If I've Repaired a Home Defect, Must I Disclose It to Prospective Buyers?

You've fixed the problem with your property and it hasn't recurred, but will your state's laws on disclosures to homebuyers require you to reveal it?

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

Over the time you've owned a home, you might have made lots of repairs to it, given the a structure's natural tendency to age or get attacked by pests and so on. If you're now planning to put it on the market, you've possibly heard that you have to disclose any defects to prospective purchasers. That raises the question: Do you have to disclose even the defects you've repaired or had someone else repair, such as with the foundation and plumbing?

You're wise to be questioning what will constitute full disclosure before putting your house on the market. Most states require home sellers to disclose property defects that are current and that they are aware of, but defects that the sellers have already repaired is more of a gray area. On one hand, you don't want to over-disclose and scare off prospective buyers, but, on the other, you have to be careful to disclose problems that a buyer might find fault with down the road. Here, we'll suggest next steps, including:

  • checking what your state's real estate disclosure form requires, and
  • if it doesn't require disclosing repaired defects, considering whether disclosure would actually enhance buyer confidence..

Review Your State's Real Estate Disclosure Form

The first thing to do is to take a look at the disclosure form for your state, if one is available. Many disclosure forms will ask if there is a) a present, known problem; and b) whether there was any problem in the past.

If your state has such a disclosure form, the process is pretty straightforward: Any potential home buyer will expect to see that, over the course of many years of homeownership, there have been problems that have been repaired. Disclose to the extent that your state's disclosure form requires.

If Your State Doesn't Require Standard-Form Disclosures, Consider Buyer Relations and Confidence

Not all states require disclosure of defects. If yours doesn't, or if it doesn't provide a form to give guidance, you should ask yourself some questions about the defect that has been repaired:

  • Does the repair require ongoing maintenance?
  • Is it a property condition that, although it is fine currently, might recur in the future?
  • Was it a defect that would have greatly affected the value of the home before the defect was cured?

For instance, if you have repaired severe foundational issues (likely at great expense), this is something that a buyer would want to know about. If the answer to any of the above questions is "yes," it is wise to disclose. In fact, learning of some repairs could actually increase the buyers' confidence that the house has been well maintained.

However, if the defect was something more minor and is completely mitigated, such as a leak under the sink that a qualified plumber repaired with all new piping, it is most likely not something that needs to be disclosed.

The wise course of action is to discuss the repaired defect with your real estate professional, and see if it is of the nature of repaired defects that sellers in your area normally disclose.

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