Selling a home is a daunting task. There is usually much to do to make the house attractive to potential buyers, and maybe you apply a new coat of paint or replace the carpeting. You might even opt for more extensive renovations or replace outdated appliances, hoping to recoup the cost with a good price.
However, while making your home appealing to buyers, you may be tempted to cover some evidence of defects. Does that coat of paint cover a stain from a leaking pipe? Does the carpet hide a slope in the floor from a shifting foundation? What are the potential consequences of hiding defects in your home?
Real estate transactions and the obligation to tell what you know
Most states, including Oklahoma, require home sellers to make an honest disclosure of any problems that could affect the value of the property. Sellers typically submit this information to potential buyers through documents which real estate agencies have created. You may receive a list of yes and no questions to answer to the best of your knowledge concerning any possible problems a new owner should know about. For example:
- Water in the basement
- Leaking roof
- Defective appliances
- Termite issues
- Asbestos or lead paint
- Contested property lines
- Crumbling or shifting foundation
You may also have to disclose any improvements or renovations you made to the property and whether you properly obtained permits according to local laws.
Some jurisdictions are much stricter than others concerning the types of issues you must disclose. You may have to report if you had pets in the home or the existence of any neighborhood nuisances that produce excessive noise or odor.
The pricey consequences of hiding the truth
Disclosure statements allow interested buyers to make an educated decision about the purchase of your property. Disclosure of major defects may result in a lower offer or the rejection of your house from consideration, which is why some sellers are tempted to make less-than-honest disclosures.
A disclosure is not the same as an inspection, and a buyer's inspector may discover defects about which you were unaware. However, if you fail to disclose problems not covered by an inspection, you could face legal consequences. If the people who buy your property discover that you did not disclose a problem that might have changed their offer or their decision to purchase the house altogether, they have the right to seek redress through a civil lawsuit.