If you’ve ever struggled through the process of selling your house, you know what a struggle it can be. Putting your house out on the market and finding the right asking price is hard enough. Then there’s the issue of what you are and are not allowed to do as a home seller.
Whether you’re selling to another homeowner or selling to a real estate investor, you are afforded certain rights as a seller. You also have certain obligations to your buyer, and you have to know how to navigate both.
Before you put your house on the market, here’s what you need to know about your legal rights when selling your house.
Homeowner’s Rights When Selling Your House
Homeowner’s Rights When Selling Your House
With that in mind, let’s talk about your rights when selling your house.
Unfortunately, the lion’s share of legal protections benefits the buyers, not sellers. However, there are a few key legal protections for sellers, as well as legal obligations that sellers must be aware of before attempting to sell a house.
Fair Housing Act
The best place to start is the Fair Housing Act, the quintessential protection against housing discrimination at the federal level. It extended anti-discrimination protections under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to the housing market.
In simple terms, the Fair Housing Act states that homeowners cannot discriminate against home buyers on the basis of:
- Familial status
- National origin
While there are plenty of legally valid reasons to refuse to sell your home to someone, refusal due to any of the above reasons is illegal. It is also illegal to make, print, publish, or otherwise make known a preference or limitation on buyers of a specific race, religion, sex, familial status, disability, or national origin. Nor can you tell someone that your home is not available for sale when it actually is.
Beyond those limitations, you have an array of options available to you with regards to offers, rejections, disclosure, and seller protection.
Home sellers have an array of rights when it comes to listing their homes for sale, though statutes vary from state to state. Broadly speaking, you may:
- Advertise your property in a public listing
- Set a reasonable price
- Request a home inspection prior to sale
- Enter a contract with an agent to provide such services for you
As a homeowner, you are also allowed to place certain conditions on the buyer before they are able to purchase your home. For example, you may require them to deposit earnest money and pay a due diligence fee. You can also require a pre-qualification letter from their lender.
Your home remains your property until you sign it over to the buyer, which means you have the right to accept or decline an offer in equal measure. While you cannot refuse a buyer on the basis of race, religion, sex, family status, disability, or national origin, there are plenty of legal valid reasons to reject a buyer’s offer.
A few common examples include:
- The offer was not high enough
- The amount of earnest/due-diligence money was too low
- You changed your mind about selling
You are also free to refuse the buyer if they do not fulfill your conditions, such as refusing to make the advance deposit or refusing to have their loan verified. Similarly, if the buyer’s loan does not clear the bar with your real estate agent or attorney, you are free to refuse the sale.
In terms of legal obligations, the seller’s obligations are heavily tied to disclosure requirements.
In North Carolina, your disclosure requirements are spelled out in the Residential Property Disclosure Act. Under the Act, you are required to complete a form (Residential Property and Owners’ Association Disclosure Statement) disclosing details and defects attached to the property. This applies to most residential home sales, regardless of whether a real estate broker is involved.
The disclosure statement asks various questions to guide you through what details you need to provide. Most of them touch on various elements of your home, like water supply issues or non-functional appliances. However, there are also general questions, like when the home was constructed. There are legal questions, like whether the home has any outstanding liens.
For each question, you have three options: Yes, No, or No Representation. “No Representation” simply means you are not making a statement one way or the other. This can protect you against liability if the buyer’s inspection turns up a defect you didn’t know about. On the other hand, overusing this answer can raise red flags for a buyer.
If you’re not sure how to answer, keep in mind that you are legally required to disclose information about which you have actual knowledge. If you don’t know about it, you don’t have to disclose it, and you are not legally obligated to hire an inspector to shed light on a question for you. The form explicitly places that responsibility with buyers, encouraging them to hire their own inspector.
We Make Selling Your House a Breeze
We know that selling your house can be a real headache, especially for homeowners who need to be on the move quickly. We also know that selling your house shouldn’t have to be a hassle.
We make selling your house a quick and easy process. We’re not listing your house–we’re buying your house in cash, as-is. That means there are no fees, commissions, or delays you would see with a brokerage agent. Just a quick, easy sale that allows you to move on to the next chapter in your life.
Got questions? We’ve got answers. And if you’re ready to sell your house fast, we’re here to help.