Laws regarding seller disclosures vary by state, so you should check online to see what the rules in your state are. Assuming that your state does require some type of disclosure from people selling their home, your realtor should go over this and any other documents provided to you in the “making an offer” on the house stage very carefully. Like, line by line carefully. Some things in there will probably be obvious to most people – like “Has the home ever been flooded?” we all can understand what that question and its answer means.
Other things, regular people (especially first time home buyers!) are a lot less likely to understand. This was certainly true for us. Insist that your realtor sit down with you and explain everything that is covered in a disclosure document and if there are things that are not covered in the document (again, this will vary by state). Make sure that you really, really understand what is asked and the answers that the sellers provide. Your realtor should be skilled enough to be able to spot potential problems in the document.
Your realtor (buyers agent) should advise you if there is anything in the document that should cause you to:
- decline to make an offer on the property
- terminate a contract you’ve already entered into (if possible)
- ask additional questions of the sellers for clarification or more detail about something
- provide a list of items you’re concerned or unsure about to your home inspector to get his/her professional opinion
- have the property inspected by specialists (roof, mold, radon, insects/termites, septic to name a few)
For any item that the seller indicates applies to them (they answered yes to), ask your realtor point blank:
- what exactly does this mean or cover?
- is this an issue that should be of concern to us and why or why not?
- should anything in this document make us walk away right now?
- is there anything in here that we should make our inspector aware of?
- are there any specialized inspections we should have on this property based on what you see here?
Your realtor should be well versed in all of this stuff. They should also know about anything that is a particular issue in your specific area. For instance, in our area stucco is a major problem issue on a lot of properties. Realtors and the local realtors association even offer classes on stucco and its related issues. Any decent realtor around here should absolutely recommend that a buyer have a special stucco inspection on any property that includes stucco on its facade. Ours didn’t and it the stucco portion of our house was one of the most extensively damaged areas of our house.