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What do I need to know about real estate disclosures?

Whether you are buying or selling a home, you should know certain things about real estate disclosures. They can come in different forms, but they are basically an opportunity for the buyer to learn as much as possible about the seller's experience in the property.

A seller's disclosures can include a wide range of knowledge about the property. For example, it could include the fact that a window leaks due to work that was done without a permit. Sellers can be protected being named in a lawsuit later with the proper disclosure. It's a chance for the seller to let potential buyers know about anything that could negatively affect the value, enjoyment or usefulness of the property.

Laws on real estate disclosures can vary significantly from state to state, county to county and city to city. The local real estate association usually puts together a group of disclosure documents, which include a series questions about the property. Sellers are required to present information about substantial defects that could affect the property's value.

Sellers should disclose any renovations, improvements or upgrades and whether the work had a permit. Buyers should check with the local permit office to see if a permit was obtained. Work that didn't have a permit might not meet code requirements, and that could end up resulting in health or fire hazards. Other disclosures could include:

-- Pets on the property

-- Neighborhood nuisances

-- Termite problems

-- Defects with appliances

-- Defects with major systems

-- Disputes over property lines

-- And much more.

An inspection and a disclosure are two different things. An inspection can find things that the seller might not have known about. An inspection is highly recommended before buying a property.

Disclosures are usually given to a buyer after an offer is accepted, although some sellers choose to provide them before an offer. Doing so does save everyone a lot of time, expense and headaches.

All disclosures must be signed off on by the buyer, so reviewing them carefully is a must. Ask questions when in doubt about something. If something is found after the sale that was not disclosed, the buyer may seek compensation through legal avenues.

Source: Zillow, "5 Things You Need to Know About Real Estate Disclosures," Brendon DeSimone, accessed Nov. 18, 2016

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