Buyers don't care what you tell them as long as you tell them. That's my opening statement when I hand home sellers a package of disclosures to complete. It's the things you don't tell a buyer that can come back to haunt you, not what you do say.
You take a neighborhood where I live and work like Land Park. Because I live in Land Park, I have intimate knowledge about the neighborhood, which agents who live outside of Land Park probably don't know. If they don't know, they can't disclose those facts to a buyer. Although, it could probably be argued that they should know or should at least have asked questions of the seller. On the front end of my marketing, I sell the delights of living in Land Park -- the friendly neighbors, tree-canopied streets, fabulous restaurants and our special attractions such as William Land Park, the Sacramento Zoo, Fairy Tale Town, the Rock Garden, and Vic's ice cream.
But there is also a downside -- as there is with any neighborhood, I don't care where you live. For example, I know which areas in Land Park routinely flood during a hard rain. I know where the feral cats, skunks, opossums and raccoons roam. Which streets get foot traffic and the origination of that traffic. When noise factors such as trains or freeways can be present. Parking ordinances. Which trees are protected. Selling homes in Land Park means more than what we used to call selling real estate in the old days: selling carpets and drapes. That used to be the definition of residential real estate sales in the 1970s. Except nowadays it's more like selling hardwood flooring and plantation shutters.
The thing is after escrow closes, odds are something in that buyer's new home will probably malfunction. And the minute it does, the buyer is likely to immediately jump to the conclusion that the seller knew about it and purposely withheld that information or concealed that defect. It's human nature. We're a suspicious bunch of people.
So, how do you bump up the odds that you won't get sued after escrow closes? You hire an agent who can explain the inherent problems with some types of seller disclosures and can give you the right documents. You find a Land Park agent who knows the nuances of your neighborhood. I tell my sellers to disclose all material facts. If I know a material fact, I disclose it. I go into great detail about what a material fact is and why it's important. I help sellers to recollect and disclose. We talk about the Transfer Disclosure Statement.
The other day a seller objected to a point I made in a disclosure. She wanted me to remove a sentence about the possibility that a neighbor's dog might bark. No can do. The tenant told me the dog next door barked. I don't know if the dog barks. The dog wasn't barking in my presence. I noted that I did not hear the dog barking but the tenant said the dog barks. This disclosure doesn't appear in my marketing materials. It appears on the agent visual inspection, on which I obtain the buyer's signature, along with a pile of other documents after offer acceptance. I'm always thinking one step ahead of ways to protect my sellers yet conform to the law. That's my job, and I take my job seriously.
The point is it's not what you say, it's how you say it. I don't want my sellers ever ending up in court. Not if I can help it. And I can.
Photo: Big Stock Photo