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Pests, foundation problems, deaths? What Utah home sellers must disclose to buyers

By Sloan Schrage, KSL TV | Posted - Mar 18th, 2019 @ 8:02am


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MAGNA — Most people looking to buy an existing home will want to know everything they can about its condition and history. In Utah, sellers are obligated to disclose their home’s physical defects.

Marie Cornett is selling her late aunt’s home in Magna and it’s a hot property.

"When my realtor first told me, 'Hey, it’s going to go up. You’re going to get a ton of offers,' I was like, 'OK, whatever,'" said Cornett. "And then I was like, 'Woah, you’re serious! We got a ton of offers.'"

Jennifer Gilchrist of Utah Key Real Estate is Cornett’s real estate agent.

“There is no such thing as a home without problems,” Gilchrist told KSL, "and the best people who know about those problems are the people who live in the property.”

Cornett’s property was no different.

“Yes, I did fill out a disclosure form for my buyers,” Cornett related. “We disclosed to the buyers that: Hey, there was a leak in the bathroom. It was the toilet and we fixed it.”

The use, storage or manufacture of meth in a home is the only disclosure specifically required by Utah statute. But the state’s Supreme Court has ruled sellers must disclose known material defects that could affect a home’s value or a buyer’s decision.

“Electrical issues, plumbing issues, if there are have been any leaks in the property,” Gilchrist listed, "and if there’s mold on the property, and even if you’ve done any addition or remodels.”

Real estate agent Jennifer Gilchrist reviews a disclosure form with her client, Marie Cornett. (Photo: KSL TV)

Gilchrist has her clients fill out the Utah Association of Realtors’ seven-page disclosure form. Hammered out by decades of case law, it covers everything from roofs and pests to furnaces and solar panels. Gilchrist says sellers not open and honest about their disclosures could wind up before a judge.

“If a buyer finds out that there were any issues that were not disclosed, you would be held liable for that,” she explained.

This is where it turns a little dark. In Utah, sellers do not have to disclose up front if a felony crime or death, violent or natural, took place at the home.

But what happens if the buyer asks?

“If they do ask the seller, then they do need to be honest about that,” answered Gilchrist. “There are certain things that are not disclosed that the buyers like to know sometimes, even if it’s not on the form. And it is the seller’s responsibility to answer those questions honestly and be very forthcoming in any information.”

Otherwise, there could be legal repercussions.

Gilchrist emphasized it is still critical for buyers to do their homework. Sellers may not know about every defect hiding in their homes, so buyers should have a home inspected and learn everything they can about it before buying.

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