The peril and promise of Pa. real estate seller disclosure law

Spring is in the air, and it’s time for the residential real estate market to take off. A house can be a home, but it is also a legal asset, and both buyers and sellers need to be aware of potential defects in that asset.

Spring is in the air, and it’s time for the residential real estate market to take off. A house can be a home, but it is also a legal asset, and both buyers and sellers need to be aware of potential defects in that asset.

Buying or selling a house is one of the largest financial transactions the average person undertakes in a lifetime.

In Pennsylvania, the sellers of a house are usually required by law to disclose the condition of that home. This real estate seller disclosure law, also known by the acronym RESDL, applies to most transfers of residential real estate in Pennsylvania.

Where applicable, the law requires a seller to disclose to a buyer all known “material defects” about the property being sold that are not readily observable. These defects could be anything from a crack in the foundation or damage to the roof, or any system or structural element in between – any problems with the property that could notably lower its value.

To facilitate disclosure of defects, the state Real Estate Commission has produced a form of disclosure that is widely in use throughout Pennsylvania. In each qualifying sale, the seller needs to fill out the form indicating to the buyer his or her knowledge of the systems and structural elements in the home.

Often, homebuyers obtain a home inspection to help understand just what might need to be fixed in a house they are buying.

Disappointed homebuyers sometimes sue inspectors as well as sellers when the buyers discover some defect after closing.

Home inspectors need to be aware of their potential liability and defenses and draft their contracts accordingly.

One advantage inspectors have is that their obligation is ordinarily only to perform a noninvasive, visual inspection which could not reasonably discover latent defects.

Naturally, any number of systems in a home will decline with age and need to be replaced.

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