The Real Estate Encyclopedia
Disclosure: Are You Doing the Right Thing?
Category - Real Estate Information Sources - Real Estate Articles

Real estate professionals are named so because of their expert ability to take the average, everyday American home and transform it into the most amazing house on the block. In doing so, they seek to polish and refine, market and stage, package and promote. But there’s a fine line between maximizing the sales potential inherent within a home and omitting key information that could potentially affect a transaction or buyer.

Disclosure is among the many complex concepts involved in the sale of a house - of which a real estate professional should be fully-versed. This isn’t exactly the most exciting concept, especially when a transaction hangs in the balance. Many times, some agents may see disclosure in the short-term as a nagging thorn, but it is always an important issue that, if poorly handled, could adversely affect an agent’s overall reputation for honesty and justice.

Disclosure is, however, no longer just a moral issue; it is a legal one as well. In essence, the following question must be sufficiently answered, "To what extent is it the responsibility of the seller, and subsequently his or her agent, to verify and reveal important information that must be addressed - or at the very least acknowledged - prior to the sale of a property?" The answer is neither simple, nor uniform. Not every property disclosure statement is created equal, as each state views the subject with varying degrees of concern. The advent of buyer representation exponentially sped up the growth of this discussion, as some courts recently began holding brokers liable for seller errors and omissions. Court-imposed disclosure requirements began to create messy trials with varied outcomes, as litigators wrestled over a myriad of related issues, including seller knowledge, external and internal responsibilities and material defects.

However, a certain body of information is generally accepted as "disclosable". A few of these topics include zoning, material facts, major structural issues and property defects. After that, things become increasingly blurry. For example, California law stipulates that sellers must notify buyers if a death has occurred on the property within the last 3 years. Given the current state of property disclosure law across the country, the question then becomes, "Does the topic merit further federal, state or local legislation in order to protect buyers and elevate the credibility of real estate sales practitioners in general?" Many agents and brokers believe that new licensee education in the area of disclosure law is beyond merely important, it's essential to the public interest. If you must err, err on the side of forthrightness, even at the expense of an adverse reaction toward home desirability.

If your personal opinion on the matter falls closer to a positive response, you might also be encouraged to know that, without any federal tinkering, several states and real estate educational entities have taken a proactive stance on the issue, offering curriculum designed to encourage disclosure in a manner that is respectful to all parties involved in a real estate transaction. If your response to the question above falls closer to the "No Thanks!" crowd then you must contend with the portent of possible liability somewhere down the line. That possibility alone is enough to push many noncompliant Realtors® across the dividing line when it comes to the controversial issue of disclosure.

It is therefore recommend that you become the best seller’s agent you can and serve your customers professionally and ethically. For information on how to become an Accredited Seller Representative (ASR®) visit the Seller Agency Council's ASR web site or the RealtyU's Online Real Estate Courses web site.


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