Not disclosing everything about the property...

Asked by Bonnie, Walnut Creek, CA Sun Jun 24, 2012

I am learning about my recently purchased home from the neighbors...things the former owners did not mention on the disclosure form. What are my options at this point? I did not use a realtor, but that doesn't excuse the sellers from making proper disclosures.

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Annette Law…, Agent, Palm Harbor, FL
Sun Jun 24, 2012
It is such a shame.
Folks willingly engage in clearly high risk behavior and look for others to blame when the consequences surface. Of course you should do the "American Thing" and threaten or start litigation.

It is my opinion the home owner should have the same option selling a home that the banks do when selling their real estate. NO DISCLOSURES WHATSOEVER!!! Why? Attempting a disclosure that may have inadvertent omissions suggest concealment, and in your case may suggest a knowledge of the property that does not exist except in the minds of others. NO DISCLOSURE WHATSOEVER makes it quite clear what the buyer must do. And guess what, hundreds of thousands of buyers across America do that every year. Buyer do your due diligence or hire those who knows how.

The seller should have the option to say, "I KNOW NOTHING and the BUYER should exercise appropriate due diligence...Just like the banks.

No need to speculate what should have been known, what could have been forgotten, and what the neighbors say. Neighbors are the source of the greatest unsubstantiated rumors in any community.

With no disclosures we don't even need to start the subjective conversation about what the third word in your title, 'Everything,' means.
3 votes
Kamal Randha…, Agent, El Sobrante, CA
Mon Jun 25, 2012
Posting on this like so I can share it with family and friends on social media to show how important it is to use a realtor when conducting such transactions.
1 vote
Frank Salmen, Agent, Orinda, CA
Sun Jun 24, 2012
First, talk to the seller and try to resolve your concerns. Why didn't you talk to the neighbors before you bought? (BuyIng without a Realtor 101) If it was a probate sale, trustee sale or bank owned property the disclosure requirements are different. If you cant come to some resolution then you can use the money you saved not using a Realtor to pay for an attorney. Good luck.
1 vote
Cindy Davis, Agent, San Diego, CA
Sun Jun 24, 2012
That depends. Does the information you learned about the house impact your choice of house? Is it enough to make you change your mind about the house? If that is the case, you get an attorney..

If the information is interesting but not enough to change where you are living...I would let this one go. In the future, please use a Realtor!!
1 vote
Marston Myers, , Brandon, FL
Sun Jun 24, 2012
First of all, it goes without saying that you should have used a professional (called a "Realtor") in order to avoid this type of situation. Did the Seller use a Realtor? I would guess not based on the context of your question. So besides not using a professional you apparently also did not do your "due diligence" in ordering inspections on the property during your inspection period. This would include at a minimum Pest, Property and Natural Hazard Disclosure plus (based on the aforementioned findings or concerns) Roof, Foundation, Furnace, A/C, Mold, County Permits etc.

Did you use official California Assn.. of Realtor forms (the answer should be no unless the Seller used a Realtor). Did you use an attorney to close the transaction and insure all the paperwork was complete if no? How many forms and disclosures (on both sides) were not completed and therefore possibly making the entire transaction "voidable" in court?? My professional answer is consult an attorney. My personal answer is unless the items you refer to are considered Health, Structure or Safety AND amount to more than a few thousand dollars AND if you would have known about them you would NOT have bought the property at any price then suck it up, pay the piper and next time don't let greed get ahead of using a professional. Unless of course you are the kind of person who does all the work on your own cars, does your own dental work in the mirroe or takes out your kids appendix with a Dremel tool and duct tape.

There is an old adage in the real estate business. It is obviously still true. "Buyers are liars and Sellers are story tellers". I was told this on day one and it is proven almost daily.

@ Annette Lawrence, RIGHT ON!
1 vote
And what is the old adage that customers say about RE agents? :)

>There is an old adage in the real estate business. It is obviously still true. "Buyers are liars and Sellers are story tellers". I was told this on day one and it is proven almost daily.
Flag Sat Aug 4, 2012
Ron Thomas, Agent, Fresno, CA
Sun Jun 24, 2012
You may spank yourself for not using a Realtor:
Now, you must suffer the punishment:

We try to tell prospective clients how we protect them,

You will have to refer to your CONTRACT; what did you use, the back of an envelope?
There might be a place where you agreed to use Arbitration/Mediation, or not.
In any case, if you do not choose to use Small Claims Court, you will have to pay for an Attorney.

or as Dr, Phil would say: "How's it workin' for you?"
1 vote
Joe, Home Buyer, Menlo Park, CA
Sat Aug 4, 2012
Disclosure forms do lot list every possible problem. And there is no one to get inside the owner's head to verify if he actually knew about the problem or not.

I suggest you contact an RE attorney in WC and sit with him/her for the free 5 min consultation to see if you actually have a case or not.

What did the sellers not disclose on the property? That makes a difference.

>I am learning about my recently purchased home from the neighbors...things the former owners did not mention on the disclosure form. What are my options at this point? I did not use a realtor, but that doesn't excuse the sellers from making proper disclosures.
0 votes
Leonard Morr…, Agent, Hagerstown, MD
Wed Jul 11, 2012
Well this is another reason to have a home inspection. Not everyone has to disclose information. An actual seller is required to disclose any material fact along with any latent defect. If it is an estate, REO, auction or a brand new home that has been given an occupancy certificate. Most people who do not use a selling and buying agent are the ones that end up in court over what has happened. Agents will help in trying to keep this from happening.
0 votes
Manuel Ramir…, Home Buyer, California
Wed Jul 11, 2012
Disclosures are mandatory for sellers, they are required to disclose all the fact about property for sale so that it could affect the sale price or influence a buyer's desision to purchase a home. These are abviously a pretty subjective requirement which matter to one buyer not concern another.
0 votes
Christopher…, Agent, Largo, MD
Sun Jul 8, 2012
If the seller's agent knew anything that could be termed material facts , about the property then it was the agent's place to disclose these facts per the real estate rules. I don't know if that applies to the owner of the property, we live in a society with the rule of 'caviat emptor ' or let the buyer beware;if my spelling is correct, that is why it is always a good idea for the purchaser of a house to have an inspection done by a licensed inspector. Another way is to purchase some sort of warranty to cover defects, some title companies require this to be done. Your option could be legal actions, but I would first ask legal advice about what is my recourse before doing anything.
0 votes
Terry Osburn, Agent, Pleasant Hill, CA
Sun Jun 24, 2012
I agree with Paciita. Neighbors I have found in many instances blow things out of proportion, do not know the entire circumstances and as Pacita stated may not have been on the best terms with the sellers.
Are the items mentioned something that should have been seen on a physical inspection? Did you have any inspections? Have you contacted the sellers in re: to your concerns?
Not making excuses for sellers but sometimes they really do forget particular in this market with the stress that many are facing have actually drawn a blank or in their mind if something was known and fixed it is mute subject to them so they do not tract to disclose.
I cannot tell you how many times I went thru seller disclosure where all was checked No only to inquire further and all of the sudden they remembered oh yes I did replace that or we did have a leak...
The number one thing to do is contact the sellers first with your questions and concerns and see if they will dialogue with you and possibly remedy any issues you might have. If you were to go to court , unless your neighbors are willing to testify and even then you most likely will need pictures or documentation of your complaints from a licensed contractor or inspector. If you did not do a physical inspection may need to have one now to document your complaints.
Hopefully you can come to a peaceful resolve.
0 votes
Pacita Dimac…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Sun Jun 24, 2012
You're right....sellers are bound to the same obligations to disclose material fact about the property. Did you engage inspectors? Sometimes, owners don't know as much about their property as they think they do.

But how much faith are you putting into the things you hear from neighbors? Are these neighbors truly knowledgeable about the property? Were they in good terms with the sellers?

If you dealt directly with the sellers, why not contact them and ask them first?
0 votes
Barbara Gran…, Agent, Anaheim, CA
Sun Jun 24, 2012
Hi Bonnie,

What sort of "things" are your hearing about? If they are particularly troubling to you or seriously affect the property, I would call the seller and have a discussion with them sooner rather than later. Depending on their answers, would determine my step. Did they knowingly hide a defect relating to the property? Can you prove it? Did you initial the arbitration clause in the Residential Purchase Agreement? There are a lot of unanswered questions here.

Many years ago, before I became an agent, my husband and I were where you are now and it's not fun. We bought a home from a for sale by owner and it did not end happily....for them.

Please seek the advice of real estate attorney immediately.

Good luck and keep us posted!

Barbara Grandolfo
0 votes
Lance King, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sun Jun 24, 2012
Sorry to hear about your problems, but for those future buyers who may be reading this, this is an excellent example of why having an experienced agent/broker representing you can help avoid problems.

You are correct that the seller is required to make certain disclosures whether agents are involved or not, the most notable of which is they must disclose all material facts. Proving that they didn't may be very difficult, and you must also consider that your neighbors are misinformed or have an agenda concerning their former neighbors.

You need to talk with a real estate attorney who specializes in this area of law.

Best Regards,

Lance King/Owner-Managing Broker
DRE# 01384425
0 votes
Darrell D. D…, Agent, Schertz, TX
Sun Jun 24, 2012
He said, she said. Sellers must disclose known problems, not guesses and hunches. What I mean by this, for example, is a seller may have a hunch there is a foundation issue, but unless they are an engineer, they may not be obligated to say "foundation appears inadequite at this time and needs support piers to level and repair." However, they are required to disclose material facts, so you may get something more to the affect of "shifting and settlement cracks noted on living room wall."

In other words, they must disclose facts and are not obligated to interpret the facts or investigate the causes or remedies of the issues. If you obtained a thorough inspection, they should have picked up on any major problems with the home as well. The hard part is proving that the sellers intentionally failed to disclose a defect they knew about. At this point, the least costly route is to call your inspector and discuss any major problems he failed to identify and how he is willing to handle them. The more costly route is to consult with an attorney. Good Luck.
0 votes
., , Walnut Creek, CA
Sun Jun 24, 2012
In California, a seller is required to disclose all defects and material facts known to them but they are not required to investigate on the buyer's behalf.

If the items that the former owners didn't mention required repairs and you have proof the sellers actually knew about them but didn't disclose (see Roland Vinyard's comment below about neighbors comments), then definitely consult a real estate attorney for the best course of action. The real estate attorney may recommend Small Claims Court because the limit has increased to $10,000.
0 votes
Roland Vinya…, Agent, Sprakers, NY
Sun Jun 24, 2012
Speak with an attorney who knows the laws about disclosure in your state. There is less anyone can do after the sale than before, but that does not mean it is hopeless. But first, consider the validity of what your neighbors tell you. Have you been able to verify these things in other ways? You'll need to be able to do this; otherwise it's just your neighbor's words against the seller's. Is it possible they did not get along and they are stirring things up for someone they no longer have to live next to?
0 votes
Phil Rotondo, Agent, Melbourne, FL
Sun Jun 24, 2012
Your options at this point would be to consult with an attorney.
0 votes
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