Seller Resources - Articles

Selling Your Home - Condition & Disclosure

How do I prepare the house for sale?
First and foremost, put it in the best condition possible, especially if you are in a market with few buyers and lots of homes for sale. The market here in SW Florida is strong, but the better your home shows, the higher your offers will be, and the faster it will sell. What is the most important item - CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN! Major and minor repairs are important - but, no matter what condition your roof, ac, or appliances are in - your home should be CLEAN!

Most buyers viewing your home have probably already driven by your home or viewed the photos and virtual tour - if your agent has made one.  ** Before listing your home ** If any agent you might consider does not provide good photos and a custom virtual tour on ALL their listings - please choose another agent that will! Nowadays, many buyers pick there own homes to see - not their agent. They will find your listing on the Internet, then call their agent to arrange those showings. If the photos and/or virtual tour show that your lawn is unkempt, and your home shows dark or cluttered - you may have lost that buyer before they ever looked inside your home. 

A few minor repair items that you may have lived with for many years, could be considered a big problem for the buyer. More importantly, even if the buyer also feels it is minor, and really wants to buy your home, their lender may not let them. Remember - SAFE, SOUND, & SANATARY. There is a difference between conventional and FHA/VA financing. Different types of financing may require that certain items be in a certain condition. Having access to buyers seeking any type of financing will expose you to more buyers. A knowledgeable agent with many years of experience with different loan types, should be able to point out what repairs may be called for. If you are in a position to take that advice, a few hundred dollars in repairs could change your home from being a handy-man special, or just needs some TLC. That change could net you thousands more at closing. You do not need to remodel your entire home. A good cleaning, and a few minor repairs should help. Even just reducing some of your clutter, opening up your shades and replacing all burnt out light bulbs will help significantly.

Next, work on your home's curb appeal. Make sure your landscape is pristine. Mow the grass, trim your shrubs, trees and palms. Treat your yard for fire ants and remove wasp nest. The last thing you want is someone getting bitten or stung. Clean up any debris and weed the garden beds. A good pressure cleaning of any mold or mildew will make your home, sidewalks, deck and driveway look better. Plant a few annual flowers near the entrance or in pots to be placed by the door. If you have a pool - keep it sparking clean! A green or cloudy pool - although common, should be fixed quickly. Ripped pool screening is another item that will make your home look worse than it really may be. Buyers may also think that you do not care about the home and that it has not been regularly maintained.

Other quick fixes that don't cost a lot of money but can help you get top dollar for your home:

  • Clean the windows and make sure the paint is not chipped or flaking.
  • Be sure that the doorbell works.
  • Clean and freshen up rooms, furnishings, floors, walls and ceilings. Make sure that bathrooms and kitchens are spotless - really important!
  • Please dust! Please include your lamp shades, lights, ceiling fans and curtains. Don't forget the window sills. Check your baseboards and chair rails for dirt.
  • Clean and if necessary oil the tracks in your sliding doors. If your sliding doors do not operate easily, have them repaired. This is important in Florida.
  • Organize closets.
  • Get rid of the clutter! Having one room in the home full of boxes is better than clutter all over. Keep packing - don't wait until your home is under contract.
  • Make sure the basic appliances and fixtures work. Replace leaky faucets and frayed cords.
  • Eliminate the source of any bad smells, such as the kitty box. At least use air freshener. You don't need to bake a batch of cookies before every showing. Just make sure the home is clean, and is free of strong smells. 
  • Invest in a couple of vases of fresh flowers to place around the house
  • Whose obligation is it to disclose pertinent information about a property?
    In most states, it is the seller, but obligations to disclose information about a property vary. In Florida, sellers are not required to fill-out a Seller Disclosure form. However, they are required to disclose all facts materially affecting the value or desirability of the property which are known. Sellers are required to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home's major systems. Sellers are to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachments or easements. Any known additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property. A buyer needs to know if there is a mandatory or voluntary homeowners or condo association. If yes, what are the  dues and any restrictions? Have you ever had a roof leak? Did you fix that leak, or did you hire a licensed contractor? Disclosing the problems or repairs made before the sale could protect you later on. If that roof starts to leak and your neighbors say they saw you on the roof patching it several times - it better have been disclosed. Summer is the rainy season here in Florida. that yard that looks great in February, might be a soggy mess all summer. You should disclose that too. It is also recommended that you disclose the presence of any neighborhood nuisances or noises which a prospective buyer might not notice, such as a dog that barks every night or poor TV reception; any death within three years on the property; and any restrictions on the use of the property, such as zoning ordinances or association rules. It is wise to check your state's disclosure rules prior to a home purchase.

    What are the standard contingencies?
    Most purchase offers include two standard contingencies: a financing contingency, which makes the sale dependent on the buyers' ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender, and an inspection contingency, which allows buyers to have professionals inspect the property to their satisfaction. As a buyer, you could forfeit your deposit under certain circumstances, such as backing out of the deal for a reason not stipulated in the contract. The purchase contract must include the sellers responsibilities, such things as passing clear title, maintaining the property in its present condition until closing and making any agreed-upon repairs to the property.

    Do I need an attorney when I buy a house?
    In some states, you do need an attorney to complete a real estate transaction, but in others you do not. Most home buyers are capable of handling routine real estate purchase contracts as long as they make certain they read the fine print and understand all the terms of the contract. In particular, you should be clear on the terms of any contingency clauses that will allow them to back out of the contract. If you have any questions at all, it may be advisable to consult an attorney to avoid future legal hassles. In looking for an attorney, ask friends for recommendations or ask your real estate agent to recommend several. Call to inquire about fees and to check on their experience. In general, more experienced attorneys will cost more, but real estate fees as a rule are small relative to the cost of the property you are buying.

    What repairs should the seller make?
    If you want to get top dollar for your property, you probably need to make all minor repairs and selected major repairs before going on the market. Nearly all purchase contracts include an inspection clause, a buyer contingency that allows a buyer to back out if numerous defects are found or negotiate their repair. The trick is not to overspend on pre-sale repairs, especially if there are few houses on the market but many buyers willing to buy at almost any price. On the other hand, making such repairs may be the only way to sell your house in a down market.

    Do sellers have to disclose the terms of other offers?
    Sellers are not legally obligated to disclose the terms of other offers to prospective buyers.

    Will a neighbor problem reduce the value of my property?
    While it may not reduce the actual value, a cluttered landscape next door can detract from the positive aspects of your home. Review your local laws, which should be on file at the public library, county law library or City Hall. A typical "junk vehicle" ordinance, for example, requires any disabled car to either be enclosed or placed behind a fence. And most cities prohibit parking any vehicle on a city street too long. It also may be worthwhile to check into local zoning ordinances. An operator of a home-based business usually is required to obtain a variance or permanent zoning change in residential areas. In addition, if a neighbor's repair work produces loud noises, he may be breaking local noise-control ordinances, which are enforced by the police department. Before bringing in the authorities, you may want to make a copy of the pertinent ordinance and give it to your neighbor to give them a chance to correct the problem.

    * "Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries and Noise," Cora Jordan, Nolo Press, Berkeley, Calif.; 1991.

    How do I get the real scoop on homes I am looking at?
    Home inspections, seller disclosure requirements and the agent's experience will help. Disclosure laws vary by state, but in some states, the law requires the seller to complete a real estate transfer disclosure statement. Here is a summary of the things you could expect to see in a disclosure form:
    * In the kitchen -- a range, oven, microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, trash compactor.
    * Safety features such as burglar and fire alarms, smoke detectors, sprinklers, security gate, window screens and intercom.
    * The presence of a TV antenna or satellite dish, carport or garage, automatic garage door opener, rain gutters, sump pump.
    * Amenities such as a pool or spa, patio or deck, built-in barbecue and fireplaces.
    * Type of heating, condition of electrical wiring, gas supply and presence of any external power source, such as solar panels.
    * The type of water heater, water supply, sewer system or septic tank also should be disclosed.

    Sellers also are required to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home's major systems. A checklist specifies interior and exterior walls, ceilings, roof, insulation, windows, fences, driveway, sidewalks, floors, doors, foundation, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems. The form also asks sellers to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachments or easements, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property. Also look for, or ask about, settling, sliding or soil problems, flooding or drainage problems and any major damage resulting from earthquakes, floods or landslides.

    People buying a condominium must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions. It's important to note that the simple idea of disclosing defects has broadened significantly in recent years. Many jurisdictions have their own mandated disclosure forms as do many brokers and agents. Also, the home inspection and home warranty industries have grown significantly to accommodate increased demand from cautious buyers. Be sure to ask questions about anything that remains unclear or does not seem to be properly addressed by the forms provided to you.

    Andrew Lussier
    Andrew Lussier
    6296 Corporate Court #B-202 Fort Myers FL 33919