We’ve all heard the rhyme, “April showers bring May flowers,” and while that may be true, April showers can also bring basement flooding and a headache to the home selling process. Most of us in the Upper Valley are accustomed to the occasional spring flooding in our basements, but when it’s time to put your home on the market you may be wondering whether you need to tell potential buyers about it — the answer is yes and no.
Most states require homeowners to give a written disclosure report to potential buyers. These reports require you to disclose all sorts of things about your house such as:
- plumbing and sewage issues
- water leakage of any type (including basement flooding)
- termites or other infestations
- roof defects
- heating or air conditioning issues
- property drainage problems
- Foundation instabilities or cracks
- problems with the title
- issues with the neighbors that aren’t obvious
New Hampshire, however, is not as strict. Disclosure law in the Granite State only requires you to disclose information about a few specific aspects of your home:
- information about the private sewage disposal system including its location, malfunctions, the date it was most recently serviced, and the name of the contractor who services the system.
- information about the type of private water supply system, including its location, malfunctions, date of installation, date of most recent water test, and whether or not you have experienced a problem (such as an unsatisfactory water test) with notations
- information about your home’s insulation, including type and location
- notices about radon gas, lead paint, and arsenic
Not only does New Hampshire have few regulations when it comes to seller disclosure, but courts adhere to caveat emptor — or buyer beware, which really goes back the Live Free or Die sentiment that our great state is founded upon.
Despite having relaxed disclosure laws for sellers, New Hampshire does have realtor regulations which state that “the duties of [an agent] acting on behalf of a seller include treating all prospective buyers honestly [and] disclosing to a prospective buyer or tenant any physical, regulatory, mechanical, or on-site environmental condition affecting the subject property of which [they] have actual knowledge”. This disclosure must occur before any written offer is made on a property.
For example, you are trying to sell your home in Grafton and your basement floods every Spring as the snow melts and the rains come and you tell your real estate agent that you only want to show your house on sunny days so potential buyers don’t see water in the basement, or similarly, your realtor comes to take photos of the property and notices flooding in the basement. The agent has a legal obligation to report these issues to potential buyers. However, agents are under no obligation to inspect properties for potential problems.
Limited legislation on disclosure doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to disclose anything you are aware of (just to protect yourself down the road). The New Hampshire Association of Realtors provides a commonly used disclosure form which covers many critical areas of the home. Questions include how old the home is, whether it’s subject to any liens or lawsuits, and whether you are aware of any major issues such as with the heating, cooling, or plumbing.
This form should give buyers a fairly comprehensive snapshot of any defects, but it is always a smart idea for buyers to commission an official home inspection — in the end, it’s better to sleep at night knowing these are absolutely no issues with your new home rather than finding out later there is a massive issue.