Massachusetts Home Buyers – What Must a Seller Disclose to you about a Property’s Condition?

Real Estate Agent with The Buyers' Counsel

scales of justiceWhen buying a home in Massachusetts, you need to be aware of your rights and also of the responsibilities of the selling party.  With guidance from your buyer broker, you should set up and attend a home inspection to ensure that the property has no major structural problems.  

But, what happens after the home inspection where problems have been revealed? 

In this month's issue of "Realtor® Magazine", an interesting question was posed regarding this situation: 


"As a listing broker, a property I am selling is now under contract.  As part of the purchase agreement the buyer requested to have the roof inspected.  In the course of the inspection some damage was revealed leading the buyer to request that it be repaired.  My client, the seller, agreed to make the repair and had a professional roofer come out to do the job.  In the course of his repair work, the roofer discovered that there was even further damage than had been originally thought and that additional work would be necessary to restore the roof to a good condition.  

My client does not want me (the listing broker) to report the additional damage to the buyer but to only confine the information to include the originally reported problem.  What is my obligation?"


The additional defects discovered by the roofer must be disclosed to the home buyer.  This is covered under the Realtor® Code of Ethics under Article 2.  The Article states that Realtors® shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts relation to the property or the transaction.  So, based on our Realtor® Code of Ethics, the listing broker is obligated to tell the buyer about any further damage that was revealed. 

In addition to this protection, as a home buyer in Massachusetts, you are also covered under a Massachusetts Law. Chapter 93A is a consumer protection law which states that "unfair or deceptive" business practices are illegal. 

The old rule about purchasing real estate used to be caveat emptor: "Let the buyer beware."  But, since 1968, Chapter 93A has been in effect to protect the buying public.

With regard to real estate purchases the rule is:  "It is considered to be an unfair or deceptive practice if a broker fails to disclose to a buyer or prospective buyer any fact, the disclosure of which may have influence on the buyer not to enter into the transaction." 

It's important to note that the broker is not obligated to discover any facts about the property that they do not know, but they are duty bound to tell you everything that they do know which could possibly affect your decision to purchase.  

Regardless of how the information was discovered, failing to disclose the facts, once known, would violate both our Realtor® Code of Ethics as well as Massachusetts Chapter 93A. 

So - in this situation, you would be covered twice. 


Do you have questions about buying a home in the Metrowest area?  I would love to talk with you. Please feel free to call me at 508-881-6230 - any time or E-mail me. 

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  Copyright 2009 - Claudette Millette, Broker, Owner, The Buyers Counsel  

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Jenny Kotulak
RE/MAX Real Estate Centre Inc., Brokerage - Oakville, ON
Broker - Oakville Ontario Real Estate

Hi Claudette, we would also have to disclose that information here in Canada.  You can bet your bottom dollar that if the buyer were to come back after the seller, he would also be digging into your pockets for witholding information.

The seller might as well get it fixed because if one buyer decides to walk on a building inspection the next buyer is only going to  do the same thing or ask that the seller remedy.


Sep 28, 2009 12:24 PM #1
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Claudette:  I have seen crafty sellers fire listing agents because of this little gem.  Hire someone who doesn't know to sell the house with the new defect that the new agent doesn't know about.  Shame.

Sep 29, 2009 12:00 AM #2
Toula Rosebrock
Diane Turton, Realtors, Forked River, NJ - Lacey Township, NJ
Broker/Sales Associate, Realtor, Lacey Township,


Hi Claudette:

The old rule of thumb...

Disclose - Disclose - Disclose!

Sep 29, 2009 12:51 AM #3
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass


You are so right - someone would be looking for compensation, most likely from the Realtor(s). 

The seller has to either fix the problem or disclose it when the property is relisted.  So, they are always better off making the repair rather than having it show up on a listing sheet.


Sep 29, 2009 01:07 AM #4
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Chris Ann:

I'm sure that does happen and it is a shame for the broker who has put so much work into marketing the property. 


Yes, you are right, right, right...


Sep 29, 2009 01:10 AM #5
Judy Jennings
The Green Company - Ashland, MA
Broker - The Lanterns at Warren Woods - Ashland MA

Claudette - At first glance, I would think you were an attorney. This was informative and well written and great information for anyone purchasing real estate in Massachusetts. Nice job.

Sep 29, 2009 10:13 AM #6
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Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass
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