Property Condition

No matter how analytical you are, no matter what your eye for detail and your natural intuition, there are potential problems with a property that cannot be predicted. Therefore, when you buy or sell a home, you must fill out, or request, a property condition disclosure form.

This form is design to protect the buyer from any from any hidden surprises that may end up damaging the property, and it also protects the seller from any long-term liability after the sale of the property.

If this seems vague, let us clarify, with an example.

Last spring I awoke in the morning and headed down stairs to the basement after detecting a strange smell. I had lived in the house for three years and had never smelled anything quite like that in all of that time.

Upon reaching the basement, I discovered that it had not only been flooded, but that dirt and silt had seeped into the basement along with the rainwater. Needless to say I was surprised. It had rained hundreds of times during my tenure in that home and I had never even noticed a stray drop of water in the basement.

After, my initial panic, I called a contractor and he was able to both fix the problem and explain to me what had happened. Apparently, the storm drain outside had reached some sort of critical mass and overflowed.

He said that after looking at the drain, it was unlikely that flooding would occur often, but he knew for sure that it had happened before. In the basement he noticed massively water damaged floorboards that had been covered up with linoleum tile. Whoever owned the home before me had had the same experience, but had neglected telling me about it.

He asked me if it had been mentioned in the property condition disclosure statement? I had no idea what that was. Oops. I learned a valuable lesson that day, so here is some advice, on what you should be asking, and expecting when you buy home.

You don't want any sloppy surprises like the one I had.


First of all, the property condition disclosure statement is not a guarantee, nor is it a warranty. It is simply, what is known in the sports world as, a head's up.

It is not a substitute for any inspections or tests that you really should conduct before you sin on the dotted line. You are strongly encouraged to bring in your own private inspectors to get a sense of any potential problems. The property condition disclosure statement is simply a guide, which can illuminate problem areas.

If the seller fails to hand over a property condition disclosure statement, then the buyer shall receive a $500 credit towards the agreed upon purchase price of the residence.

For The Seller

There can be penalties of up to $500 taken from the agreed purchase price of the home, if the form is filled out incorrectly or if there are items deliberately left off from the accounting.

Therefore you must:

Answer all questions based upon your actual knowledge. Answer all questions based upon your actual knowledge. Attach additional pages with your signature if additional space is required. Complete this form yourself. If some items do not apply to your property, check 'NA' (Non-applicable). If you do not know the answer check 'Unkn' (Unknown).

These statements, although they are often mediated and consulted by the agent of the seller, the seller is by no means responsible for the information on the form. If there is a problem with the form, the seller must take on all liability.

General Questions to Expect on Property Condition Disclosure Form How long have you owned the property? How long have you occupied the property? What is the age of the structure or structures? Note to buyer: If the structure was built before 1978 you are encouraged to investigate for the presence of lead based paint Does anybody other than yourself have a lease, easement or any other right to use or occupy any part of your property other than those stated in documents available in the public record, such as rights to use a road or path or cut trees or crops? Does anybody else claim to own any part of your property? Has anyone denied you access to the property or made a formal legal claim challenging your title to the property? Are there any features of the property shared in common with adjoining landowners or a homeowner's association, such as walls, fences or driveways? Are there any electric or gas utility surcharges for line extensions, special assessments or homeowner or other association fees that apply to the property? Are there certificates of occupancy related to the property?

The Environment

As the seller this section requires you to think back to the history of your home. You must remember if there have been any toxic spills or leaks involving petroleum products or any other kind of hazardous chemicals.

Gasoline Diesel Fuel Heating Fuel Lubricants

You must also notify the buyer of any hazardous material that is not, or was not properly stored. These materials include:

Fertilizers Pesticides Insecticides Paint Paint Thinner Varnish Remover Wood Preservatives Antifreeze Batteries Cleaning Solvents Pool Chemicals Anything with Mercury or Lead

*** If you are a buyer and you suspect that the property has been exposed to any toxic elements it is recommended that you do your own environmental assessment, including a soil test, and a ground water test.

Other questions that you should be prepared for include:

Is any or all of the property located in a designated floodplain? Is any or all of the property located in a designated wetland? Is the property located in an agricultural district? Was the property ever the site of a landfill? Are there or have there ever been fuel storage tanks above or below the ground on the property? Is there asbestos in the structure? Is lead plumbing present? Has a radon test been done? Has the property been tested for the presence of motor fuel, motor oil, home heating fuel, Lubricating oil, or any other petroleum product, methane gas, or any hazardous or toxic Substance Has motor fuel, motor oil, home heating fuel, lubricating oil or any other petroleum product, methane gas, or any hazardous or toxic substance spilled, leaked or otherwise been released on the property or from the property onto any other property?

Structure of the Property

The buyer is also required to tell you if there are any problems with the structure of the home. This is directly related to the immediate safety of your family. Therefore special consideration should be paid to the following questions:

Is there any rot or water damage to the structure or structures? Is there any fire or smoke damage to the structure or structures? Is there any termite, insect, rodent or pest infestation or damage? Has the property been tested for termite, insect, rodent or pest infestation or damage? What kind of roof, how old is the roof, are there any material defects with the roof? Does the roof have a transferable warranty? Are there any know material defects in any of the following structural systems: footings, beams, girders, lintels, columns or partitions?

Mechanical Systems

This section pertains to the fixtures and utilities that apply to your property. In many cases they refer to the service that is provided but it also includes the effective use of these services: What is the water source? Well, private, municipal, and other? Is the water metered? Has the water quality and/or flow rate been tested? What is the type of sewage system? Public sewer, private sewer, septic, cesspool? Who is your electrical service provider?

· What is the Amperage?

· Dies it have circuit breakers and fuses?

· Public or private poles?

· Any known material defects?

Are there any flooding, drainage or grading problems that resulted in standing water on any portion of the property Does the basement have seepage that results in standing water?

Basic Checklist

For all other features of the property you should be prepared to know the condition of the following:

Plumbing system Security system Carbon Monoxide tester Smoke detector Fire sprinkler system Sump pump Foundation Interior walls Exterior walls Floors Chimney Patio Driveway Air conditioner Heating system Hot water heater Water softener