However, very few people will tolerate being lied to. Litigation often follows a failure to disclose a known fact about the house...Here are a few common "white lies" that may get sellers in trouble:
- "There has never been any damage from a disaster here" - previous damage from disasters can be fixed to the point where an untrained eye cannot see it. But home inspectors may be able to read telltale signs, and buyers can also buy a report from the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) which can tell them if any claims have been filed to fix damages (like a "CarFax" for homes).
- "This home has XXX square feet more than the tax records indicate", or "This is a YYY acre lot". Unless the sellers have hired a professional appraiser who has measured their home and calculated the exact heated area, or a surveyor who has measured their lot, size discrepancies can be a common source for litigation.
- "The roof is new". Sellers often say this if they have replaced the shingles within the last three years. Unless they have literally replaced the whole roof (including shingles, beams, trusses, sheathing and insulation) in the last year, they may be opening themselves to future litigation.
- "This is a very safe community - there is no crime here". The fact is that very few people are really aware of all the crime in their neighborhood (some may not have heard about all the car break-ins that happened last week in the next street, or the attempted rape that happened last month in the community park two blocks away). If buyers ask about safety and crime, it is best to tell them to go to the source (the local police station) to satisfy themselves.
My advice - tell the truth and direct buyers to official sources for questions that may become controversial later on...