Sellers want to make their home as attractive as possible to potential buyers. Wisconsin law requires that sellers disclose certain flaws to prospective buyers. Knowing what flaws a seller must disclose can be tricky. What about that old drafty window or the window whose frame you think is starting to rot? Or those cracks you noticed last winter in the basement wall? Or that night two years ago during a big storm when rainwater came in the basement?
Sometimes this obligation puts sellers in a difficult position. Sellers don’t want to over-report and scare away buyers, but non-disclosure may derail the sale or later result in the buyer bringing costly legal action for misrepresentation against the seller. It’s crucial that sellers think through what issues need to be disclosed before listing the property.
What Wisconsin Sellers Must Disclose
Wisconsin law requires sellers to complete a Real Estate Condition Report for the buyer. Typically, a real estate agent will provide the form to the seller. The seller must provide the report within 10 days after they accept the buyer’s offer to purchase. The report may be given earlier, even before the buyer makes an offer if the seller chooses.
The report asks the seller to check “yes” or “no” next to a series of questions about the property. If the seller checks yes, they must provide a written explanation.
The questions cover structural aspects of the home, like the roof, HVAC, wiring, plumbing, well water, and foundation. The report asks about the known history of any flooding, termites, or former lot line or zoning issues. Other questions cover environmental hazards such as asbestos, lead paint, and radon.
Am I Guaranteeing My Home Is in Perfect Condition?
When a seller fills out the Real Estate Condition Report they aren’t making outright guarantees to the buyer. A clean report doesn’t mean the buyer is purchasing a worry-free, like-new home.
Wisconsin law requires a seller to disclose conditions or defects that may result in a significant negative effect on the property value, impair the health or safety of future owners and occupants, or significantly shorten or negatively affect the normal life of the property.
To trigger the seller’s obligation to disclose, the seller must have both the knowledge of the defect and reasonably believe the defect will significantly and negatively affect the property.
When in doubt, potential sellers should over-disclose rather than under-disclose. Also, clean reports can be suspicious to buyers, especially if the seller lived in the home for a long time.
Murdock Law has helped many sellers understand their legal obligations when selling their home. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us toll-free at 1-844-744-7529.