As last Saturday was one of the few and far between sunny days we have had the privilege of experiencing in this Arctic tundra we call Utah, I decided to spend some time outdoors watching my nieces and nephew jump on the trampoline.
In reality, I would really love to be on that taut fabric stretched between coils, bouncing myself. Unfortunately, that ended with the birth of my first child. There is not a restroom that could be anywhere close enough for me to be able to bounce that way any longer. Ask any woman who has ever had a baby. Just for the record, we can’t sneeze or cough either.
At any rate, as I headed back indoors, I ran full-force, face forward, into the closed sliding glass door. I guess the glass was super clean, which made it completely transparent. It has definitely left a mark ... on both my face and the door.
This type of transparency is exactly what is needed when a seller is filling out the property condition disclosures form. As I like to say, “When in doubt, don’t leave it out.” In other words, if there is any question, disclose it. This is not just a question of morality or ethics; the harm in not disclosing could result in some serious legal or financial problems.
According to the Utah Association of Realtors, property condition disclosures are one of the most common areas of real estate law to cross the desk of legal counsel. It’s a big deal. The form is fairly simple to fill out. The current form consists of seven pages, technically. (It’s really six pages of questions and one for signatures.) There are 26 questions, all yes or no. Recently, an N/A box has been added for issues that are not applicable.
The questions range from topics of home ownership to use of property, to moisture conditions. They address use of hazardous materials, known material defects with electrical, HVAC systems, soil, roof condition, insurance claims, HOA information and solar panels. It’s pretty straightforward. If the toilet failed and leaked through the ceiling into the kitchen, one generally knows this about the home they are living in. This means one should check the “yes” box on the disclosure form where it asks specifically if there have been any moisture conditions related to sewer overflow, leaking or broken pipes, or plumbing fixtures.
A couple of weeks ago, my client and I received the seller’s disclosures on a property he is purchasing. The disclosures stated that the seller occupied the property the entire time he owned it, yet he had marked “yes” on the box that asked if it had ever been leased out during the time the seller owned it. Now math isn’t my best subject, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t add up.
This may seem like a small thing, yet it could turn into something much bigger. Ultimately, what this did was set the stage for my buyer to question the validity of the remaining answers on the disclosures. If this guy wasn’t willing to disclose on the very first question, would he be completely transparent on the more difficult questions?
As Realtors, we see some stuff. I’ve seen sellers paint over water damaged baseboards, recent fire evidence in the attic, and fresh mouse traps with fresh mice caught in them. I’ve seen garden boxes freshly installed over water damaged siding and mold peaking out beneath a fresh coat of paint — all of which had not been disclosed. I have also seen sellers go to court and lose due to inadequate disclosing.
Ultimately, running into a closed sliding glass door is going to leave a mark. Even if you can’t see it in the mirror, the neighbors or the inspector will point it out to you. Either way, you really can’t keep it from being noticed.