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What fine print is required when you go to sell a house?
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Good day Real Estate Boys, kudos to the Journal for running your column for their readers.  Today’s question is an easy one for you Boys I’m sure.  What exactly is required to sell a house?  I don’t mean the deed or signing papers or even the silly answer, duh, a buyer.  I mean what are the state laws that every home owner must know to sell a house.  I hope you guys can understand what I’m asking.  I know what I’m asking but can’t seem to make it understandable in writing.  I’m so embarrassed. 

— Redd Cheeks

Redd, I think we got exactly what you intended to ask.  Us guys got to stick together right?  What you’re asking is what is required to sell a house today?  

Redd, this is Larry talking now and I get to explain what your Realtor will tell you is required to sell then Lloyd will cover the other required items. 

When your Realtor meets with you to sign the listing agreement, there are documents required by the Realtor’s office and state law also.  California requires the seller to disclose anything they know that might affect the value of the home for sale, material facts.  Sellers are required to disclose for example, a leaking roof, plumbing leaks or maybe that we had a pool last year in our backyard but it’s in the neighbor’s backyard now or after the last earthquake our house moved to the north a foot.  Sellers are also required to sign a document that says at the close of escrow they will have a working smoke detector in the home.  Along with the smoke detector, sellers now must have a working carbon dioxide detector.  Also, sellers must have the water heater strapped top and bottom.  The Transfer Disclosure Statement takes care of the pool going into the neighbor’s backyard and many other items.   The TDS is a three page document.  Now, interestingly, the TDS is not required if the seller is a bank or a trustee selling the family house.  Sellers are by law required to disclose if there has been a death in the home within the last three years.  Lloyd, it’s up to you now to add your words wisdom.

Thanks Lar, but it seems you have taken all the easy ones and left nothing for me to write about!  I’ll have to really dig to find the remainder of what is required.    Well, one item required is the Natural Hazard Disclosure.  The NHD discloses if the home is located in an earthquake fault zone, a fire zone, a flood zone (if the dam was to break would our town be covered with water?), a special flood zone, a very high fire area zone or a seismic hazard zone.  For this disclosure your Realtor will most likely go to a company that produces these.  The NHD has gone from a one page discloser to, depending on the company that produces the NHD, 23 to 70 pages.  The NHD now has the new property tax information, if the home is within a mile of a bomb making company, the right to farm and many other useless information that 99.9 percent of the buyers and Realtors never read.  If the house you are selling was built before 1960, you’ll need to give all buyers an earthquake booklet because in some cases a house built before the 60s did not have tie-bolts, foundation bolts, so the house doesn’t slip during an earthquake.  If the home was built prior to 1978, you’ll have to sign a disclosure about the possible presence of lead base paints.   Then there are disclosures that real estate offices require in closing packages, but are not necessarily required by state law such as the sellers’ affidavit of non-foreign status, which is part of the title company’s closing package.  Then there is the State-Wide Buyer & Seller Advisory, which is 11 pages long explaining the rights of the buyers and sellers, like getting a pest report, septic tank check or checking the house for the presence of formaldehyde. Many of the items in the State-Wide are included in the NHD, which is a state required document.  The next disclosure is really exciting — it’s called the Supplement Statutory & Contractual Disclosure. It asks about six questions you have already disclosed in previous disclosures.  Lastly, this one I really love, it’s a disclosure telling my buyers that I may have other clients and that I may show this house to those other clients.  Duh!  I hope I have other clients. 

While all Realtors feel that the disclosure process is necessary and important, Larry and Lloyd feel we may be a little over the top on the number of disclosures and what is disclosed.  But we all understand we live in a very sue happy society and having these disclosures protects both the sellers and the agents from the possibility of a lawsuit.  As a society, however, I feel buyers need to learn to be more responsible for themselves rather than relying on the other side to tell them what is good and bad for any given situation.  Just read the following to see what we disclose to a buyer in the NHD, did you (the buyers) know that we are not in a landslide zone?  We need to disclose that we are or are not in a liquefaction zone, but there is no map available.   Again, we (sellers) need to disclose that we are not located within a mile of military ordnance, an area once used for military training purposes, as they may have explosives still buried.  Sellers must disclose that we are nowhere close to an airport.  Try these readers: we are disclosing that we are not in a mining area and then to end with this question, are we close to a coast or bay conservation zone?  We think you readers can they are a little over disclosing here.  But, it’s all for the sake of an honest and fair playing field, so we do it with a smile on our faces. 

Until the next time, tell the world everything you know. Better yet subscribe to the Journal and read about it there.

— A little about us, Lloyd is a retired farmer of 27 years and a realtor for about 10 years.  Lloyd is an active member of the Central Valley Association of Realtors and sits on the CVAR Board of Directors.  Lloyd is a long time member of CVAR’s Master Club for his sales production.   

Larry has been involved in Turlock real estate for 30 years and has been a broker for almost 27 years.  He is also active in CVAR activities and is a past president of CVAR.  If you have questions please call Lloyd at 531-4853 or Larry at 484-4216.  E-mail questions for future columns to: or