5 Disclosures that Buyers Care About

Leaky windows, noisy neighbors, and natural disaster zones! If you are a home buyer, these are all part of the disclosure statements you'll read through to learn more about a property, so you can make a fully informed decision before purchasing a house.

In the bay area's real estate market, disclosure statements are generally made available by the seller's agent to look through before you make an offer on a house. These documents are there to inform buyers about any potential issues that might arise with the property. They are also there are protect sellers from potential future legal action. It's their chance to acknowledge anything that might affect the value of the property.

Here are five issues that often come up when I'm working with clients on buying or selling a home. 

1. Unpermitted work: If any work has been done on the house without permits, that can arise as a potential issue. I've seen everything from smaller plumbing issues to full additions without permits. If you buy a house that has had work done without permits, in some cases it can be grandfathered in, but you may very well be asked to obtain a building permit for it. This can be difficult, if not impossible, if the work doesn't meet zoning requirements or wasn't built to code. If the work can't be brought up to code, you may be asked to demo it completely. 

2. Deaths in the house: Some people could care less about whether or not someone passed away in the house, but for some it could be a deal breaker. Hauntings and bad juju aside, it's a concern if it could potentially affect resale at a later date.

3. Problems with pets: In some cases, repetitive accidents from pets can do serious damage to a home. If a pet repeatedly urinates on the floor, the smell may be permanent or very difficult to remove. It's can be worth asking about, even if you don't smell anything when viewing the house. Sometimes smells become more apparent as soon as the weather warms up. 

4. Neighbor issues: Neighbors can bring all kinds of interesting issues to the table that might have nothing to do with the house itself, but could affect your enjoyment of the house. If neighbors are particularly noisy, rent space out, or run a business out of their home, these are things you might want to know about. It's also good to check state lists to see if there are sex offenders or people convicted of felonies in the neighborhood.

5. Property boundaries and easements: You'll want to make sure you're aware of outstanding issues regarding the property lines, such as fences built in the wrong place or where things like garbage cans are stored. Be sure to look into any easements on the property as well, whether it's a shared driveway or PG&E access, and ask your realtor about any potential implications of the shared space.

If you're a buyer it can be helpful to be aware and ask questions about these issues and if you're a seller think through your history with the property so that things are properly disclosed when you put your house on the market. If you have questions about disclosures or any other part of the home buying/selling process, drop me a line!


Cliff Whearley has been a resident of Redwood City for 23 years. He is a Realtor at Dwell Realtors, Inc. and has been practicing real estate since 2007. If you have any real estate questions, he would love to help!