Specialized Buyers Agent Answers Real Estate Questions

Q. We are shopping for a new home and want to do it the right way. So we always ask to see the “Seller’s Disclosure” for the home before we go to see it. Sometimes they do not have one or if they do, it is not filled out very completely. Isn’t there a law that requires this for every home? D. and P. Randolph, Narberth, PA

A. I am all about careful analysis before buying a home but I do question a bit your need to see the detailed list of all the home’s issues before you have even walked through the door! That might deter you from seeing a home that would be perfect for you where the sellers were just overly cautious in filling out the form. I usually get the seller’s disclosure for a home if my clients have seen the home and may possibly make an offer.

These forms, while required by law, have the effect of protecting the sellers more than the buyers, in my opinion. They give the seller an opportunity to put the buyer on notice of a list of issues about the roof, basement, heating and cooling systems, radon and termite problems, etc.. Not everyone has to give them out, though. Builders who give a warranty do not have to do so, nor do sellers of estates—where the owner has died and the heirs did not live in the house. Sometimes a divorcing couple may give one where the one owner does not sign because he or she has not lived in the house for a long time and cannot really state what the present condition is (although they may know of past problems). And they do not cover everything you might care about, either.

Because the standard agreement of sale has a clause that in effect “erases” any claims for problems after the house is bought, this separate statutory right of action is arguably the sole recourse available to a buyer who runs into problems after closing. The problems must be “material” or of a nature that they pose a “health or safety risk”—so not everything is covered. And my understanding is that cases under this law generally hold that the sellers must have actually known and lied about the issue on the form in order for the buyers to collect any money.

Interestingly, the statue provides a form that is acceptable for use that is not as comprehensive as the standard form promulgated by the state Association of Realtors and used by most agents, so most buyers are getting this expanded form of disclosure. There is also a proposed change to that law requiring selling agents to disclose material defects to buyers that their sellers failed to disclose if they actually know about them.

So I treat the seller’s disclosure as a litmus test to provide me with a list of things to have my buyer’s inspector look at closely. I judge a seller by the attention they seem to have paid to the form and how much they have disclosed. In a way, I see a thorough disclosure, rather than a red flag, as an indication of an honest seller. And if it is not completely filled out, I require that be done during the inspection period so we have the correct information.

I do not consider the seller’s disclosure as any form of guaranty that the house will be perfect, though. No house is perfect, and there is always some risk when making such a large and complicated purchase. The idea is to reduce the risk as much as possible. Use an agent with a good “eye”, read the form, ask questions and have your inspector look at any problems that have occurred in the past to be sure they have been corrected.

 

 

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I moved to PA from Washington State and learned that realty is local. There were things that I thought I knew about buying a house previously but boy was I wrong. Linda was very patient with me but also did not hold back when she saw potential problems, and always made sure I had all the information I needed before making a decision and didn’t belittle concerns to just get a sale. Above all else, and this was the most important thing to me, Linda has a high ethical standard, is very transparent in her approach and is someone I trusted making one of the biggest decisions of my life. – A. Lindsay (Courtesy of Google)

 

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  • "We were so pleased that a co-worker recommended someone in the area that she trusted. Boy, did we strike gold on all counts. You are amazing!"
  • "Instead of trying to take advantage of conflicts of interest, she puts the client's interests first."
  • "Linda is a hardworking, proactive and knowledgeable realtor. Throughout the process of finding and buying our new home, she was always responsive and kept us up to date on every detail."
  • "Linda and the group at Sage are the right fit. You won’t find more knowledgeable, prepared and professional agents."
  • "Linda and Tracey really know the Main Line area."
  • "Throughout the entire process we never doubted that she always had our best interests in mind. We wouldn’t consider anyone else when buying a home on the Main Line."
  • "From start to finish, Linda brought to bear a most helpful combination of experience, knowledge, attention and integrity on a somewhat complicated transaction. There was never any doubt that she represented our interests."
  • "Her knowledge of the area helped us quickly narrow our search and ultimately scored us an amazing home in an incredible neighborhood."
  • "It is hard to trust when you are not sure of the rules of the game. Working with Linda made us feel like we were family. Linda took her time to relay and explain everything in detail."
  • "Linda’s honesty and real estate savviness made for a wonderful home buying experience!"

Read more about what our clients have to say

Hear from our Clients

  • "We were so pleased that a co-worker recommended someone in the area that she trusted. Boy, did we strike gold on all counts. You are amazing!"
  • "Instead of trying to take advantage of conflicts of interest, she puts the client's interests first."
  • "Linda is a hardworking, proactive and knowledgeable realtor. Throughout the process of finding and buying our new home, she was always responsive and kept us up to date on every detail."
  • "Linda and the group at Sage are the right fit. You won’t find more knowledgeable, prepared and professional agents."
  • "Linda and Tracey really know the Main Line area."
  • "Throughout the entire process we never doubted that she always had our best interests in mind. We wouldn’t consider anyone else when buying a home on the Main Line."
  • "From start to finish, Linda brought to bear a most helpful combination of experience, knowledge, attention and integrity on a somewhat complicated transaction. There was never any doubt that she represented our interests."
  • "Her knowledge of the area helped us quickly narrow our search and ultimately scored us an amazing home in an incredible neighborhood."
  • "It is hard to trust when you are not sure of the rules of the game. Working with Linda made us feel like we were family. Linda took her time to relay and explain everything in detail."
  • "Linda’s honesty and real estate savviness made for a wonderful home buying experience!"

Read more about what our clients have to say

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