Don't second-guess flood disclosure

Why it's better to be safe than sorry

DEAR BARRY: Our home is listed for sale and we’re concerned about whether to disclose a former drainage problem. The property is in a 100-year flood zone. We used to have flooding in our basement, but this was repaired more than a year ago, and no water entered the basement during the last rainy season. Do we have to disclose this, and if so, what is the best way to spin it? –Helen

DEAR HELEN: Be careful how you approach this. When it comes to disclosure, to spin is to sin. The best thing is to tell it the way it is. Because the house is located in a 100-year flood zone, one year without flooding is not conclusive.

What matters is the scope and extent of the corrective work that was done, whether it was done by qualified drainage specialists, and whether the work was permitted and signed off.

Assuming that the drainage repairs were done with proper expertise and approval by the building department, full disclosure is still a wise and prudent posture for a seller, and here’s why.

If any drainage problem occurs in the future, it would be better, in terms of liability, to have disclosed the history to the best of your understanding than to be accused of having withheld information about a pre-existing condition.

We live in a litigious society. When in doubt, disclose.

DEAR BARRY: When we bought our home, the agent said it was 1,510 square feet. Now that we are selling, another agent said it seems smaller. He checked the appraisal from the time of our purchase. It says 1,408 square feet.

He called a professional to measure the house again, and this time the result was 1,308 square feet. Why do these measurements keep changing, and how much will this size difference affect the resale value of our home? –Walter

DEAR WALTER: It is possible that someone included the square footage of the garage when you purchased your home. But this is just a guess. The main issue is appraisal value and how this will be affected by the smaller square footage. Actually, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the home will probably have a greater effect on value than the square footage.

To determine how the size difference will affect your resale price, a certified real estate appraiser should be consulted. Ask the appraiser for a "ballpark" estimate of the value difference between 1,510 square feet and 1,308 square feet in your neighborhood.

DEAR BARRY: We bought our house six months ago, after having a home inspection. After the first rains, we had water in our basement. Our home inspector had said nothing about this. Can we hold him liable for this oversight? –Sara

DEAR SARA: Whether your home inspector should have disclosed potential water intrusion in the basement depends on whether there was evidence of past flooding at the time of the inspection.

Conditions that would indicate possible flooding include water stains, dry mud, a high water line, or actual damage. You should call your home inspector and ask for a reinspection of the basement.

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