Seller’s Property Disclosure Statements: Essential Overview
Selling a home in Oregon: Real estate agent? Check. Moving boxes? Check. Seller’s Property Disclosures? Yes!
Oregon law requires all homeowners to reveal certain information about a home before they sell (there are very few exceptions). After all, a home is not just a material object — it’s a place with a history. Anything that could affect the buyer’s experience in that home going forward should be disclosed.
Portland Seller Disclosures — How and Why
Fortunately, sellers are not responsible for coming up with a list of relevant information about the home as a free-form exercise. There’s a standardized form that’s actually written into the Oregon Revised Statutes. Everyone in the state is required to disclose the same things about their homes when they sell.
The disclosures form is taken seriously because it’s the only way that sellers can be legally “covered” if should anything go wrong with the house after it changes hands. As a seller’s agent, I often get asked, “Does that really need to be disclosed?” The golden rule is, “If you’re unsure, disclose.” Even if it shouldn’t negatively impact the value of the home, and even if the issue seems to have been resolved. Be mindful that if you don’t disclose what you know, you could be opening yourself up to liability down the road.
The disclosures form used in Oregon real estate transactions has very specific “Yes” or “No” questions. Thankfully there are also boxes for “Unknown” for many questions. The law requires that no stone be left unturned when it comes to a seller’s knowledge of the property. For that reason, real estate agents recommend that Portland home sellers give themselves at least an hour to fill out the form. It may require some research — calling your insurance company for a reminder on any claims made or contacting the county to verify permits. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your real estate agent if you can’t answer a question or aren’t sure how. We’re here to advise you through the process.
Portland Seller Disclosures – What’s covered?
The disclosures form that all sellers must fill out contains a number of questions, but first and foremost it asks sellers to verify that they have the legal authority to sell the property. Again, it’s a simple check of a box, but it holds sellers accountable and prevents homes from being sold illegally, for example, out from under an elderly parent. From here, the form goes into questions that investigate which parties have jurisdiction over the property. These include:
- The title or property boundaries. Yes, there will be a title search made as part of the home closing process, but sellers are required to list any issues that they know of here in the disclosures form. Has a creditor threatened to place a lien on the title? Is a neighbor’s fence encroaching on the property line?
- Common property and Homeowners Associations. If there’s any kind of common property that comes with the home or condo, the disclosures form wants to know about it. Whether there’s an HOA, and if the home is out of compliance with HOA rules are also facts that should be disclosed.
Ah, the all-important ingoing and outgoing services to a home! Sellers might not always know if something is wrong with the plumbing, but they do have access to other key information.
- Water. Homeowners are required to disclose where water is coming from (eg. the city or a private well) and if there are any issues with the source. For Portland residents, this is usually where any plumbing problems with incoming water would be disclosed. If the property is irrigated, there are additional disclosure questions to answer.
- Sewage or septic. If on public sewage, this part of the form is pretty simple, but there are a few questions about private septic systems that need to be answered honestly. Sellers may disclose when the system was installed and whether it has been serviced.
“Is the home standing?” is just about the only structural question not included on the disclosures form. Home sellers need to answer questions about:
- Insulation. Many homes in Portland were built without wall insulation. One trick to checking is to unscrew an electrical outlet panel (or some other small wall panel, like cable) and look behind it. There’s no need to find out the R-value.
- History. A large section of the form is dedicated to getting nitty gritty about the home’s changes over time: Roof leaks, remodels, seismic retrofitting, damage from natural disasters, pest inspections, and more.
- Systems and fixtures. Sellers simply verify whether the electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling systems — as well as certain appliances — are in good working order. If any components were the subject of a recall or class-action suit, that also needs to be disclosed.
Safety first! Potential safety hazards can come from outside and inside the home, including:
- Wood stove. If the home has one, sellers must disclose the make, whether or not a permit as obtained, and whether the stove is EPA or DEQ-certified.
- Material hazards. Many Portland homes are affected by radon, but this odorless gas is lumped into the same question as other material hazards that may exist in the home. Sellers must answer “Yes” to this question if the home has ever been tested or treated for hazards like the following: asbestos, formaldehyde, radon, gas, lead-based paint, mold, fuel, or chemical storage tanks or contaminated soil or water. (Buyers must do their own due diligence to determine which hazard exists, and whether it was merely tested for actually treated.)
- Location zoning. The disclosures form wants to know if the home is in a designated floodplain, geological hazard, or wildland-urban interface zone. These zones change occasionally as new research is done, so get the latest information through the city or county where your home is located. If in Portland, go to portlandmaps.com.
Believe it or not, this article just scratches the surface. To preview the entire sellers property disclosure statement form, go to https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/105.464, or just ask your Oregon real estate agent for help.May 7, 2019