For Sale By Owner Legal Issues
While the selling of real estate is a profession regulated by laws and licensing,
it is perfectly legal to sell your own home in every state. Some home sellers
are concerned about their ability to negotiate the legal issues regarding the
sale of their property. While you should always use the advice of an attorney
when legal questions arise or when tricky issues may be present, most of the
day to day concerns related to the sale of your home are generally handled by the
average home seller. In a later installment of this series we'll handle
issues related to Sales Contracts and closing issues. Here are the main legal
concerns buyers and sellers face up front:
A buyer has a right to a fair and complete understanding of the condition
of the property they are interested in purchasing. While a buyer should always
verify the property condition with a professional home inspection, they will
expect the home seller to share the information they may have about the home
with them. This is done through the Seller's Disclosure Statement, a written document
where the seller lists all pertinent issues that they know about the property.
While this can be an informal document, in many states the laws regulate both the
style and contents of these disclosure statements. You can find some free disclosure
forms at FREE Real Estate Forms and Disclosures
You should completely and truthfully fill in all that you know about your property.
This is a place for factual information, not speculation. It takes just a few minutes to fill in.
Keep a copy for yourself and present a copy to each prospective home seller as part of
your contract paperwork.
- Lead Paint
If your home or property was built before 1978, you must disclose the possible
hazards of lead paint. Whether or not your have lead paint in your home,
the law requires you to provide a copy of a federally approved lead-based
paint hazard pamphlet, available for free download from our seller resources page.
This is simple to accomplish, but a requirement that you should take seriously, as
failing to do so is a federal offense with a stiff fine.
As with any other item,
if you do know of lead paint problems you need to disclose them but this is not
something to be alarmed about and does not necessarily have to be removed. You
also need to give the buyer a 10 day period to perform their own lead inspection
if they wish, this is a simple matter normally handled by a standard provision in
- Radon Gas
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States.
It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into
the air you breathe. The U.S. EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in
the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more).
The EPA recommends a radon test be done before any real estate transaction. You can
perform a test yourself or have a radon professional perform the test. If the test
does turn up problems, all is not lost, mitigation techniques are available to solve
the problem. For more information go to the excellent EPS Radon page at
EPA Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon
which also includes links to state by state resources.
- Settling, Flooding, Mold, Other Hidden Defects
In some areas, people have lost their homes to hazards from improperly filled lots
settling after the home was built or from sink holes. There have been cases from around
the country of people getting sick from houses with significant mold problems. The
professional home inspection provides protection here for both buyers and sellers, both
to find any hidden defects and to prevent nasty misunderstandings and legal action down
the road if something does later occur. As a buyer, I always insist on a home inspection
to help uncover any hidden defects. As a seller, I counsel the buyer to get one, for a
few hundred dollars everyone can breath easier.
The other important thing to remember
here is that you must disclose every fact of any substance of which you have knowledge.
That spring flood last year where the water came in under the garage door, that noisy
neighbor with the drag racing car he brings out every month, the rodents in the attic
are all items you must disclose to the prospective home buyer in writing. If you feel
the item is insignificant, you are better off to disclose it and let the buyer decide.
A little thought and effort here in properly completing your disclosure here will avoid
nasty arguments and even legal battles later. Remember, no one likes unpleasant
- Equal Opportunity
As a home seller you have a responsibility and a requirement under the law not to
discriminate in the sale, advertising and financing of property on the basis of race,
color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. This is a simple,
common sense requirement easily met. Don't create the appearance of impropriety by
advertising that a property would be perfect for a newly married couple, for example. A single
mom may feel excluded by such a statement.
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