Show and Tell

Seasoned real estate agents know there are many bumps and obstacles on the path to the closing of a sale. Disclosure laws, which vary from state to state, often cause some of these unexpected obstacles. If addressed early enough, however, the path can be smoothed into a satisfactory final transaction.

These particular laws outline what a seller needs to disclose to a buyer. However, regardless of what may be legally required, it makes sense from a sale standpoint to provide information to buyers which could be detrimental to a sale before they make an offer. That way, buyers can make an informed decision before entering into a contract.

Since 2003, agents in Florida have been scratching their heads over one little piece of paper: the states Disclosure Summary Form. Inaccurate property disclosures because of ignorance of the statute, giving rise to the threat of canceled sales contracts, must be avoided by agents and their clients alike.

An article in the Naples Daily News, written by attorney Raymond J. Bowie, told of many incidents of confusion and inaccurate property disclosures which developed shortly after the law’s passage. There is no reason to believe that the problems have evaporated after its four-year existence. Conscientious agents may wish to consult a real estate attorney or, at least, Google information on the statute to avoid unwelcome surprises after putting in hours of work on a sale.

According to Bowie, Florida Statute 689.26 requires most sellers to answer certain questions about their property on a Disclosure Summary form to be given to prospective buyers before entering into a sales contract. If a seller fails to furnish a correctly completed disclosure form before signing a contract with a buyer, the law gives the buyer the right to cancel any contract within three days of receiving the disclosure – right up to the day of closing.

According to Bowie, the statute applies to any property with a homeowners association, restrictive use covenants, or any kind of special tax assessment. Where any of these situations pertain to a property, the seller must provide the Disclosure Summary form to prospective buyers.

Besides familiarizing themselves with the law on disclosures, some other preventive measures should be taken to assure a smooth closing. It makes sense to order pre-sale inspections of the property. (This is not done to preclude buyers’ inspections.) For example, if the buyer knows the roof is at the end of its life and expects it to be an issue for buyers, the situation must not be ignored. Approach the problem head on. Order a roof inspection from a reputable roofer. If he says work should be done ask for a cost estimate and disclose this information to the buyers.

By doing so, you accomplish two goals. First, you can accept an offer knowing you have hidden no flaws and have escaped the fear of the deal falling apart when the buyer discovers the roof in poor condition. Furthermore, by providing buyers with the cost estimate of repairs, you eliminated an unknown that could stand in the way of the buyers making an offer at all.

In order to achieve an easy and uncomplicated sale, take the smoothest road to closing. It is the one that shows and tells as much about the property as you can provide to the buyer.

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