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Disclosure: What Sellers Need to Know

If you are selling a house built before 1978, it’s mandatory that you obey federal laws governing disclosure of lead-based paint. You’ll need to disclose any known hazards, provide buyers with information about lead-based paint hazards, and sign and date acknowledgments that both buyer and seller have communicated about lead.

Depending on the state you live in, there are several other topics that may be mandatory on your disclosure statements. While the buyer has no right to ask about the seller’s personal life or reasons for moving, the buyer does have the right to learn about various issues that the home may have experienced during or before you lived there. The home’s exact square footage, planned urban improvements that might effect the property (like a planned road that cuts near the property or the fact the home is under the airport’s flight path), and the amount of annual property taxes may be required in some states. Other disclosures that may be required are likely to become apparent during an inspection, such as the whether there’s a history of moisture intrusion in the home, if insects have damaged wood in the home, whether the roof leaks, whether the property contains a buried fuel tank (currently or no longer in use), and liens on the property or its title. Easements – the right of others to use or require that you use the property in a certain manner – also appear on disclosure forms, as will violations of zoning or building codes, in some cases. If you are selling a condo, you should be prepared to give buyers a copy of the homeowners association’s bylaws; the buyer may also want to see meeting minutes which could reveal pending lawsuits or expensive capital projects which will create fees for condo owners.

As a seller, you’ll want to discuss with your agent what is required by law and what is simply good manners. Many sellers conduct a pre-listing inspection in part to determine how an objective third party would evaluate their home and to learn how elements of the home’s structure have held up over the years. Your pre-listing inspection can go a long way in assuring the buyer that they understand the home they’re planning to purchase.

Curious about disclosure?

Environmental Protection Agency lead hotline and information: 800-424-LEAD or online at