California is one of a kind in many ways: great beaches, beautiful foothills, amazing mountain ranges, rivers, and deserts. Food from around the world can be found in most places in our state. Less well known is that California residents are deeply concerned with real property purchases, home ownership, and the disclosures of any and all information about the properties BEFORE making your final decisions. The disclosure packages for a California Real Estate Purchase have become lengthy and tedious for some. This week one of my sellers was exasperated by the VOLUME of pages to be reviewed and filled out to disclose prior to even loading the property into the MLS. It took us just over three hours to fill out the disclosures and collect the many reports and receipts that he had on his home property. He said, “Why don’t you explain this a head of time?” So that is the message of this blog. Learn all you can about disclosures, and then READ THEM.
So what to expect? First we have the Transfer Disclosure Statement: This three page document is designed to tell the prospective buyer what the seller knows about his home. Does it have a stove? An oven? Sprinklers???? This sort of box checking by the seller is tedious but very important. For the seller, he has the opportunity to tell the buyer what he is selling. He has the chance to be sure that the buyer knows it is a home on city water, but private septic system. So why would he care? Because he wants his house to move through escrow with as few surprises as possible. You would not believe how many transactions have fallen apart because the buyers have never lived on a septic system and had propane gas as the gas source. Some agents in the past didn’t share this information and the buyers felt misinformed. The TDS (we speak in abbreviations in Real Estate) is the chance to talk about any special circumstances that might cause issue for the buyer.
Then there is the SPQ (Seller Property Questionnaire). This four page document repeats some of the same questions as the TDS but goes further. This document asks if anyone died in the house, if there was ever any toxic waste, neighborhood nuisances, and that sort of questions. Of course some of the questions are very personal, but the buyer gets to decide if they want to purchase a home where someone took his or her last breath. Some people are very sensitive to this. We have Disclosures for Lead Based Paint, Carbon Monoxide monitors, Statewide 12 page cover everything in the state, County, add some more pages about local things of interest (in our county it is mines, mine shafts, and even Serpentine Rock). We have another disclosure about drought, and trees and well, you get the picture.
Besides being tedious they are IMPORTANT. For you, the seller, it is important that you have an agent who will sit with you and walk you through all the details of why you need to disclose and why the checked boxes cannot be just all NO! It takes time and energy and your agent better know her disclosures! For the Buyer it is vital you have a full package of disclosures and have an agent who can explain the ones that the seller filled out. Sometimes there is conflicting information and your agent should be able to find out why. In one case it was because the husband filled out half the disclosures and the wife did the others and they couldn’t remember so they didn’t confer with one another about their answers.
Most important for you buyers or sellers is that you ASK the questions. Get your disclosures up front: read them so you will KNOW what you are buying.