||Obligations to disclose
information about a property vary from state to state.
Under the strictest laws, the seller and the seller's
broker, if there is one, are required to disclose all facts materially
affecting the value or desirability of the property which are known or
accessible only to him.
Items sellers often disclose include: homeowners
association dues; whether or not work done on the house meets local
building codes and permits requirements; 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.
||While it may not reduce
the actual value, a cluttered landscape 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.
||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 barbeque and
* 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