a sellers property disclosure form should raise caution flag thus triggering the old saying “buyer beware”.
In conclusion, the prudent seller and licensee should always provide the property disclosure form for everyone’s protection.
Below are just a few examples of crucial questions that I have asked in lieu of a sellers property disclosure form. Each real estate case is unique and will call for additional inquiries. These are some recent examples that have arisen in my practice when no sellers property disclosure form was provided.
1. Have you had any recurring problems with the property such as water infiltration into the buildings, annoyances or conditions from outside the property that impact your use or enjoyment or would impact the use and peace and enjoyment by the future owners?
2. Are there wetlands on the property?
3. Have you had any work done since you have owned the property for which permits would be required by the town/city? If so, please provide copies of permits.
4. How old is the roof, septic system (if applicable) and the heating system?
The Massachusetts Association of Realtors® Sellers Statement of Property Condition is 8 pages in all. The Vermont Association of Realtors® equivalent form is 6 pages total and titled the Sellers Property Information Report. New York State requires by law that all sellers provide the Property Condition Disclosure Statement prior to a buyer submitting an offer to purchase however the seller does have the option to credit the buyer $500 as an alternative. Obviously the state of NY considers these disclosures very critical to providing buyers with the maximum level of information for making an informed purchase decision. Consider it a best practice to complete the sellers statement of property condition.