When does a buyer get to see the home disclosure?
In the state of Florida there is no set time for when a disclosure has to be made.
In the strictest sense, no written disclosure is even required.
However, in Florida, latent defects on a home (defects that can’t be seen with the naked eye, and are known about by the owner) must be disclosed to a buyer before closing.
A seller who fails to disclose sets himself up for a lawsuit if it can be proved that he knew about a latent defect and didn’t disclose it.
In my opinion the best time to disclose is during the offer stage. That way if a buyer has any qualms about the disclosure they can walk away even before they sign the contract. Or, a buyer can read the disclosure and have their inspector narrow things down on a “worry list,” a list of things that really get looked at hard during the inspection.
This will make the buyer much more confident going forward, and the closing a much more certain thing.
So what should a seller disclose? What would constitute a latent defect?
Let’s say a skylight leaks everytime it rains, and the seller knows this. He knows because everytime he goes into the kitchen when its raining there is water dripping from the skylight. So he patches it just for a few days to make it through inspections. Then the buyer moves in and it leaks. It’s obviously patched but not disclosed. The buyer can probably sue.
Take the same situation above, but in this case the seller has the skylights professionally sealed. Or, he seals them himself, but correctly. They don’t leak for two years. Does he have to disclose that they leaked? If they’ve been fixed, they’re not leaking, and there is no additional unrepaired damage from the leaks…this probably doesn’t need to be disclosed because it’s an old problem that has been fixed. On the other hand, the seller could disclose it because it’s a way of saying, “Hey, I really took care of this place and fixed things fast,” in order to give the buyers extra confidence.
Here’s an example of how it actually works in practice. In the photo above there is wood rot on the door to the left. Do you have to disclose it? No, because it is obvious to the naked eye. It is not a latent defect. But did the sellers disclose it anyway? Absolutely.
Why? Just in case the buyer came back after the fact and claimed that they didn’t know that wood rot was a defect, and that the sellers should have told them wood rot was a defect. Remember the woman who succesfully sued McDonalds because she spilled coffee on herself, because the coffee was hot? Think along those lines.
One last thing: banks and REO companies that handle foreclosures rarely give or sign disclosures. Why? They never lived in the home (having acquired it through foreclosure), and truly have no idea. So if you are buying one of these homes inspect them with a fine tooth comb.
Contact St. Augustine Team to get you through the disclosure process, or just call Broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327.