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Fischer: Full disclosure – not all problems are caught prior to home sale

By Jen Fischer - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 8, 2023

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Jen Fischer

Some people are homebodies, and some are not. I am not. In fact, as far back as I can remember, but well before I was 5 years of age, if I caught my mom putting her shoes on as an indicator she was going someplace, I would beg her to take me along, even if it was just to the mailbox. It wasn’t the fear of her leaving that initiated this response. More likely, it was the fear of missing out, a term commonly referred to today as FOMO. I have it, and there is no known cure. It seems to occur randomly throughout the population and tends to manifest in early childhood and continue throughout adulthood until the person has taken their final curtain call. Either way, I spend little time at home.

It is for this reason that I had no knowledge that my basement storage area had a small active leak in my last home. I hadn’t stored anything in the small space under the porch (since I am a self-proclaimed minimalist and do not need a place to store stuff that I will likely never look at nor use again), thus I had little to no reason for ever opening that door. Unfortunately, the leak had provided just enough moisture for mold to grow. I only learned this when I was selling my home and the buyer had inspections done. The leak was discovered, and I immediately had it cleaned up and repaired so it wouldn’t happen again.

If this had happened and the buyers had not had a professional inspection done, and the door had not been opened, I wouldn’t have known, and the home would have been sold without the leak having been disclosed. It would not have been due to any malice or ill-intent on my part; I just simply wouldn’t have had knowledge of it. It never occurred to me to open a door to a small space that was never used. Since then, I recommend an occasional perusal of the less traveled corridors, closets, cavities, crawl spaces and corners.

In Utah, we have a disclosure form. It is a full 16-page form that must be filled out by the seller and provided to the buyer during the period in which the home is under contract. This form is required by law, regardless of occupancy. The seller must disclose all known defects or facts that “materially and adversely affect the use and value of the property.” At the same time, Utah is a “caveat emptor” state. This is a Latin phrase that translates to “let the buyers beware.” This means that buyers must do their due diligence. Sellers cannot be responsible for problems that occur after the sale of the home or that were discovered after the sale in which the buyer had no knowledge of existing before.

As Realtors, we implore our sellers to be honest and transparent when filling out the disclosures. If a toilet flooded, for example, and went through the ceiling of the basement resulting in a complete loss of carpet and furniture, even if it was completely remediated, it must be reported. If it is not, and something wasn’t done properly, it could result in a lawsuit for the seller down the line. On the other hand, if a railing on a deck became loose, even before selling, but neither the buyer nor the seller was aware of it before the transaction closed, the seller would not be responsible for repairing it. That would be like me going back to the sellers of my home to pay for the loss after my toaster burned the kitchen down four years after closing (my toaster didn’t, by the way).

It is important for both buyers and sellers to heed to their individual responsibilities, even if out engaging in FOMO activities, whatever they may be, and return to find the toaster had worked overtime.

Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com.


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