A few weeks ago, I had a really festive time enjoying a friend's fiftieth birthday party with more than a hundred and fifty of her closest friends, coworkers and relatives, at the Veteran's Hall here in town. These large social gatherings always offer an opportunity to reconnect with people you don't get to see as often as you'd like. High heels on and dressed in party attire, I was ready to dance the night away. (Yes, I've still got it!)
Talking, giggling and holding court with several friends and their respective mates, a girlfriend discreetly leaned over and said, "Um, Julie, I don't know if you meant this to be a fashion statement or not, but your shirt is on inside out." (Or maybe I don't !)
Oops! (What was in that soda water anyway?) Mortified, I slunk into the coat closet and quickly made things right, but I'd been wearing my shirt inside out for at least half an hour before someone had the nerve - or the grace - to inform me. (Thank you Dale!) AND to make matters worse, I hadn't even had a cocktail to justify my fashion faux-pas!
I suppose that's what comes from hurrying. I had taken a long walk with the dog prior to getting ready and as a result, had found myself with only a few minutes to shower, wash and blow dry my hair, apply make-up and get dressed - all while simultaneously nagging my husband and son to do the same (if not me, then who?). Clearly, fifteen minutes wasn't adequate for the job at hand . . .
When I show up at a client's home with a stack of disclosures big enough to rival the Encyclopedia Britannica, sellers frequently want to hurry through this time-consuming task. Having made the decision to sell, they are down to business and are often anxious to get their homes to market as quickly as possible (I can appreciate that) but rushing through these important disclosure documents can only hurt you in the long run. Take it from me, slow down!
Designed to protect you from buyers seeking to renegotiate their offer price based on "new discovery" or worse yet, suing you after the close of escrow over "undisclosed information," these seemingly redundant questions about insurance claims, dog noise, water intrusion and how long you were in labor, seem like overkill (they're not).
Sellers often ask, "Do I need to mention ___ (fill in the blank) ?" Let me stop you there. If you are asking, you more than likely need to disclosure. Offset pipes? Yes. Backed up drain? Yes. Death in the home? Absolutely! Visiting raccoons? Of course. Visiting mother-in-law? Umm, let me think about it. If it's a material fact, you need to disclose it!
Listening to a colleague on the phone explain this to her client, I could hear her frustration as her seller insistently argued with her about a property line dispute he didn't want to include. BIG MISTAKE! While worried he'd be "tainting" his property, he missed the much bigger picture, which was that his conscientious Realtor was trying to protect him from unknowingly stepping on a land mine. Listen up!
For your own sake, disclose everything you know or suspect about the property. While it's likely that you won't remember every repair or even know about previous conditions prior to your taking possession, it's hard for fully informed buyers to argue with the truth - especially if their love for the property - or for the seller - has worn off six months down the road.
So slow down, take your time and be as thorough as possible. Then check the mirror. You don't want to attract attention for all the WRONG reasons (much like wearing one's shirt inside out).
It's so not cool!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.