Selling a home is a significant event in your life, just like the initial purchase. But selling a home means more than packing your belongings, browsing for a new home, and handing over the keys. It involves critical legal rights and obligations for both the seller and the buyer. Carried out hastily or casually, a sale can create legal headaches for you and your family.
In this post, the Blado Kiger Bolan team explores the rights and obligations of a home seller in a residential real estate transaction.
For over 45 years, our team has provided unmatched legal representation to Washington’s home buyers and sellers.
Rights and Obligations of a Home Seller
Home sellers have many rights and obligations in a residential real estate transaction.
Having legal representation is critical in any transaction. Missteps or misunderstandings can potentially jeopardize the deal or result in litigation.
Our experienced attorneys regularly help home sellers navigate the complicated realm of home sales. We will help you understand the process. And at every stage, we will work to protect your legal rights. We will also help you meet your legal obligations effectively and efficiently.
What Are a Home Seller’s Rights?
The seller’s rights when selling a home include:
- The right to accept or reject an offer to buy your home;
- The right to challenge an appraisal; and
- Other contractual legal rights.
Let’s go over each of these in turn.
At Blado Kiger Bolan, we provide a personalized and professional approach to real estate law practice. We understand this is more than just a transaction—it’s the sale of your home. We provide diligent and effective legal representation and are prepared to serve as your advocate if a legal dispute arises.
Right to Accept or Reject an Offer to Buy Your Home
You have the right to accept or reject an offer to buy your home. But you can’t refuse a bid for just any reason.
Acceptable reasons for rejecting an offer include:
- The price is too low;
- The terms of the offer aren’t what you’re looking for; or
- You changed your mind about selling your house.
But it’s illegal for sellers to reject an offer because of the potential buyer’s race, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or another legally protected characteristic. So, before sellers send a rejection letter, they should ensure that they’re doing so for legitimate reasons.
Sellers who break this law treat buyers unfairly and open themselves up to potential legal consequences.
Right to Challenge an Appraisal
As part of the mortgage process, the buyer’s lender hires an appraiser to value the property. The appraisal looks at things like:
- The condition of the property;
- The listing and sale price of surrounding properties;
- The current contract price and mortgage;
- The major repair or remodeling history of the home;
- The sale history of the existing house; and
- The broader state and national real estate market.
The appraiser compiles this information into a report and issues a professional property valuation using the company’s metrics and best practices. Based on the outcome of the appraisal, the lender may request a change in the contract price.
As the seller, you typically have the right to challenge the appraisal if it’s significantly lower than the contract price. You might request a new assessment or, in some cases, back out of the contract based on the appraisal results. After all, you and the buyer agreed on the property’s price, and you don’t necessarily have to sell your property to that buyer if it means getting less money than you agreed to at first.
Before making any moves in this scenario, it’s essential to talk to a trusted real estate professional to understand your rights and obligations as a home seller. Even if you are entitled to back out of the contract based on a price change, there are steps that you need to take to notify the buyer and protect yourself. An attorney can review the contract and the circumstances to help you take the proper steps at the right time.
Other Contractual Rights
The contract may afford you other rights as a home seller. That’s why it’s imperative to have an attorney draft and review the agreement before you sign it. You need to know what you’re signing, and an attorney can help you enter a contract with the necessary preparation.
Our attorneys have decades of experience helping the greater Puget Sound community buy and sell residential real estate.
What Are Home Seller Obligations?
The obligations of a home seller depend on the terms of the contract and the applicable Washington law.
Complete Disclosure About Physical and Legal Defects and Ownership of Property
Washington law requires that sellers submit a statutory disclosure form. On this form, you must tell the buyer critical information about the condition of the property, legal proceedings regarding the property, and other matters.
Information this form asks for includes the following:
- Do you have the authority to sell the property?
- Are there any easements or access limitations?
- Are there any current or potential boundary disputes?
- Has the roof leaked within the last five years?
- Have you done any conversions or remodeling of the house in the previous five years?
- Are there any defects in the property’s walls, siding, windows, foundations, or other locations?
- Are there any defects in the plumbing, electrical, or fire and security systems?
- Is there any damage to the property from flood, fire, landslide, hail, or other environmental causes?
- Are there any floodplains on the property?
These disclosures are more than just a routine occurrence. If you fail to answer these questions accurately and truthfully, you may be liable for the legal fallout later. Sometimes, parties think answering these questions honestly doesn’t matter if the sale is “as is.” On the contrary, being honest is especially important for an as-is sale, where the buyer depends on the accuracy of this disclosure in deciding to waive inspection and repair rights.
Contractual Responsibility to Act in Good Faith and Deal Fairly
The home seller also needs to abide by the terms of the contract, act in good faith, and deal fairly in carrying out the contract. You fulfill your obligation of good faith and fair dealing by doing things like sending notices or responses on time and being honest.
The contract likely details additional obligations you have, which may include:
- Ordering inspections,
- Hiring professionals to perform repairs,
- Handing over the property in good condition,
- Furnishing the mortgage payoff letter, and
- Giving the buyer good title to the property.
An attorney can help you understand and meet your obligations.
Blado Kiger Bolan—Helping Home Sellers in the Greater Puget Sound Area
We continually strive to find the most effective way to handle a client’s legal matter. Doug Kiger has over 25 years of experience helping home sellers successfully sell their homes. He leverages his knowledge and skill as a mediator and arbitrator to negotiate fair terms for his clients and help resolve disputes that arise during transactions.
If you are selling your home, give our office a call or contact us online.