Do Tampa Sellers Agents Disclose House Problems?
Do Tampa Sellers Agents Disclose House Problems?
The short answer is No.
The long answer is Noooooo….
Should sellers/listing agents disclose house problems? Of course!
Florida Law says that all agents are to disclose material facts that may affect the property value.
Corner the agent to ask a direct question and they might disclose a house problem… But what usually happens:
The Tampa Agents typically say:
- Never heard of it…
- I don’t know…
- I am not an inspector…
- Why are you asking?...
- What do you mean?...
- Seller doesn't know either
- The seller never lived there…
- What difference does it make?
- I did not read the inspection report…
- The sellers are divorcing, they don’t talk
- Please don’t send me an inspection report…
Yes, we have heard it all…I even had one agent tell me that she was not going to tell me about any house problems because she “farms” that community and she wants to keep the seller happy!
The reality is that a seller's agent doesn't need to disclose what they did not hear or what they did not see because they closed their ears and looked the other way.
Sellers Agents choose not to disclose house problems.
Tampa Agents prefer not to acknowledge issues.
Sellers Agents mistakenly believe that the less they know, the less they need to disclose and the less liable they will be. Besides, they just want to close the deal without stirring up any dust about any house deficiencies.
Some sellers' agents even go as far as to claim “It’s a great house, there is nothing wrong with it.... I promise.”
A Perfect OMG STORY: Happened just last month.
My buyer was interested in a house that was overpriced. While I do realize that sellers can ask whatever they want, sometimes there are upgrades that are not immediately visible to the buyer or the agent. So I ask about any upgrades, the age of the roof, ac, but I get no response. None.
The buyer was interested in this home despite the fact that it had some dark stains running down the walls in the kitchen.
I inquired with the seller's agent again to ask about what appears to be a leaking problem. She claims to know nothing about it.
MLS pictures clearly showed the dark stains on the wall.
Did she really not look at the pictures or did she just want to ignore what could be a house problem? I dunno…
I asked about any roof or A/C permits …she claimed to know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and emphatically said there were none.
I searched and found the permits…
Tampa Buyer goes to contract…
My buyer clients make a reasonable offer for a bit less than the asking price. As a registered appraiser I understand property values and this property simply was not worth the listing price.
I sent the sellers agent comparables that supported a lower price showing that the list price was too high. The seller's agent was not happy with the buyer's offer as she insisted it is a “purrrrfect” house and therefore priced accordingly.
The buyer still wanted the house so he acquiesces and paid the seller's counter offer price.
Tampa Home Buyer does Home inspections…
In order to uncover any home problems, the buyer does inspections and lo and behold!
The home inspector discovers that the roof on the Florida room (which was originally a screened room) was improperly installed and attached to another house portion with corrugated metal…that is leaking all over.
The kitchen leaks have warped the paneling and the walls tested wet almost everywhere. Yes, there are real problems with this Tampa house.
The house was so termite infested that there was termite frass and wings in many places…even on the table tops.
I send the inspection reports to the seller's agent. She calls me to vent…
The seller's agent blasts me that we hired a stupid and incompetent home inspector.
She claims there are no roof leaks and there are no termites.
She goes on to claim that the house was tented for termites 5 years prior and her “friend” the termite guy says that the termite wings and frass are just left over from 5 years ago.
“Are you saying that the termite evidence is 5 years old and during that time no one wiped the frass (termite poop) and wings off the table tops?”
She hung up on me…the buyer canceled the contract.
(BTW tenting of a property for termites does not mean a lifetime guarantee for a termite free house problem…actually you can have termites swarm shortly after a termite treatment.)
Here is the MOST DISHONEST part of the Tampa seller's agent's non-disclosure of house problems:
The seller's agent immediately (without even having a cancellation of contract signed) removed the pictures in MLS that showed the leaks and put the property right back on the market!
The MLS listing made no mention or disclosure of the actual roof leaks or termites, as the seller's disclosure remained the same…not admitting to anything.
Yes, while she did have a copy of the inspection report and pictures of the problems with the roof leaks and termites, the agent was not interested in the facts.
I could just picture some unsuspecting buyer purchasing the house with the same problems and her giving the same diatribe about what a PURRRRFECT house this was!
I voiced a complaint with the seller agent’s office manager and after several requests from the manager the agent finally removed the listing. The manager of this very large office said this agent was one of their best agents.
This is a perfect example of why all home buyers need their own exclusive buyer agent that will make their interest a priority.
The property is still in MLS; what do you think is disclosed?
I just checked on the property in the MLS as I am writing this. It is now back on the market, the price has been lowered, the seller's agent now claims that a roofer fixed a roof leak ... .but there is still NO MENTION OF TERMITES in the disclosures.!!!!!
How would you feel if you bought a home where a costly problem was not disclosed? I guarantee that you would not be happy!
Should Sellers Disclosures be updated with the new problems?
Absolutely! A seller's disclosure must be accurate…this seller's disclosure had many unfilled blanks, and obviously the house problems are still not being disclosed completely.
While the disclosure law in Florida does not require a disclosure to be in writing, there must be a meaningful disclosure. Both the seller and agent must disclose. Most sellers do fill out a disclosure form.
Anytime I have a buyer that cancels the contract over unacceptable inspections I like to check back to see if the seller's disclosure was updated…it never is.
What can a home buyer do to protect themselves?
If the seller's disclosure is not filled out completely with blank spaces the buyer's agent should send it back and have the blanks filled out.
Some agents just write “SELLER NEVER LIVED THERE” across the top and leave it blank. That is not a good enough excuse for non-disclosure.
INSPECT, INSPECT INSPECT for any possible house problems.
Just because a seller rents out the property does make them free of any disclosure.
I own rental property and know exactly what has been replaced or what needs to be upgraded…and I never lived there.
I have found owners that have owned property for 30 years that will claim they know nothing…they say they have no clue how old the roof or A/C is. Baloney, they do know.
The homebuyer is best protected by doing all needed home inspections and hiring a real estate attorney to review all the closing documents.
Don’t look for a cheap inspector or cut corners on what to inspect.
However, a few offices do give proper disclosure
I must give this traditional RE office in Sarasota Florida (Michael Saunders and Company) a plug, because I was impressed with their willingness to disclose. They have created their own seller's disclosure that is 9 pages long and asks sellers the hardest questions…it is excellent. Kudos to them! Wish everyone would be that forthcoming.
Do homebuyers cancel a contract over house problems?
When I see a property in MLS that has been on and off the market…(sold and put back on the market a few times), it usually means that the buyer walked away over home problems found during a home inspection or maybe a short appraisal. Rarely does it mean that the buyer did not qualify for financing.
So I like to ask the agent what happened…a common story is that they have no idea why the buyer canceled. Don’t kid yourself, the seller's agent always knows why the buyer pulled out, because the agent with the buyer always tells why…and its usually over the discovery of house problems.
Buyers don’t cancel a contract over nothing…there is always a reason and the seller's agent does know the reason. They just don’t want to say what it is, because it is not good for the seller and may cause a transaction to blow up.
Who should attend the Home Inspection?
Most importantly, the buyer's agent should attend the home inspection. The seller's agent should attend and also the buyer if they are available.
Why? Because the results will dictate if the buyer will accept the house problems and move forward to closing or if they will want to renegotiate the contract and lower the price or get a credit.
Personally, I prefer to negotiate a credit, because when sellers are required to fix something, they often use the cheapest handyman to fix an issue or they ask their teenage son to do it. With a credit to the buyer, the buyer can hire someone experienced to do quality work.
Seeing the house problems first hand helps…
Besides, how can a buyer's agent negotiate a house problem for the buyer when they weren’t there and don’t have a clue what the problem even looks like?
Going to home inspections teaches the buyer's agent about the home, the deficiencies and how serious or minor a problem is.
The seller's agent, who almost never attends, should also be there so they can learn about the problem and not later contradict the inspection report just because they don’t like it.
Who should be at a final walk through & What is it?
A walk through is a final check up of the property just before the buyer releases their money to the seller for the purchase of the property.
Ideally, a final walkthrough should be done on the morning of the day of the closing…not more than 24 hours prior to closing and not when the seller still has their stuff in the house.
It should be done AFTER the movers are finished packing, the truck is loaded up and gone and AFTER the sellers are completely moved out of the house with all their personal belongings.
Example of why the seller needs to be out before a walk thru:
The sellers had a water bed in the master bedroom and after they moved out , there was carpet missing under where the bed was. In addition, there were several large holes in the walls where they originally had large pictures covering it up. We negotiated a $5K settlement on that because they listed the property as having brand new bedroom carpet…well it was new but missing a huge piece.
Another time, the sellers were not moved out yet and planned to move after closing; the seller's agent assumed they would be out by closing. We did 2 walkthrough’s one before the closing and one after they moved out…that's when we discovered that the seller tore the door jams off to get the furniture out, and broke the glass in the front door. Sellers said “oh well”...no concern for any home damage done.
If you think this does not happen, let me just say it does…we find missing appliances, ceiling fans switched out, missing bathroom mirrors, missing crown molding and even missing ½ the pavers in the driveway along with 500 lbs of broken glass left in the yard.
How does the seller need to leave the house?
Per contract, the seller MUST leave all the utilities on for the walk thru: electric, water and gas, so that the buyer and/or buyers agent can properly evaluate that everything is in the same condition as when the buyer bought the property.
Just because the property was acceptable when the buyer did the home inspection 6 weeks prior, does not mean that the property is in the same condition.
Windows could be broken, the roof could spring a leak and the dishwasher could be frozen.
If something is no longer working properly or new issues have popped up since the buyer went to contract, there is still time to re-negotiate a settlement with the seller for any new house problems that have popped up. The seller still owns the property so they are still liable…
After the buyer signs all the closing documents and releases the funds, the window of opportunity is closed, the deal is done and the buyer no longer has any bargaining power to fix any home deficiencies.
Buyers Broker of Florida always goes on home inspections, and walk-thrus with or without the buyer. That's our job and we take no shortcuts. If there is a house problem, we do not hide it, we deal with it and do our best to get it remedied for the home buyer.
You may not know all your rights, but we do…call us 727-202-9130