Vail Daily column: Explaining the seller’s property disclosure form
I recently sold a house and I am now in the process of buying another. When I sold my house, my broker sent me a seller’s property disclosure form and told me to fill it out. I went through and checked off all of the boxes I understood and skipped the ones I was confused on. I was not sure what happened with the form after that. Now that I am on the buying end of the deal, I have just received a copy of the seller’s property disclosure filled out by the seller of the home I am purchasing. He kind of did what I did, checking a lot of “do not know” boxes and he even had a couple of question marks. Now I am supposed to sign it, according to my broker. How can I get some more questions answered and if I sign it, then does that mean I have agreed and accepted everything he said, or didn’t say?
Signed, Confused with the SPD
Dear Confused with the SPD,
I think a little background and explanation will go a long way in clearing up your questions on the seller’s property disclosure form. This is one of many forms created several years ago that adds to the ever-increasing paperwork involved in a real estate transaction. However, this tedious form has proved to greatly reduce law suits, which is always good news.
Let’s start at the beginning.
When you sign a listing contract, Paragraph 18.2 seller’s obligations includes section 18.2.1. called seller’s property disclosure form. And it states: “Disclosure of known material latent (not obvious) defects is required by law.” Then you check “seller agrees” or “does not agree” to provide a seller’s property disclosure form completed to seller’s current, actual knowledge. In most cases, sellers agree to do this, even if they have not lived in the home because it was a rental, but then they often check “do not know” in most of the boxes. Some sellers refuse to fill it out, thus the buyer has a heads up to do a very thorough investigation on their own, which is always recommended anyway.
Now, as a seller, when you fill out the seller’s property disclosure form, you use your current actual knowledge. By signing it when you finish, you agree that you will promptly notify the buyer if anything changes once you have completed the form. You also are agreeing that the listing broker can give the document out to prospective buyers. I always advise my clients to fill it out to the very best of their ability and knowledge. I recommend explaining things in the “comment” section provided on each line. I find that most sellers won’t shy away because of revealed past issues in the home, but they are very angry to have items not disclosed. This community is relatively small and you would be surprised to find how quickly word travels about a leaky roof or basement.
Your last question is two fold. The easy part is that after you have read the seller’s property disclosure form and the warning advisory about still doing an independent inspection, that by signing you will only be acknowledging that you have a copy of the seller’s property disclosure form. It is not about agreeing, it is acknowledging that they have disclosed everything they know about the property. The other part of the question about how you can find more is usually accomplished by doing a home inspection. If the seller’s property disclosure points out past issues, like with the roof or the boiler, it might be worth having an expert in that area come look, in addition to the home inspector. Occasionally I have the buyer and seller meet to explain complicated issues, but this is not always advised. I hope this will help you understand this complicated-but-important form. Good luck!
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 or http://www.SkiAndTeeHomes.com.