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What to know about residential real estate disclosures

The prospect of owning your own home is exciting, but that excitement should be tempered with caution. Disclosures are a part of every residential real estate transaction here in Delaware and elsewhere. What you see in those disclosures could ultimately affect whether you purchase the house -- that is, if the seller fully discloses any actual or potential defects.

Disclosures provide you with a laundry list of the things that could reduce the value, enjoyment or use of the property. Even though a seller might consider leaving something out, doing so opens the seller up to future litigation. Therefore, most sellers will go ahead and tell you everything.

In addition, the seller should provide you with any communications regarding the defect. The disclosures and their corresponding communications could reveal renovations, additions or repairs done to the home. Sellers should disclose termite issues, neighborhood nuisances and even whether pets were in the home.

If there was ever a dispute regarding the property's boundaries, issues with major appliance systems such as the HVAC system or liens on the property, those matters should be disclosed. You should receive the disclosures either before or right after you make an offer on the home. This way, if there is a defect in the home that you cannot overcome, you may back out of the deal. You should know that the seller's disclosures should not take the place of a home inspection.

Understanding the disclosures and verifying their contents often requires the assistance of a residential real estate attorney. Reviewing official records regarding some or all of the disclosures and the history of the home should let you know whether the seller told you everything, along with whether any needed permits were actually received and the house is up to code. Examining and verifying the disclosures is just one part of the process. A Delaware attorney could prove invaluable in helping ensure that the process goes smoothly and that there are no surprises.

Source: zillow.com, "5 Things You Need to Know About Real Estate Disclosures", Brendon Desimone, Accessed on April 17, 2017

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