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Florida Disclosure Laws Sellers Should Know

When you decide to sell your Sarasota home, you'll be faced with a lot of decisions. There are things you can elect to do in order to make your home more attractive to qualified buyers, like getting an appraisal and offering enticements, such as a home warranty. You might even opt to pay the first HOA fees, or, contribute to the closing costs. These are excellent ways of making your property stand out from the competition.

Right now, in the current local market, sellers have an upper hand. In the month of March, which are the latest statistics available, there were just over two-thousand closed transactions, and, the median price for single family homes rose to $207,500, an increase of more than 9 percent from the month earlier. What's more, over 1,100 pending sales were scheduled to close, carrying over from March to April, which clearly demonstrates how strong the market is here on the west coast.

The real reason for such robust activity is actually because of buyers. Lenders have loosened the once tight standards, and, are offering more products. Interest rates are at historic lows, and, the Fair Isaac Corporation, the company behind credit scoring, has changed traditional modeling to lessen the impact of medical bills. Plus, it's introduced another score for the some 50 million consumers that don't have a traditional credit score. In short, buyers are driving the market.

Understanding Real Estate Disclosure Laws

Knowing these facts motivates homeowners to sell while the market is vibrant and active. Being able to realize a gain on their investment gives them choices that weren't possible just a few years ago. However, selling in such an environment means having to best the competition. Some homeowners upgrade appliances or make other improvements to entice buyers. Others put their homes on the market for an attractive asking price.
Florida, like many other states, now requires sellers of homes and other residential properties to make certain disclosures to buyers about the property’s condition and history. This is a shift from the traditional legal principle of “let the buyer beware,” which basically made it the buyer’s responsibility to inspect the home and discover whether there are any unacceptable conditions or defects before closing the deal.

If you are going to sell your home, there's many things you can do to market it. One thing, though, you should never do, is to attempt to hide defects and/or facts about your home. It can be tempting to hold back certain information, but, it's a big risk to do so, and, one that can have serious consequences. Providing full and complete disclosure might not be comfortable, but it is the ethical, and legal thing to do. Whatever the history of your home, even things which aren't visible to the naked eye, must all be revealed to potential buyers.

Florida Disclosure Laws Sellers should Know

Under Florida law, you as the seller, must make a full disclosure to anything that impacts the value or desirability of your home. While that's a pretty broad rule, it's intended to protect consumers, and, you'd appreciate the same protections when buying a home. The good news is that you don't have to do a lot of work to make disclosures, because the Florida Association of Realtors offers a standardized form, that includes the following:

  • Claims against your property. If there is a legal claim, either current, or pending, that could affect your home, for instance, a mechanic's lien, you must disclose it.

  • Homeowners associations . This might sound all too obvious, but, it's part of the disclosure laws, which state that you must inform potential buyers that your home is under an HOA.

  • Property boundaries. This one isn't as obvious, perhaps because it's rare. However, you must disclose any past boundary (read: property lines) dispute.

  • Sinkholes. Now, this one is definitely obvious--any past sinkholes that have developed on your property must be disclosed.

  • Environmental hazards. These are health related concerns such as asbestos, Chinese drywall, mold, lead, and so on, that can negatively impact quality of life.

  • Pest infestations or damage. Needless to say, this makes the list because it's so costly. If your property has experienced pest infestation or damage, you must disclose that fact.

  • Essential home components. These include big-ticket items, such as the HVAC system, roof, foundation, electrical wiring, plumbing, and the like.

What you are not liable for, under Florida real estate disclosure law, is to tell potential buyers about what you should have known about. Another protection is that you can not be held liable for problems that you were completely unaware of about the property. In other words, state law doesn't require that you know every single detail about your home, but, you must disclose what you do know, and, it's a good idea to do this in writing, as oral disclosures are difficult to prove.