How to Understand the Seller's Disclosure Report

The seller's disclosure report or form will be filled out by the homeowner/a seller before listing the property explaining in detail any known issues, remodels, renovations or problems that the house currently has or has had in the past and has been fixed. Anything that the seller knows about a property must be disclosed on this form. Seller's disclosure forms vary from state to state will have some of the basics that buyers will need to know or understand before purchasing the property.

Here are some of the basics of most seller's disclosure forms or reports that buyers need to understand.How to Understand the Seller's Disclosure Report

The age of the roof.

This is more than simply knowing that the roof is 10 years old; it's knowing what type of roof it is that you know the lifespan of that material. If you are only 10 years into a 40-year roof, you know that the roof will have some life left to it for quite some time. If you are unsure about the life of a particular roof material ask your real estate agent or home inspector. They can give you tips and advice as to how long a particular roof will last.


Sellers should be able to explain any and all plumbing issues that they know. You want to know the age and type of the pipes, whether it's copper, galvanized steel, or brass. Some of these can last up to 100 years but polybutylene or lead pipes could mean trouble. Some of these materials may need to be replaced before you move in.

Heat pumps, furnaces and water heaters.

Most gas water heaters usually last about 10 years and electric ones are about 15. Most water heaters don't need to be replaced until the leak or fail. HVAC systems or heat pumps work harder the older they get so a 20-year-old HVAC system will be working about 50% harder and less efficiently than a new system. While this may not be something to replace, it is something to be aware of for your future in the home.

Renovations and remodels.

If the seller had conducted any remodels or major renovations they should be able to produce a building permit. If no permit was done on a major remodeling issues that require a permit for your city or state, you could be liable for mistakes in the future. Anything that was done that should have had a building permit needs to be signed off on before you agree to purchase the property. This is for your safety and liability.

Cracks in the wall and foundation.

Cracks can be structural damage but they also could simply be a settling. Newer homes are notorious for getting cracks in the ceiling, walls and corners simply because they have settled now that people have moved into the home or the foundation and ground around the home has settled. While this may not be cause for concern it is something to ask your home inspector about. 

Animal damage.

Sellers should be able to tell you if there's been any major animal damage while the home was under their ownership. This could mean past issues, where they have hired an exterminator, major damage, rats, mice, snakes or other issues that may have caused damage to the house under the seller's ownership. Make sure all of these items have been addressed and taken care of before you take ownership.

Asbestos and lead paint.

Sellers need to answer honestly of they know that the home has asbestos or lead paint. But, most homeowners have not owned the home for the last 40 years total so whether or not the property has lead paint in it or not, the seller is not going to know. The seller may know if there is asbestos but anything that they do know, they have to disclose.

Understanding the seller's disclosure form doesn't have to be difficult but if there is anything you don't understand don't hesitate to ask your real estate agent or the listing agent. They can identify and explain any detail and unfortunately, if the seller simply does not know about an item dues to issues happening before they owned or if it is an investment rental property, there's not much the buyer can do about it.


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