The Transfer Disclosure Statement – Your buyer CAN handle the truth.

We closed escrow this week on one of our listings. Several things were unusual about this particular escrow. First, we had the pleasure of working with sellers seemingly delivered to us from heaven. They were thorough, they were cooperative, they were respectful, and mostly they asked for and considered our advice on preparing the home for sale every step of the way, acting as true partners.

The result was an accepted offer in 12 days when average market times in the neighborhood are approximately 60 days for sold homes and 120 days for active listings. The result was an escrow that actually stuck, one that was never in danger of cratering at all. In this market, it is rare to complete the process without finding yourself breathing out of a paper bag at least once during transaction.

It is so tempting for me to sit here and tell you that it was our superior representation that made the difference. The truth is, I have to give most of the credit to the sellers.

The Sellers Rocked

Looking back, I can point to many things that the sellers did right, all of which contributed to their success. They priced their home on the money. Pre-list, they agreed to make improvements, some not inconsequential from a cost standpoint, which we told them would add value and make the property more salable. In short, they listened, they trusted our advice, and they were willing to invest some time and money to ultimately save both. But arguably the most important thing they did right was treat the buyer with respect, and by this I mean they were completely honest and fair in their dealings throughout the transaction. The most glowing example of their voracity, from the buyer’s perspective, came in the form of the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement.

If You Have to Ask, Disclose!

The Transfer Disclosure Statement, or TDS, is the big-kahuna of statutory disclosures. There are many others of course, but this bit of legalize is the cornerstone of the disclosure package. It is on this form that the seller has the opportunity to share historical information on the property — what fixtures exist or don’t, what works or doesn’t, and what skeleton’s may be found in the walk-in closet. It is a three-page check-box, fill in the blank kind of document with a few lines thrown in to allow elaboration. Few sellers ever elaborate.

We are often asked, “Do I have to disclose this or that?” And our reply is always, “If you have to ask, then yes, you do.” In my experience, no buyer has ever canceled contract because a seller was too thorough. And I can all but guarantee you that if you don’t disclose that time that the toilet decided to become a drip watering system for the living room, your buyer’s future neighbor will. In fact, a TDS for an 18-year-old home that suggests everything is and has worked perfectly since the builder delivered the first set of keys is often eyed with suspicion.

The Moment of Truth

So our sellers possessing, an awe-inspiring attention to detail, delivered a TDS to the buyers in which they had taken full advantage of every inch of white space. If this wasn’t enough, they included self-penned Addendums A, B, C, and D totalling, I believe, ten pages (double-sided). If a light switch had been replaced during the Clinton administration, they noted it. Busted faucets and dirty air filters of yore, leaning fence posts, and a closet door that hasn’t always stayed dutifully in the track? Guilty as charged. The buyers response, while predictable to me, served as a good refresher course for fair dealings. The buyers were appreciative, dazzled in fact, and as a consequence, they were convinced that there would be no surprises after the mail had been forwarded.

In this case, the result was that we did not receive a Request for Repairs. No home is perfect, but the buyers asked for nothing, nada, zip, which is practically unheard of in this environment where every buyer seems to be out for revenge, out to right the wrongs of the early 2000s. The buyers’ agent attributed this to the trust that had been won when the seller threw the book at them, so to speak.

My takeaway from this latest transaction is that honesty wields great power. No one wants to believe they are being taken advantage of or being played the fool. People respect those who treat them fairly, and openly disclosing all you know about your home is one way in which you can demonstrate this respect for the other party in the transaction.

Of course, it also helps when your price doesn’t include an extra zero.

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