Duty to Disclose Conditions

Wisconsin real estate buyers are well protected in the house buying transaction. At least they are protected to the extent the Seller and licensees comply with their duty to disclose conditions which may adversely affect the transaction or the property.

Sellers of 1 to 4 family residential properties are required to complete a Real Estate Condition Report (RECR) and provide the report to the Buyer within 10 days of the accepted offer. It’s not illegal for a transaction to close without the RECR being provided. Instead, the law extends rescission rights to the buyer who does not timely receive a RECR.

A buyer who does not receive a RECR, and used the Wisconsin approved offer to purchase form will have affirmative statements from the seller representing they have no notice or knowledge of specific conditions which may be defects or material to the transaction. Unless the provisions are deleted or a counter offer is prepared to override the affirmative condition statements in the Offer, much of what is on the RECR is addressed by the seller in their acceptance of the Offer.

If the Seller declines to adequately complete the RECR the licensee still has an obligation to disclose to the seller and the buyer adverse conditions he/she is aware of from a limited inspection of the  property.

A consequence of this hyper active seller’s market may be a loss of attention to disclosure obligations. I’ve heard attorneys say their post closing complaint cases have increased in the last two years. I’m not surprised. Whether a person resents having been pressured to pay more or accept conditions without an opportunity to do discovery, adverse conditions, the extent of which are unknown until after closing are likely to bring the buyer and seller together again, and this time with lawyers instead of real estate licensees.

Suggestion:  Sellers who correct, prior to listing, and fully disclose adverse  conditions are better protected from a claim of failure to adequately disclose. I understand some people will shy away from a home with a condition report acknowledging defects, even those which have been repaired.  It’s safe to say the person who would not consider the house because of a known condition would be a prime candidate for suing a seller who didn’t disclose. Licensees who complete a pre-listing inspection of the property and document their findings in writing will have what they need to conduct an appropriate pre-listing discussion of the property condition with the seller.

Author: Tom Meyer Real Estate Broker, Madison, WI

I believe the difference between an accepted or rejected real estate offer to purchase is the drafter's ability to customize the Offer to reflect the Buyer's commitment. Ready, willing, capable, committed, sincere people can out negotiate higher priced offers by moving away from standardized forms. Ask me how.

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