Since the 1980s, an increasing number of legal claims have been filed against sellers of real property in California by buyers claiming damages due to conditions which were not disclosed prior to purchase. Many of these claims have resulted in lawsuits and hefty judgments against the sellers and/or their real estate agents. Others, while small and perhaps never reaching the stage of a legal filing, have cost sellers thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees and in nuisance value settlements. I believe that the best form of protection against such claims is scrupulous and complete disclosure of all aspects of the property being sold.
As a seller, you will be asked to complete a number of disclosure forms, many of which are mandated by State law such as the Sellers Transfer Disclosure Statement and the Residential Earthquake Hazards Report, others of which have been created by the Greater San Francisco Association of Realtors, such as the Supplement to Sellers Transfer Disclosure Statement, and still others which have been created by various real estate companies.
Knowledgeable and experienced real estate professionals will walk you through the necessary documents to complete. Many of these documents have boiler plate questions which may need further explanation in your answers. Just checking yes or no on these questions is likely to raise eyebrows and create additional questions. Please be as complete and descriptive as possible and don’t worry about ‘over-disclosing’. My experience has been that buyers in love with your property will forgive many things upfront, but will be less forgiving after the fact. Don’t take a chance at leaving out anything; if you wonder if it should be in your disclosures, chances are, it should.