Vol. 251 - Stating the Obvious
"I'll see you later today at the game," my boss, DJ, said to me, noting my purple under shirt, purple football jersey and GREAT BIG Booster pin, proudly displayed on (you guessed it) a dangling purple lanyard. Gee, what gave it away?
Okay, it's true, I've become a devoted Piedmont High School football fan (in spite of my protestations to the contrary) and it doesn't hurt that my son, Tristan, is having a banner year on a team that's been nearly undefeated this season.
Gaining these hard-earned skills didn't come overnight. Last year was an entirely different story when the team (primarily Freshman at the time) were just learning the ropes, having never played tackle football before. Those boys took A LOT of hits and had their fare share of losses as they grew into their positions; but having paid their dues, they are now reaping the rewards. Go Highlanders! They've earned it through good old-fashioned blood, sweat and tears.
So of course, I'm decked out in "purple, purple, purple, purple (white, white, white, white, white, white, white!") along with my fellow Piedmont Boosters/parents AND I'm proud to state the obvious. Heck, I'm practically a walking billboard! (In truth, I don't even like purple.)
"Stating the obvious," isn't just good practice when it comes to selling a home, it's the law. Moreover, it's not only the "obvious" that should be disclosed, but those issues that might be far less obvious as well. Too often, Sellers fudge a bit on their disclosures hoping to present their houses in the best light. That's understandable, but it's incredibly short-sighted.
Take it from me, either YOU put it all out there, or your neighbors undoubtedly will . . . "Did they tell you about the flood they had in their garage last winter?" (Uhhh, no.)
What's more, your well-intentioned neighbors will feel compelled to "share" these "insights" with your Realtor at a Sunday Open House WITH prospective Buyers in earshot, or worse yet, once the "Sale Pending" sign goes up. (Gee, that's always fun.)
When Buyers discover defects with the home after they are in contract, instead of before, it's never pretty; it may even end in legal action so just disclose. It really is that simple (although it may not be easy).
"Do I need to mention that we added a master bathroom without a permit?" (Yes.)
"Should I mention my neighbor's son plays the drums?" (Yes.)
"How about the cats, and the . . . ?" (Disclose it ALL. If you have to ask, the answer is almost always "YES.")
That's why savvy Sellers know that the more information they share, the better off they are and seek to make their Disclosure Packages as complete as possible. Unfortunately, in cases involving probate sales, foreclosures, and relocation companies, where the "Seller of Record" has never actually occupied the home, the trustees are often exempt from the majority of Seller Disclosures, which frankly, puts everyone at a real disadvantage. (Shoot!)
Sellers, just so you know . . . the less Buyers know prior to presenting a purchase offer, the more they will need to investigate after ratification and the more opportunities there may be to renegotiate the price of the purchase.
Don't assume prospective Buyers have processed what's right in front of them, such as an active bus stop, looming power poles, or the Fire Station directly across the street! (It may sound ridiculous, but there it is.) Such logical arguments will never hold water in court. For your own benefit and protection, disclose, disclose, DISCLOSE!
With respect to Buyers, your responsibility lies in reading the disclosures carefully, highlighting any concerns you have about a particular home, and following through on any questions that arise. (I get it, it can be daunting, but do it anyway.) It's one thing to deal with cosmetic upgrades in bathrooms and kitchens, which can be expensive in and of themselves, but quite another to take on foundations, retaining walls, and drainage issues - when you weren't expecting to. (Surprise!)
Don't be fooled into thinking the property is perfect just because it has been beautifully staged (no home is ). Staging is designed to have you focus on what's pretty - not what isn't. Concentrate on what the house will look like after all the beautiful furnishings and accessories are out. Whatever the home's current condition, it will be far more acceptable if you know it going in. Agreed?
Finally, a Buyer's opportunity to investigate, collect bids, and gather facts occurs during the inspection period of your contract - not after you have closed escrow and moved in. (Defined time periods exist for a reason.) Even in tough competition (and especially in tough competition) secure your right to inspect and then utilize this time well.
Waiving your contingencies without thorough investigation may leave you without recourse. Unless you are sure of what lies ahead (or believe it to be irrelevant, as sometime happens with complete "fixers"), don't give up this very important safeguard. Given the dollars you will be spending, you should understand exactly what it is you are purchasing.
That isn't to say there won't be surprises or unknowns. There absolutely will be, BUT to the extent that you have a good-working knowledge of the home and its major components, you'll feel much better about closing the transaction and taking possession of the property (and so will I).
Buyers and Sellers - look for the obvious (and the not so obvious) and then disclose or investigate it! In both cases, you'll be much better served and better protected as well.
Now can I interest you in a little football swag? We've got some lovely purple jerseys and hats to sell . . . See you at the game.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.