When deciding to sell a home, homeowners may wonder what type of information is best left undisclosed when their property is being viewed by potential buyers. The responsible thing to do would be to consult with their real estate agent, who will know exactly what things may have a marked influence on the way the property is perceived.
However, most real estate agents will advise that home sellers do not hide anything related to the property from potential buyers – and for good reason.
Not being completely honest about exactly what buyers are acquiring can certainly have legal repercussions if these things have the potential to cost a lot of money to repair or if they have a harmful or damaging effect on the buyer’s health.
With this being said, there are definitely some aspects relating to the home that must absolutely be disclosed. While your real estate agent will probably point these out, it’s worth taking a look at the things that must be disclosed when the property is being advertised, and especially when people start viewing it.
What do I need to disclose when selling my house?
- Pre-contractual disclosure obligations
As the terms states, pre-contractual disclosure obligations pertain to those aspects of the home that need to be disclosed before the sales contract is drawn up. In Australia, these mainly refer to four aspects relating to defects or restraints in the property title.
Australia has very strict guidelines with regards to zoning, especially insofar these are related to flood zones and bushfire zones. Sellers need to disclose it if their property is located in areas that fall within these boundaries. If they are selling in Tasmania, it is also necessary to disclose graves on the property, should there be any.
When property owners are required to abide by certain rules due to their property’s location, these are referred to as covenants. Covenants refer to things like requirements relating to the home-front finishes or the landscaping of the property. If covenants are applicable to all the homeowners in the area, they certainly need to be disclosed before the sale of the home is completed.
When we refer to easements, we are talking about the right to use land for a specific purpose, regardless of whether a person owns the property or not. A shared driveway is a good example of this, but easements can also refer to water or electrical easements for authorities.
Should a property remain under a rental agreement for some time after the settlement, this lease needs to be disclosed to prospective buyers.
- Building consent
When a home is being prepared to be put on the market, real estate agents will often advise sellers to undertake renovations or repairs to the property in order to make it more appealing to potential buyers. Unless the home is being sold as a fixer-upper, the relatively low cost of these repairs is usually recovered when the property is sold and the profit is made.
However, sellers should keep in mind that information about any and all construction work to the property will need to be disclosed to interested buyers. Sellers need to provide documentation showing that all the work done on the property has been approved and completed. Likewise, building improvements that do not have full approval must also be disclosed.
Before repairs and renovations are undertaken, sellers should make sure that the contractors they use are registered to do business in their city or state, and that they do quality work. Real estate agents will be able to recommend contractors with a good track record, but who do not charge an arm and a leg for the labour or materials.
- Property defects
While we’re talking about renovations: sellers absolutely need to disclose any property defects. Remember, buyers will almost certainly insist that a home inspection is done before signing any contracts or sales agreements, and this isn’t for nought. Many sellers have had the unfortunate experience of acquiring a property, only to discover that it comes with a set of problems that are expensive or will take long to repair.
Property defects that need to be disclosed include damp, any kind of insect infestation, appliances that do not work, and structural issues. Sellers may be liable to complete these repairs before the sale goes through, should they not have disclosed them upfront. Also, it definitely doesn’t create a great rapport between the buyer and seller when the seller isn’t completely honest. Only finding out about significant property defects after a home inspection creates a sense of distrust that is likely to completely derail any chance of a sale – honesty is always the best policy.
- Sensitive issues
When it comes to selling property, the perception of buyers is of the utmost importance. This is why certain suburbs are simply easier to sell in, whilst properties located in others tend to spend a little more time on the market.
After changes to the legislation in some states, Australian home sellers in said states are also now legally required to disclose any sensitive issues relating to the property. If the home was used for drug manufacturing, this needs to be said, and proof of the rehabilitation of the property will also need to be provided, as it may have an impact on the health of the new property owners.
Should the property have been the site of a serious crime like murder, or if an accident has taken place on the property, sellers are obliged to say so, as this has an influence on the perception that buyers have of the property, and may also affect the home’s value.
The dangers of asbestos have truly come into the spotlight over the past few years. This material, which was previously used in the construction industry very often, holds significant health hazards for people, and can lead to serious conditions like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. This happens when the asbestos fibres aren’t broken down in the body and are lodged in the lungs or digestive tract.
It makes sense, then, that one of the most common disclosure requirements pertains to asbestos.
In many states, sellers are legally required to disclose it if their property has, could have or could have had asbestos. Whether the state you live in has or doesn’t have asbestos disclosure requirements in place, you can bet that legislation about asbestos disclosure should very soon be enforced all across Australia.
Home sellers certainly wouldn’t want health lawsuits on their doorstep once they’ve moved into their new property, which is why it is always better to tell prospective buyers about asbestos and about any other things about the property that may be detrimental to the health of the new owners.
What happens if something isn’t disclosed?
Whether legislation requires it or not, disclosure is not only the ethical thing to do when you put your property on the market, but can also save sellers a lot of legal trouble in the future. If nothing else, this type of dishonesty may certainly significantly affect the outcome of the property’s sale. Homebuyers don’t take kindly to any omissions, as leaving out even the smallest detail will affect the way they see the rest of the property and make them wonder whether there’s anything else that the seller may be hiding from them.
When selling a property as a fixer-upper, the flaws of the home is what will make it attractive to potential buyers – and not only because they know that they’re getting a good deal and will be able to renovate the property to suit their taste, and make a bigger profit upon selling it again.
When it comes to properties that are sold without any major repairs necessary, though, not being absolutely honest about the condition of the home could derail the sale of the home altogether. Sellers can imagine, then, how non-disclosure of serious issues can have a negative impact on the sale in general. When the issues mentioned can affect the finances of the buyer (when they have to fork out wads of cash to undertake bigger repairs, for example) or their health (for instance in the case of asbestos) the rule of thumb is that disclosure is always better than not saying anything.
Home sellers should remember that sacrificing some profit (if they do not have the money to pay for the necessary repairs before the property is sold) is far better than having to defend themselves in a court of law when they were the in the wrong.
Legislation requiring disclosure of faults and issues with a property that is being sold is in place in many parts of the country, making honesty a legal requirement when a home is sold.
A qualified and experienced real estate agent will go out of their way to make sure you stay on the right side of the law while also making a handsome profit on the sale of your home. Still looking for someone to help you sell? Let Perfect Agent recommend the right real estate agent for you today!