Sellers Who Don’t Know the Condition of their Homes

What’s the most important question on the Seller’s Disclosure? (in Minnesota, a 9 page, single-spaced document with perhaps over 100 of them)

At least in my opinion, the one asking whether the owner has continuously lived in the home the last 12 months.

That’s because the answer to that colors all the other answers.

Legal Standard

Critically, the responses on the form are to the best of the owner’s knowledge; if they’ve spent 9 of the last 12 months at their Sun Belt condo, they may not know that the roof has sprung a leak, there was water in the basement after a particularly heavy rain, or that the fridge’s compressor is suspect.

Of course, a good Buyer’s inspection should reveal all those things.

But if they don’t, and the Buyer is adamant that the Seller’s disclosure was deficient, the legal standard for recovery is proving that the owner knew or should have known about the problem.

Exhibit A in the owner’s defense to any arbitration action or lawsuit is likely to be the line in the Seller’s disclosure indicating that the owner hasn’t continuously occupied the home the last 12 months.

P.S.: Of course, an owner who’s truly unaware of the condition of the property — say, because they’ve rented it for several years — is better advised to tell Buyers that, and either sell “as is,” or pay for a third party inspection.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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