Disclosure form debate divides agents

by Olivia D'Orazio18 Nov 2014
Of course your selling clients need to disclose any issues with their property, but whether or not they should complete a seller disclosure form is a whole other matter, increasingly dividing agents on the form’s supposed benefits.

“It just clarifies things,” says Bob Wamsley, a sales rep with Realty Executives in Saskatoon and a proponent of the form. “There are little [issues with the property] that show up; the sellers are quite forward about filling one out. I’ve never had a problem.”

In Saskatoon, the forms are more common, especially as agents are required to at least present them to clients. However, in Ontario, the forms are significantly less common, having drawn quite the controversy a few years ago, mainly surrounding liability. Agents said the form should absolve them of any indiscretions, while buyers argued otherwise. OREA, which publishes the form, released a second “warning” form that made the already confusing form even denser than before.

“We do ask [selling clients] but we don’t really make them sign it,” says Catherina Ras-Basista, a sales rep with Royal LePage in Mississauga, Ont., adding her clients always disclose any issues with the property, regardless of whether or not they use the form to do so. “It’s up to the seller, so if they feel comfortable signing the contract, but it’s not my position to make sure they sign it.”

Lionel Wong, an agent in Saskatoon, though, says he prefers his clients fill out the disclosure form.
“It’s good to protect themselves if there are any deficiencies in the house,” he says. “If the seller has any information to disclose to the buyer, they can put it on there – a leak in the basement or if the air conditioner isn’t working. It’s pretty common.”

Even if there are discrepancies with the information on the form, Wamsley says the truth always comes out, especially since buyers will almost always get a home inspection.

“We try to give [the buyer] enough information so that they feel comfortable buying,” he says. “Then the inspector can see if it’s an ongoing issue. He can check it out and the buyer can feel comfortable with their decision.”

But, because so many buyers opt for a home inspection – either before submitting an offer or as a condition of purchase – Ras-Basista says even buyers don’t ask for the seller property information statement, as the disclosure form is called in Ontario.

“I’ve sold a lot of listings recently, and not one buyer asked for it,” she says. “There are standard things that have to be disclosed, and [buyers] get an inspector anyway, so they check themselves.”

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