This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!
Question: What responsibility does a seller have to disclosure problems with their home or the surrounding community?
Answer: Sellers cannot lie about or conceal material defects of their home, but in Virginia, property owners are under no responsibility to disclose them to a buyer. That’s because Virginia is one of the few states in the US still operating under the common law concept of Caveat Emptor, meaning “Let The Buyer Beware.” This places the duty of discovery (of defects) on the homebuyer.
Residential Property Disclosure
The Residential Property Disclosure is required in most transactions with the exception of sales between relatives, foreclosures, builders and a handful of other scenarios. The Disclosure, signed by the seller and buyer, states that the homeowner(s) makes no representations or warranties with respect to things like:
- Property Condition
- Sexual Offenders
- Adjacent Parcels
- Wastewater Systems
- Historic Districts
Alternatively, jurisdictions like Washington DC require extensive disclosures by homeowners. The DC Disclosure runs 4+ pages long and requires owners to make representations on every material aspect of the property and community including roof, insulation, heating/cooling, appliances, drainage, zoning and more.
REALTORS Held To A Higher Standard
While Virginia homeowners aren’t required to disclose defects, the REALTOR Code of Ethics holds us to a higher standard. A listing agent who is a REALTOR “shall disclose to prospective buyers/tenants (customers) all material adverse facts pertaining to the physical condition of the property which are actually known by the licensee.” While listing agents don’t have a duty to discover latent defects, they are required to communicate anything they’re made aware of through the standard course of the transaction be it discussions with the seller, inspection of the property or otherwise.
Sellers are well protected by Virginia law and buyers are made to do their homework on every purchase. In most cases, buyers don’t have the luxury of a lengthy discovery period prior to buying a home, so what are some ways buyers can reduce their risk?
- Hire a great home inspector. A good home inspector is one of the most important relationships your real estate agent should have. While inspectors cannot pry up floorboards and open walls to inspect every bone of a house, a great inspector knows the signs of expensive defects in plumbing, foundation, water intrusion, etc.
- Talk to your future neighbors. Visit the neighborhood without your agent and knock on some doors if you can’t find any neighbors outside. Start the conversation off with general questions about what it’s like living in the community and gradually move into questions about the home, if there are any noise/traffic issues, etc.
- Ask direct questions of the seller if there are any red flags. Remember, sellers cannot lie, so if you find a wet spot in the basement, ask if they’ve ever dealt with plumbing issues or water intrusion in the basement.
- Work with a local expert. We are responsible for disclosing material facts about the purchase beyond the physical home itself, meaning any relevant information about the community that impacts your decision to purchase. It takes a local expert, somebody who follows the community closely, to know if there are any material concerns.
Personally, I’d like to see Virginia make changes to the seller disclosure laws to balance the scales a bit. One could make a case that increasing disclosure requirements would reduce buyer risk, thereby making Virginia homes more valuable and pushing home values up across the board (sellers would still have the ability to offer “As-Is”). As a counter point, buyers in jurisdictions with heavy disclosure requirements can rely too much on what the seller says/does not say and fall victim to a seller simply not being aware of a defect that a buyer could have discovered through due diligence. What do you think? Are you happy with the current system or would you like to see Virginia get rid of Caveat Emptor and place more duty on the seller to disclose material defects?
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
A former ABC News producer whose Columbia Pike apartment was raided by the FBI last year has been sentenced. James Gordon Meek, 53, pleaded guilty in July to transportation and…
Metrorail service was suspended on the Blue and Yellow lines today after a train derailed.
4 bedroom 3 bath 2 car garage 1/4 acre Jamestown Williamsburg Yorktown pyramid
At Generation Hope, we’re dedicated to supporting teen parents in college as they work toward earning their degrees. We are in need of caring child care volunteers for upcoming events on Saturday, October 21st (in Washington, DC), and Saturday, November 4th (in Arlington, VA). Join our growing volunteer community and support us at an event this fall!
At all of our events, we provide free onsite child care for the children of the teen parents we serve, creating a nurturing environment for the kiddos while their parents learn valuable life skills and build community.
If you enjoy working with children and are looking to make an immediate impact in your community, please visit https://www.generationhope.org/volunteer to learn more.
Join us for Arlington’s biggest civil rights & social justice event of the year. The banquet is back in person at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University.
Our keynote speaker this year is Symone Sanders from MSNBC and former Chief of Staff for Vice-President Kamala Harris.
The Master of Ceremonies is Joshua Cole, former state delegate, NAACP President, and local pastor.
Tickets/seating are limited. Purchase your ticket today! Sponsorship opportunities available.
Cody Chance and Dick Nathan of Long & Foster are hosting an online workshop on the topic of “down-sizing” Wednesday, October 4 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Every great endeavor begins with a great plan. This workshop will give you the tools