You’re selling the home you’ve lived in for 30 years. It’s not a new home but you’ve kept it up to date. The buyer will likely make any offer on the house contingent on a building inspection.
Given this situation, what is your responsibility to disclose any building defects?
Disclosure form before the sale
In Texas, sellers are required to provide buyers with a disclosure form – developed by the Texas Real Estate Commission – on or before the effective date of the purchase contract.
The form needs to be completed to the best of the seller’s knowledge by the date on the form. You don’t have to hire an inspector to fill out the form, but you do have to be honest about your knowledge of the condition of the property.
The form contains a laundry list of items that the home might contain – a range, security system, fences, water heater, etc. You simply check off all that apply and identify any that are not in working condition, have defects or need repair.
The form also contains a list of conditions – termite infestation, water penetration, radon exposure, lead paint, etc. You check these off as well and indicate any attempt to fix or ameliorate them.
In addition, the form asks if the seller knows of any lawsuits against the property or if the property is subject to homeowner’s fees or assessments, among many other things.
What it does not ask is if there was a death in the house by suicide, natural causes or an accident unrelated to the condition of the property.
Defective, not old
While the form requires you to list the features of your house, you are required only to note those that are defective or need repair. Thus, if you have a water heater that is old but in working condition, you need only note that you have a water heater, not that it is old.
You don’t have to disclose any condition you don’t know about, but if you fail to provide the disclosure form or provide incomplete information, the buyer can escape the contract. Since most of the money involved in the sale will be in escrow until the sale is final, the buyer can pull back the sales money if the disclosure form is incomplete or not delivered.