We have a property under contract in the valley and have had an inspection done by a local inspector who alerted us to some issues with the home we are hoping to buy. One issue appears serious to us and is definitely serious as far as cost to repair or replace. We decided to get some bids so that we would have accurate information when we wrote up our “inspection objection” report. We called three local contractors to give us estimates on what it would cost to remedy the biggest issue. The second contractor surprised us when he told us he already had done a bid for the repair of this issue for the seller and had worked on the problem several times in the past. We double-checked and nothing was mentioned about this issue on the “seller’s property disclosure” that the seller had signed and we were given. Is that disclosure even worth reading if sellers are not going to be truthful? Do we have any recourse?
I am glad you had a competent home inspector look at your potential purchase. I am not an attorney, but I can give you the facts about what the seller’s property disclosure form states. The five pages of the SPD form are quite clear, I believe. At the very top of the form it states that “this form has important legal consequences and the parties should consult legal and tax or other counsel before signing.” The instructions, just below that line, state that “this disclosure should be completed by seller, not by broker.” It goes on to say that “seller states that the information contained in this disclosure is correct to seller’s current actual knowledge as of this date. Any changes will be disclosed by seller to buyer promptly after discovery.” Then, on page five, at the end of the form, it has the answer to your question. In bold print it has: “Advisory to seller: Failure to disclose a known material defect may result in legal liability.”
I can tell you that we believe the seller’s property disclosure form is very important, and since its inception many years ago, we have greatly reduced the number of lawsuits over most of the items listed on the disclosure. Now, when we list a property, in Paragraph 18.2, “seller’s obligations,” item 18.2.1, “seller’s property disclosure form,” we almost always check the box that the seller agrees “to provide a seller’s property disclosure form completed to seller’s current, actual knowledge.” We stress to all of our sellers that it is always best to write down everything they know about the property. Most buyers realize that no house is perfect, but they want to be treated honestly and fairly. No one likes surprises in a real estate transaction. Besides, this valley is much too small to think that a buyer will never find out some pertinent information. Between neighbors, friends, builders and all of the trades, there are not many secrets here. Honesty is truly the best policy, and I would say that the large majority of our sellers are truthful. I am sorry that your seller decided not to disclose, for whatever reason, but this is not the norm here. Best of luck to you!
Joan Harned is an owner and broker for Keller Williams Mountain Properties and heads up Team Black Bear, her own real estate team. Harned has been selling real estate in Eagle County for 27 years, is a past chairman of the Vail Board of Realtors, past Realtor of the Year, past director on the Great Outdoors Colorado Board and a member of the Luxury and Land Institutes. Contact Harned with your real estate questions at Joan@TeamBlackBear.com, 970-337-7777 and www.SkiAndTeeHomes.com.