Excited home buyers can become disenchanted with the home buying process when they discover the mountains of paperwork they have to parse through before closing on their dream home. While this can be frustrating, there are some documents you should not merely skim through. The seller’s disclosures are a particularly important part of the paperwork for a Utah homebuyer to read and understand.
In a typical home purchase, the seller should provide disclosures to you before closing. The disclosure form includes information about defects and damage to the home. Because you cannot simply phone the seller after you purchase a home and ask him or her to repair defects you discover, it is important to carefully review the seller’s disclosures to make sure the home does not have any serious defects that could require repairs later.
Standard Seller’s Disclosure forms in Utah typically have several parts. The first part may have a disclaimer stating that you should not rely on anything the seller, seller’s agent or broker, or broker’s company says about the home.
This seems a little odd when included with the seller’s disclosures, but it does bring up one important point: You should consider hiring an independent appraiser or inspector if you have serious concerns about the condition, square footage, price or quality of the home. It’s always better to spend a little bit of money on the front end of a home purchase, than to be stuck paying for costly repairs and renovations.
The second part of the disclosures includes what might look like a questionnaire. It asks the seller about various conditions of the property and requires that the seller either circle “yes,” “no,” or “not applicable.” The seller then discloses if there are defects to the property by category.
Some of these categories include zoning and legal issues with title, water and mold damage, damage to the roof and structure, damage to the heating and air conditioning, and other conditions with the property. This is one part of the document you should carefully read line by line.
If there is any place on the disclosures where the seller answers that there is a problem or defect, the seller may have included a detailed description about it. Read the description, discuss it with your agent or broker, and point it out to your inspector. You may want to ask the seller to more fully explain the defect, and request a visual inspection of the defect on-site.
If necessary, retain the services of an appraiser or contractor to explain the cost and benefit of a repair. Basically, you should not purchase a home until you understand every disclosure on this part of the disclosure form.
The remaining disclosures may include a brief provision about how you are required to get an independent estimate of square footage and a verification page stating that the disclosures have been made according to the seller’s best knowledge.
Although the disclosure form is meant to make you aware of issues with the property (and protect the seller against your dissatisfaction with the home), realize that there are limits to what you’ll find in this form. A Utah home seller is, quite simply, not required to conduct an in-depth investigation of his or her own property before filling out the form.
You can probably imagine any number of ways in which a person can live in a home without knowing all the problems within it. Some may be hidden behind walls or in crawl spaces, such as pest, moisture, or mold issues. Others, the seller may have simply forgotten, such as water stains behind the refrigerator, or punctured drywall in the garage. Again, this is a reason to conduct your own careful investigations of the property, and ask questions if you notice anything odd within the seller’s disclosure form or on the property itself.
The seller’s disclosures are not just another form to review cursorily. They may be the best opportunity you have to uncover defects and damages in a home before it’s too late to do anything about it.
Finally, remember that if a seller discloses a defect and you fail to ask follow-up questions, you may simply be stuck with a home that will require expensive repairs before it is suitable for your needs.