I tossed and turned the night I got my first signed contract. I was representing a buyer and had this nagging feeling that somehow I was misleading them by not clearly presenting the full picture of the home they were planning to buy. Let me take you inside my head – the house they decided to make an offer on was located on a relatively busy road in Teaneck and I felt that when they came to see the house at 10am on a Tuesday morning the usual rush hour traffic had already subsided and for those few minutes of our showing the block felt quite similar to a regular suburban side street. I was happy at the time as it made the house and the location present quite nicely but once they decided they were going to buy it something just wasn’t sitting right with me.
I talked it over with my husband and we both arrived at the same conclusion: Disclosure was the only way to proceed. Lay out all the cards on the table and thus help the buyers come to their own conclusion. I did not want to start my career with an unhappy customer who would feel I did not have their best interests in mind.
I called up the buyers and the husband, a professor at a University in New York, answered. I asked him to make the trip back to the house and meet me at 5pm on a weekday when all the schools would be out and the rush hour traffic of those heading home from work would be in full swing.
He laughed when I explained the whole fuss. “Nechama” he said “I live right off Broadway next to a Subway station, to us the location feels like the country.”
I was reminded of this story while reviewing issues of disclosure with one of my agents. Every house, especially in Teaneck, where many of the homes can be 100 years old, has a rich history and a long story to tell. What, if any, is our job as realtors to investigate and disclose what the walls of this home have seen, or even what is hiding behind those same walls?
Most local realtors prepare contracts which include an “as is” clause. However, the document
also includes an inspection clause whereby the buyer can exercise the right to a thorough inspection which can reveal minor as well as major defects. Issues concerning the mechanics
of a home as well as any environmental or structural questions are referred to professional experts.
But what if I hear a rumor from one of the neighbors that something is wrong……must I disclose a rumor? Do we need to disclose if there has been a murder inside a home? What if the neighbor is an eccentric type who has no curtains or blinds in the house and favors minimal clothing? I once discovered that there was an historic Indian burial site adjacent to my new listing. Did the seller know? Of course one of my most “infamous” sales was a house that everyone claimed was haunted. I remember walking through the rooms very gingerly, expecting something to jump out at any moment. There were no ghosts and the eventual buyers were thrilled with their home – except for the back staircase that always creaked at night!
Knowing all the secrets of your home today – would you buy it again?
Nechama Polak is the Broker of Record and Owner of V and N Group LLC. V & N Realty is located at 1401 Palisade Ave in Teaneck, NJ. Feel free to email Nechama at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 201.826.8809.