Many sellers use professional home staging to strategically downplay flaws with their homes and highlight the more positive features.
However, if there are any serious issues with your home that could compromise its safety, you should disclose them to the buyer before you sell. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but it helps to avoid major legal troubles in the near future.
You can fill out and submit a Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS), which is a standard document provided by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). The SPIS contains information relating to any patent or latent defects, renovations, and other useful and important information based on your knowledge and experience.
So, what exactly should you disclose to potential buyers?
Patent Vs Latent Defects
Before we get into what disclosures you might want to make, it's helpful to understand the difference between a patent and latent defect.
A patent defect is one that is clearly visible, such as a crack in the window or a missing handrail. You don't have to disclose patent defects to prospective buyers since these flaws can be easily seen during a home inspection.
A latent defect, on the other hand, is one that is not noticeable and may even be hidden behind walls or under floors. Sometimes home inspectors might not even be able to discover issues. But, if the home has been subject to some sort of damage that compromises the safety of the home and its value, such as from a flood or fire, you should disclose this information.
Issues That Sellers Should Disclose on an SPIS
In Ontario, the SPIS will list a number of items that sellers should disclose, which can include any of the following:
- Presence of copper, aluminum, or knob and tube wiring (the presence of these could make getting property insurance difficult)
- Whether or not the property is in violation of zoning requirements (for example, the property is a residential house that's zoned for commercial space)
- Presence of galvanized metal
- Presence of lead plumbing or paint
- Moisture issues and/or water damage
- Presence of easements or rights-of-way (which could impact the buyer's enjoyment of the home and lot)
- Structural issues
- Termite damage
- Fire code issues
- Problems with the HVAC system
- History of flooding or fire damage
If a defect can seriously compromise the safety and integrity of the structure, then seller disclosure would be warranted.
Buyers Shouldn't Neglect a Home Inspection
Not all sellers offer an SPIS form to buyers in a real estate transaction, and even if you provide one, there may still be underlying issues with the home of which you are not aware. As such, buyers should make a point of getting a home inspector to scope out the property before a deal is sealed.
Seller disclosures can be pretty fuzzy. Are you obligated to disclose everything you know or not?
At the end of the day, it would be in your best interest to make disclosures that you know of and that could impact the value of the property. Not only will you be protecting yourself against potential legal issues in the future, but you'll also be able to go into a deal with a clear conscience.