Few decisions can be more intimidating than buying a home. If you are considering purchasing a home in Nebraska, one of the most frightening aspects can be the lack of information about whether or not your investment is sound. How can you be sure that the value of the home will increase over time, especially when the state’s market has been in a state of flux since the Great Recession?
Fortunately, Nebraska’s legislature has tried to create a way for you to gain more information before the sale. Sellers of residential property are required to make certain disclosures to the buyer. The purpose is to reveal various defects in the property that could affect its value or desirability. Such defects could include such things as the presence of asbestos in the ceilings, a history of water damage or leakage, or the existence of an easement in the backyard. If you’re buying a home in the Cornhusker State, what disclosures should you expect from the seller?
Residential home seller disclosures in Nebraska are governed by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120. That statute says: “Each seller of residential real property located in Nebraska shall provide the purchaser with a written disclosure statement of the real property’s condition.”
This law applies both to outright sales of property as well as leases with an option to purchase. The seller must give you the signed disclosure form before the effective date of the purchase contract.
What, exactly, does the disclosure form reveal? Nebraska’s legislature was specific about the information that the seller must disclose to the prospective homebuyer. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120-4 states that the disclosure must include: (a) the condition of all appliances that are included in the sale and whether they are in working condition; (b) the condition of the electrical system; (c) the condition of the heating and cooling systems; (d) the condition of the water system; (e) the condition of the sewer system; (f) the condition of all improvements on the property (such as renovations or expansions); (g) any hazardous conditions, including substances, materials, and products that may be an environmental hazard; (h) any title conditions affecting the property, including easements and zoning restrictions; and (i) the utility connections and whether they are public, private, or community.
Nebraska clearly incentivizes sellers to disclose all known defects about a home. Pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120-5, the seller must complete the form “to the best of [his or her] belief and knowledge as of the date the disclosure statement.” The law is clear that if a sale occurs without a proper disclosure, you can sue the seller and recover the actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees. This alone should be a major incentive for sellers to be honest.
And yet, you should not be naïve. There could certainly be sellers out there who will try to pull the wool over your eyes. Some sellers may try to get away with not disclosing a serious defect with the home, hoping that you won’t notice.
Nebraska homebuyers should always hire an expert inspector to conduct independent inspections. An independent inspector is typically a licensed professional who will explore your potential new home for problems. This is standard practice when purchasing a property, and the seller will not be offended or surprised that you demand an inspection before closing. The inspection may reveal a serious defect; maybe even a defect unknown to the seller; that will cause you to rethink your decision. Home inspectors are not free, and you will bear that cost. But it might be the smartest money you ever spent!