The state of Georgia is what we call a Buyer beware state, or what I like to call the wild-wild west of disclosures. Some people might even wonder if Georgia is a non-disclosure state? Or, do seller’s lie or and are not liable to disclose on their seller disclosure exhibits? As a seller what is mandatory to share with a new buyer? Are sellers required to fill out a seller property disclosure form in Georgia? What are considered material or latent defects and how do you prove it? These are all questions home buyers and sellers in Georgia should be asking themselves. Unfortunately some of these things are as hard to prove as they might be to find out.

Georgia Buyer Beware- What you need to know about buying a home in Georgia.

Technically any seller should disclose material defects, or things that will affect the price or value of the home.

According Samslarkinhuff.com:

“Georgia real estate law stipulates that you must disclose any material defects that would cause a person to pay less or not at all for the property. A material defect is a problem with a component or system of the property that is unsafe to others or decreases the value of the real estate. When a component or system is nearing the end of its lifespan, this isn’t a material defect.”

Technically a home seller “should” disclose everything they know about their home. However, there’s no way to know what they do and don’t know. Unfortunately a seller can hide behind the statement “I don’t know” and it would be up to the buyer to prove that the seller did in fact know. Marianne Shaver, attorney at Shearer and Associates shares a story of a chimney that just happened to be reinspected by the same company that came out to inspect prior to the sale and has it documented that they notified the sellers the chimney was non-operable and even unsafe. This fact was not passed on to the buyers. This might be cause for a lawsuit for the sellers.

But that leads to another question, “is it worth it to file a lawsuit” against a seller if they did not disclose properly.

Unfortunately often times it’s more of a moral victory than anything. Sure you may “win” the case and be rewarded the repairs, but at what cost? Do you have to pay for attorney’s or research to prove your case? In the end do you have to take off work and pay for childcare? Those are questions I would ask myself. So if you are feeling doubtful about a purchase, it may be worth it to go with your gut!

As a seller what do you disclose when selling your home in Georgia?

I recommend everything. If a buyer does an inspection they will find things. They will find repairs and wonder what happened? They will wonder why it wasn’t disclosed and what else you might be hiding. Sometimes people think, “well maybe they won’t see it.” This frame of mind may cause you to actually lose money in a sale. If a seller backs out of a sale because they aren’t comfortable with the home, other buyers may also start to wonder what’s wrong with the home? why does it keep coming back on market? what aren’t they telling me?…. I don’t need a home that bad. Then the seller is forced to reduce price only to start the process again with someone else. It’s not a good cycle to repeat.

Is a seller required to share previous reports or information with a new buyer?

If they don’t see the report technically they have plausible deniability. They can say the repairs requested were “heresay” and they don’t know if they are actually true.

There are 2 disclosures that get filled out during a transaction typically but there are exclusions.

One is the Seller Property Disclosure also known as the SPD, looks like this:

This form is where sellers check boxes on items in the home, such as hot water heater, HVAC service, roof, septic etc. any box checked yes should have an explanation to follow.

Seller Property Disclosure (SPD), F301

One other important element of the SPD is the Fixture checklist which states which items are staying with the home. This is where it’s supposed to say if they are leaving the washer/dryer/fridge, or tv mounts etc. I will say these usually come incomplete. This is a sellers best defense if they want to leave or take something that was questionable.

The second form is the CAD or the Community Association Disclosure:

Community Association Disclosure (CAD), F322

The CAD discusses the community features. Any requirements, annual dues, it should include what the HOA fee covers as well. It “should” disclose litigation and community contact information as well.

is everyone required to fill out a seller property disclosure and community association disclosure?

Yes to CAD if in a community, no to SPD. There are a few exceptions to the rule. Sellers that have never lived in the property are not required to fill out an SPD. There is also an exception for probate or inherited properties and rentals. Which may fall under the “never lived in the property” umbrella. This can be frustrating for rentals in particular. Often times a landlord/owner knows when the HVAC was last serviced or changed as well as a roof or if there were a water leak. However, Georgia law does not require they fill one out.

If you’ve gotten to the end of this, you can see why I mentioned the “wild-wild west!” It is super important to get all the necessary inspections to make you confident in buying a home. It’s important to understand how a home inspection works and what you will learn and not learn from the inspection. You should know about septic, age of roof, age of HVAC as well as radon. If you are new to Georgia here are 10 things you should know!

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