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Home Disclosures in Massachusetts: What You Should Know

Real estate agents might not have to follow a strict code of ethics like Realtors do, but Massachusetts law does still require them to disclose certain information about the properties you sell. Just because Massachusetts follows the legal doctrine of caveat emptor – buyer beware – doesn’t mean it isn’t both your legal and moral obligation to inform your potential buyers of critical information.

Close-up of person signing documents

Lead Paint

Lead is an extremely toxic metal that can cause a slew of medical problems to those exposed, especially young children. And while lead-based paints have been banned from use in residential homes since 1978, that only stopped the sale of such paint; it did not immediately strip away already-painted walls. So, with how many older homes New England boasts, it’s of course a concern to home buyers.

That’s why you are required by both state and federal laws to inform your potential buyers of any lead hazards in the property’s paint, plaster, or other structural materials before the final sale. If you don’t, you could not only be fined, but also be on the hook for any damages the buyer suffers, including medical.

If the home was built before 1978, you must provide your buyer with a Property Transfer Notification Certification before entering into the formal contract.

Septic Systems

About one-third of homes in Massachusetts have a septic system, especially in suburban areas. On average they tend to last up to 25 years and can be a great investment, but can be expensive to replace, and older systems can get damaged. So it’s important for potential buyers to know if they’re getting one when they buy a home.

This is why Title 5 of the Massachusetts Environmental Code requires sellers to inform a buyer in writing if the property uses a septic system. It also requires that said septic system be inspected within two years preceding the sale, or in some extenuating circumstances, the inspection can be delayed to six months after the sale.

Anything The Buyer Asks Outright

Besides lead paint and a septic system, you can choose to not disclose any other details about the property you’re selling – unless, of course, they specifically ask you. They could ask you anything from whether the property has underground tanks or hazardous materials, to whether someone has died on the property and if the house might be haunted. No matter the question, you must be truthful, not hold back any relevant information, and not seek to misguide your potential buyer.

Sign that says Haunted

While you might be concerned that these factors could impact a potential sale, it’s arguably better to disclose these details of your own volition, as it inspires trust in your potential buyers. Showing them you have nothing to hide and wish to put their best interests first could very well seal the deal on a house sale and inspire your clients to refer you to their friends.

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