It’s time to sell your home, but there are still some things you need to fix before you put it on the market. You just learned that Virginia is a “buyer beware” state, and you wonder what that means for you as the seller. You don’t want to get into legal trouble, but how much information about your home must you reveal to a potential buyer?
Is it necessary to bring up the crack in the foundation repaired last year? What about the ghost of Uncle Eddie that everybody says haunts the basement? Although basic disclosures are required by federal law in all states, Virginia law does not require sellers to reveal certain information about their property.
At McCarthy & Akers, PLC, our real estate attorney team takes the guesswork out of real estate transactions because real estate is second nature to us. We are a full-service real estate law firm and know how to anticipate and deal with almost any issue due to the sheer volume of cases we handle and years of experience. Whether you are buying or selling a home, let us go to work for you. Call us at (540) 722-2181 to schedule your free consultation.
Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Statement
The Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act governs the information sellers must disclose to prospective buyers when selling a property. These disclosures are indicated on the Virginia "Residential Property Disclosure Statement." Both parties must sign the “Seller and Purchaser Acknowledgement Form” to acknowledge these disclosures.
The Residential Property Disclosure Statement informs the buyer that the seller makes no representations about certain conditions regarding the property, meaning that the seller is not required to disclose any information about such defects and that it is the buyer's responsibility to conduct the necessary due diligence. Essentially, the form informs buyers that inspecting and investigating the property is their responsibility.
Additional Disclosures by Seller
Sellers may also need to complete one or more of these forms:
- Septic Waiver Disclosure Form
- Military Air Installation Disclosure Form
- Property Previously Used for Methamphetamine Manufacture Disclosure Form
- Building Code Enforcement Action/Zoning Ordinance Violation Disclosure Form
- Disclosure Statement for Certain New Dwellings
- Privately Owned Stormwater Management Facility Disclosure Form
- Repetitive Risk Loss Structure Disclosure Form
- Disclosure Statement for Lis Pendens
Your real estate attorney can advise you as to which forms you may need and assist with completing them.
Let the Buyer Beware!
Virginia is a caveat emptor state. Caveat emptor is a Latin phrase that translates to "let the buyer beware." This means that a person buys at their own risk. Potential buyers are advised to conduct extensive research (due diligence) and ask the seller any questions. Per the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act, sellers are not necessarily required to disclose flaws or defects to buyers, but they also cannot lie or actively conceal a problem. They also must honestly respond to any inquiries from potential buyers.
For example, it is primarily up to buyers to inspect the home and negotiate any necessary repairs before purchasing it from the seller. However, when a buyer signs a purchase agreement, there is a home inspection contingency period during which the buyer must take specific actions to learn more about the property’s condition.
You might be better protected if a serious structural defect is found after your purchase if you exercised the necessary due diligence as a buyer by researching and asserting your rights before signing a contract. Since it can be challenging to conduct thorough due diligence on your own in a real estate transaction, hiring a real estate lawyer to assist with this can be beneficial when buying a home.
Liability of the Seller for Damages
What do you do if you purchased your home and discovered that the seller misrepresented or fraudulently concealed property defects? You may be entitled to compensation by suing them for damages if the seller:
- Concealed or covered up known property defect(s) or damage
- Lied to keep you from discovering the defects or damage when you asked questions about known property defect(s) or damage
- Did not provide you with a Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Statement
However, if you discover a defect after purchasing the home, the seller is not generally liable if they were unaware of the defect. Hiring a professional to conduct an independent inspection before purchasing the property is essential and can help avoid any buyer’s remorse.
McCarthy & Akers, PLC: The Only Real Estate Lawyers You Need When You Sell or Buy a Home
At McCarthy & Akers, PLC, we make choosing a legal partner easy. While other law firms may see you as just a number or another case, we take the time to get to know you and understand your legal needs. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer, investor, or developer, we will help you achieve your real estate goals.
Look no further if you're searching online for "real estate lawyers near me." Contact our real estate lawyer team from one of our offices in Strasburg, Woodstock, Front Royal, Winchester, Manassas, and Warrenton at (540) 722-2181, or fill out our online form, to schedule your free consultation. Let us go to work for you!
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The information in this blog post (post) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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Winchester, VA 22601