If I have repaired a home defect, must I disclose it to prospective buyers?

If a home defect has seemingly been dealt with, when do buyers nevertheless need to know about it?

Question

I’ve made a ton of repairs to my house during the ten years that I’ve owned it. I’m now planning to put it on the market, but have heard that I have to disclose any defects. Do I have to disclose even the defects I’ve repaired or had someone else repair, such as with our foundation and plumbing?

Answer

You’re wise to be questioning what will constitute full disclosure before putting your house on the market. Moststates require home sellers to disclose property defects that are current and that they are aware of, but what about defects that the sellers have already repaired?

This is certainly 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.

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.

However, if your state does not require disclosure of defects or if there is not a form provided 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 problem that, although it is fine currently, may 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 (at likely 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 may 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, 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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