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Seller's Disclosure Sheets- Not a pair of pom-poms!

Written By Tom

Published on 10/10/2017 8:50 AM


While not necessarily a home inspection item, a Seller’s Disclosure Sheet is one of the items that a seller of a property usually includes in the paperwork that is provided to potential buyers. As a home inspector, I get to witness first hand the damaging results of incorrectly disclosed details on these sheets.

First off, what a disclosure sheet isn’t is a pair of pom-poms for the house. Part of the real pompomsestate agent’s job is to do what they can to put the best face forward on the house. Help them, by letting them do their job. That’s what they’re trained for and they are good at it! They are in control of the "pom-poms"! As for the disclosure sheet, be Joe Friday and give ’em “just the facts, ma’am’.” If you know the age of an system or component, such as the water heater, write it down and provide documentation if you have it, such as a receipt for example. If you don’t know, resist taking a wild guess, as you will often be wrong. And you know what, it’s OK to not know how old something in your house is! You’re forgiven! Maybe you’re a nurse, busy saving peoples lives, or a CPA taking care of peoples taxes. How are you expected to know how to "date" a water heater? (Unless of course, you had the item installed, in which case you should know how old it is and if you’re wrong there, that’s a whole different conversation)

If you put something on that document and it turns out that it’s wrong, everything else on the sheet becomes suspect and it leaves buyers with a “what else is wrong on this sheet” kind of feeling, which can easily lapse into “what else is wrong with the house that they’re not telling me about”. I know this because I often overhear this manner of discussion between buyers during the course of an inspection. There are a thousand different tricks home inspectors use to figure out the age of systems and components, from the simple to the more obscure, and trust me, we will figure it out or at least come close. So avoid shooting yourself in the foot; when filling out these documents, state what you know and state what you don’t know. You’ll save yourself a lot of irritation in the end, and possibly avoid the loss of the sale of your home due to miscommunication and confusion. If there's a patch on your ceiling from a past bathroom leak above, for instance, make sure you include that information on the sheet even if it's been repaired, as at least that provides an explanation for the patch, as opposed to your  having to "explain it away" after the fact. (I can hear it now; "Why didn't they put that on the disclosure sheet??" )

Another thing, if you bought the house 3 years ago, and the seller at the time told you the roof was two years old, to a home inspector, that 3rd party information is pretty similar to an unknown (unless they left you with some paperwork from the installer).

Lastly, maybe you should just consider saving yourself all this stress by simply having a Pre-listing inspection done prior to putting your house on the market. The home inspector can then assist you by providing the information upfront that a buyer's inspector will find, in effect taking these items off the table. If the potential buyer already knows all this information when putting in an offer, they can't really negotiate on them after the inspection. 

That's all for now! Stay safe!