Re: Do sellers have to sign the property disclosure form?
posted at 11/20/2010 7:07 PM EST
All house sales are "as is." That does not mean what you think it means. And it has nothing to do with whether you sign that form or not.
"As is" means that you are not obligated to undertake repairs that a potential buyer demands. So, they get an inspection, find some problems, and demand you fix them. Because real estate is an "as is" sale, you are legally entitled to say no. They in turn are legally entitled to walk away from the purchase.
And so, of course, many sellers will negotiate with the buyer, and fix some things. This is not because they have to, but because they want to save the sale.
None of this has anything to do with disclosure or liability, however. Acknowledging a problem is not the same as agreeing to fix it. You can acknowledge it, and then you can say "take it or leave it." That's the "as is" part -- the disclosure part is that regardless whether you plan to fix the problem or not, you have to tell buyers the problem exists.
As a seller, you are obligated to disclose flaws that you know of. Period. So, a disclosure form acts as your proof that you told the buyers about all the problems of which you are aware.
This is important because if you know of a material problem and don't inform the buyers, then they can come after you later in court. If you do tell the buyers, and they go ahead with the sale anyway, they can't come after you. Your disclosure form is your proof that you told them.
So why on earth do you think signing a disclosure form would hurt you?? You say that "If I was unaware of a problem with the home, I wouldn't want the seller coming back to me stating that I knew or should have known of the problem and have a document with my signature to support their claim." -- but that makes no sense. If you are not aware of a problem, you are not liable for not having disclosed it. They have to prove that you knew of the problem -- proving that you did not disclose is not enough, and thinking that you should have known is not enough. So your signature on that form doesn't hurt you in that scenario. If you did know, and you disclosed, then when they come back mad at you because of the problem, you point to the disclosure form and say, "too bad, I told you." End of story.