Six Things To Disclose When Selling a Home in the St. Louis Area
When you list your home for sale, you want buyers to see it in the best light. You might find yourself wondering if you really need to share every little thing that might be wrong with it. While some items, such as lead-based paint, are required to be disclosed by law, others fall into more gray areas. However, if you don’t share pertinent information about the home, it is likely to be discovered during inspection, or shared with the buyer by chatty neighbors down the road anyway, thereby derailing a potential home sale and making you look like you were covering something up. And of note, you are not off the hook just because you make it through closing without the buyer walking away.
When selling a home, by law, you have a very serious obligation of disclosing in writing to the home buyer any and all defects that you know about the property. You should tell the buyer everything you know about the house, especially if there are “Do It Yourself” projects. The rule is simple: "If in doubt, disclose it." A disclosure should be written in a clear and specific way to avoid any confusion. We advise our sellers that it is better to disclose now, than to litigate later. While the laws vary from state to state, here is a list of things you should always disclose when selling your home in Missouri.
1. What systems does the property include?
You should provide information on all of the systems that the property currently includes. Disclose as much information as you are aware of about the property's heating and air conditioning equipment, including the type of equipment, any areas not served by the equipment, and any known problems with it. The same thing goes for other systems in the home, such as a fireplace, water heater, ice maker supply lines, jet tub, swimming pools, and lawn sprinkler systems. Ensure the buyer knows about all the systems the home includes so there are no surprises when they move in.
One question we often get from buyers is the age of these systems. While this information is not specifically asked about in the Sellers’ Disclosure Statement, this is helpful information to share, if you know it.
2. What utilities does the property include?
You should list all of the property’s utilities and the current company which provides them. This includes gas/propane, electric, water, sewer, trash, recycling, internet, and phone. If the property uses propane, make sure you note whether the tank is owned or leased, and if it is shared with other properties or owners.
If the property includes a septic or well system, a separate “Septic/Well Addendum to Seller’s Disclosure Statement” will be completed to share details. St. Charles County requires septic and well inspections before a sale is completed, as do some other municipalities.
3. Are there any significant defects?
While you may be hesitant to share defects with buyers, it is absolutely necessary. You must share anything that may require attention or negatively affect the value of the home. If you don’t, it will likely be discovered during the home inspection anyway, which could impact the progress of the sale.
Does the home have a history with pests, such as mice, carpenter ants, bedbugs, or termites? You must disclose this information, even if the home was treated for these pests and the problem no longer exists.
Disclosing issues can feel very uncomfortable for a home seller. Just like promoting yourself during a job interview, you want to share only the good news, not the reality. Just remember that every home has issues, nothing is perfect, and those homes sell every day. Disclosing known issues won’t stop a home from being sold, but not disclosing them could kill a sale and put you at risk for legal trouble.
4. Are there any hazardous materials or conditions?
If your home has any known or potential hazardous materials or conditions, you must share this information. If the home was built before 1978, when the use of lead paint was banned, there is a possibility of its presence in the home. If you are aware of the presence of any lead hazards such as lead-based paint or water lines, or if you have knowledge of lead-based hazards being covered or removed at any point, you must disclose that information. You will be required to fill out a separate form for this disclosure.
In Missouri specifically, you are required to disclose if the home is or was used as a lab, production, or storage site for methamphetamine, or was the residence of a person convicted of a crime related to methamphetamine. This is a dangerous and illegal substance which can be toxic to occupants, even long after the production itself ceases. While it is not necessary to do research on the matter, such as examining old police records, you must disclose this information if you have knowledge of it.
Missouri also requires sellers to disclose if the property is home to any permitted or unpermitted solid waste disposal or demolition landfill sites, as well as radioactive or other hazardous materials. Other materials that fall under this category include asbestos materials, mold, radon, and other environmental concerns. If you have knowledge of the property being inspected and/or remedied for any of these, you must share that in your seller’s disclosure.
5. Are there any organizations that have authority (HOA)?
If your home is governed by a homeowners’ association (HOA) or similar organization, such as a co-op or other shared cost development, you must disclose that information. These types of organizations often impose monthly or yearly fees that a buyer should know about. Additionally, neighborhood associations typically have a special set of rules for the homes in their authority, which buyers may or may not find acceptable and should be aware of ahead of time.
You must share the cost and frequency of any assessments, and if there are any existing or proposed special assessments. Also, list out for buyers what the assessment covers. This can often include things like snow removal, landscaping (of both common areas and your home specifically), neighborhood pools and clubhouses, security, etc. Try to list everything you are aware of that the neighborhood or association assessments help cover.
6. What updates, improvements, or repairs have been made?
It is definitely to your advantage to list the updates and improvements you have made because it can make your home more appealing. Share with buyers everything you have done during your ownership that makes the home better. This can be things like new flooring, new windows or doors, additions to the home, upgrades to the HVAC equipment, or finishing the basement.
What you must also include in your disclosure, are any significant repairs to the home. Let the buyers know what the problem was, what was done to remedy it, and when the repair was completed, in as much detail as you can recall.
As you work through this portion of your disclosures, think about areas of the home such as your footing, foundation walls, sub-floor, interior and exterior walls, roof and gutters, decks, and porches.
I recently found out that the clay soil in my area was causing one of the walls of my foundation to lean in fairly significantly. Although we hired a company and took the proper steps to remedy this issue, it is something I would absolutely need to disclose if I were to ever sell my home.
You may be hesitant about sharing this information, especially when it comes to foundation work. Sellers often fear that a foundation repair will be the death of their home sale, but that is simply not the case. It is common in St. Charles County for foundations to settle, crack, tilt, etc. You are better off sharing this information, especially if it has been repaired or addressed. Rest assured, plenty of buyers still buy homes with foundation repairs.
We are here to help!
The great news is, you don’t have to navigate this alone. The Chad Wilson Group is a team of real estate experts who are ready and eager to help with your home sale. Our Listing Coordinator will answer any questions you have as you fill out the Seller’s Disclosure Statement so you can feel confident with your work. If you have any questions about selling, buying, or investing in real estate, fill out the form below and a member of our team will be happy to assist you!