Whether you’ve been through the homebuying process before or not, this is a task with it’s fair share of down sides. And though we like to give others the benefit of the doubt, expecting full transparency, it’s not uncommon for home sellers to sugar coat the least appealing traits of the home by conveniently “forgetting” to disclose them.

What To Disclose

These are the 7 things that home sellers are legally required to disclose.

  • Lead Paint
  • Paranormal Activity
  • Emotional Defects
  • Structural Defects
  • Pests
  • Property Drainage Problems
  • Neighbor Disputes / Boundary Issues

These items should be disclosed for obvious reasons; no one likes surprises. Especially surprises that could be potentially life or health threatening,  Encountering these problems could quickly turn a promising future in a new home into a very expensive nightmare.

So, if you’re buying a home and don’t see any of these items on the disclosure form, do your due diligence as a buyer and ask! There are no silly questions when making this big of a financial and emotional investment. As the old adage goes: “Better safe than sorry”.

Which of these very important problems are most commonly covered up?

Problem: Water damage 

Water stains aren’t just ugly; they’re the outward manifestation of a bigger problem. No matter their size, these unsightly stains indicate leaking water and potentially mold. Even if mold isn’t present at the time of disclosure, know that it will become a problem if the leaks are not addressed promptly; especially in climates that tend to be more humid. Although this can be a major problem, both water stains and mold are fairly easy to conceal. A layer of fresh paint or clever staging usually does the trick.

Red Flags

These drainage related problems are usually found in the basement, but can arise in other parts of the house as well. If there is any section of wall you can’t see due to furniture or boxes being piled up, ask to move the items forward and shine a light behind them to get a better look. Look for water stains, cracks, misshapen or warped drywall that’s soft or brittle to the touch.  In cases like this, your nose can often be your most reliable tool. If you smell something musty , chances are there is mold.

Tip: Ask when the house was last painted (exterior and interior). Most sellers won’t read into that question but it will help you find out if they’re trying to cover something up.

Just remember if they say they painted a month ago, they may have been freshening the place up for sale, so be reasonable.

Problem: Contaminated Soil

A lot of homes built prior to 1975 ran on oil. That’s right, black gold. In order for this to work there was often a holding tank somewhere on the property; usually in the basement or underground in the backyard. So what’s the problem?

Oil can contaminate the soil and it is very expensive to remove. So rather than disclosing the tank upfront, many home sellers try to hide evidence of the tank in hopes of transferring the problem to the new owners.

Red Flags

Be on the lookout for signs of an oil tank when doing a walkthrough. The most common indicator is a small fill pipe that sticks up through the ground, though some have managed to hide this evidence by sawing it off.

Tip: If you’re looking at a house built before 1975 and don’t see any signs of oil, double check by asking. You can even triple check by searching public property records online.

Problem: Unstable Foundation

A house is only as good as it’s foundation. Foundation problems are not only potentially dangerous but very expensive to fix. Few people know that more can be done than simply going into the basement or crawlspace and checking the foundation for cracks. Keep in mind, the foundation is not only the concrete structure but the land it rests on.

Red Flags

If you see cracked or significantly chipped paint around door or window frames, look closer. “Zig-zag” patterns can indicate a problem with the foundation. Another indicator of a weak foundation are the cabinets. Sounds silly but a compromised foundation can keep cabinet doors from closing properly.

A more serious problem is that unstable foundations can put added stress on other structures of the home that are not built or equipped to handle such stress. Eventually these structures, i.e. support beams, will snap.

Tip: Pay attention to the feeling of walking through a property. If you feel like you’re walking on a slope, no matter how slight, ask more questions. Especially if the slope is not parallel to the direction in which you’re walking. Take note of your feet; if at any point your right foot feels higher than the left there may be a problem.

Problem: Neighbors

A well timed home showing can often hide the fact that the home is set smack dab in the middle of an ongoing block party. Barking dogs and heavy metal at 3 AM can be a major turn off for potential home buyers. Some homeowners view these as personal disputes, convincing themselves that the new owners may not mind as much!

Red Flags

Unlike the tangible problems mentioned so far, you have to take the seller at their word with this one. So be aware if the seller avoids or changes the subject of neighbors quickly.

Tip: Spend a day in the neighborhood. Visit a nearby park or coffee house and chat up the locals to get a more objective view of the area. People are more likely to share information when they have nothing to lose.


These are just a few of the things you may encounter. As mentioned before ask as many questions as you can think of. Remember, if someone is trying to sell the property they will at least entertain the questions you ask. After all, blowing off potential buyers is not good business.

At Smart Choice Real Estate Solutions we pride ourselves on quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. You can be sure that any property we have renovated will be up to code with no skeletons in the closets.

If you’re trying to sell a home and are tempted to sweep some things under the rug, contact us. You won’t have to worry about being risking the sale by being upfront; we buy homes in all conditions and would be happy to consider purchasing your property.