From the Philly Inquirer:
Lately, I have been going back to two things our listing agent drummed into my head when we were selling our last house.
Disclose, disclose, disclose was one. The other: work with the agent, not against him or her, and that will help sell the house for a good price.
There is a real estate disclosure law in Pennsylvania that spells out exactly what a seller must do to comply. Real estate agents are obligated to assist sellers in completing the form, and prospective buyers and their agents get copies.
New Jersey has no required disclosures that sellers must make. However, the courts have approved exceptions to common law designed to protect buyers against sellers who fail to disclose material facts or who hide information about their properties.
I mention disclosure first because of the July 21 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholding a lower-court ruling that failure to disclose a murder/suicide to the buyer of a house in Thornbury, Delaware County, did not violate the law.
Pennsylvania’s disclosure law covers only material defects, not psychological issues, the justices ruled.
The lawyer for listing agent Re/Max Town & Country in West Chester, Abraham Reich of Fox Rothschild, who successfully argued the case before the justices, said something worth repeating.
There is nothing in the ruling that prohibits buyers from asking questions, Reich said. “A home is a substantial purchase where you’re investing a lot of money, and every buyer has the right to ask if a crime took place at the property, as well as research through public record and media reports of major events that may have occurred.”
Noelle M. Barbone, office manager at Weichert Realtors in Media, said she urges her agents “to have the discussion with the seller to disclose once we have an offer on the table and the price and terms are negotiated.”
“I recommend at that point letting the buyer’s agent know the situation and giving the buyer the opportunity to back out,” Barbone said. And if the buyer does, indeed, back out, “then we avoided a potential legal battle.”
“It is just the right thing to do,” she added.