DISCLAIMER: As a friendly reminder, this blog post is meant to be used for educational purposes only, not legal advice. If you need assistance navigating the legalities of what to disclose when selling a home in Texas or using a seller’s disclosure form in Texas, HomeLight always encourages you to reach out to your own advisor.
If you are preparing to sell your home in Texas, you may be wondering what is necessary (and legally required) to disclose to potential buyers.
Sellers will complete a standardized disclosure notice, and if you purchased the home you’re living in, you’ve likely seen one of these forms from the other side of the transaction. In this article, we’ll cover some of the quirks specific to the Texas disclosure and provide expert insights to help you to make sense of it all.
Texas requires the sellers of a house to report known issues with the home’s condition in compliance with state statutes. While the first portions of the disclosure form are straightforward, sellers may get stuck in the weeds midway through, which can cause undue stress and information overload.
You don’t need to “overshare,” explains 5-star-rated real estate brokerage owner/agent Hillary Smith of Austin. She advises working with your Realtor® to complete the form accurately and with the right balance of information. “In some cases, you don’t have to over disclose if it’s not legally required,” Smith says.
What is a seller’s disclosure?
A seller’s disclosure is a legal document requiring a home’s seller to share any known defects in or on the property. This document will also assess key features the buyer should be aware of in Texas, including whether the property is located in a flood zone — critical knowledge, especially during severe thunderstorms and hurricane season.
Is a seller’s disclosure form required in Texas?
While not every state requires a formal disclosure form, Texas is one state that does. It’s referred to as the “Seller’s Disclosure Notice.” The purpose of this form is to provide buyers with crucial information about the property they are purchasing. A disclosure form is required to sell every “previously occupied single-family residence” in the state.
There are two legally-acceptable disclosure notice forms sellers can choose from in Texas. One is approved by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC); the other is from the Texas Association of Realtors and is available to members of the organization.
Smith prefers the latter form when working with clients, citing readability as one bonus. This form is also more comprehensive than the TREC version, including more fields to provide information about current property features and utilities for the home’s new owners.
What does a Texas disclosure form mean for buyers?
Buyers will want to pay close attention to the contents of their property’s disclosure form, but it isn’t an end-all, be-all guarantee to the condition of the home, warns Smith. She advises that a buyer may need to do more due diligence in inspecting the property closely because “the seller doesn’t always know the answers.”
A seller’s disclosure notice does not ensure the condition of a property — it merely tells you what the seller knows about its condition. To this end, from a buyer’s perspective, you’ll want to hire a home inspector who is thorough, licensed, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.
What does a Texas disclosure form mean for sellers?
From a seller’s perspective, the disclosure form may compel you to share information about the property, but it does not obligate you to fix any stated issues. You’ll use this document to convey the property’s history while it has been in your possession.
Here again, don’t feel the need to “overshare,” Smith warns — stick to what’s on the form and what you’ve experienced first-hand. There is no need to share tales from previous owners if they do not relate to the information listed on the form.
What does a seller’s disclosure not do?
The disclosure also does not act as a warranty on the home’s condition. Instead, it is a legal document that assesses the seller’s knowledge of the property and passes along any crucial information to the prospective new owners.
When is the Texas disclosure form required to be submitted?
The disclosure form must be submitted in Texas either before — or on the same date as — the purchase contract goes into effect. Sellers who supply this form late give prospective buyers an easy out — failing to return the form on time offers buyers the chance to “terminate the contract for any reason,” according to Texas Realtors®.
What do I have to disclose when selling a house in Texas?
Let’s take a closer look at what’s on the Texas Seller’s Disclosure Notice form and what might qualify as a disclosure exception.
The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) maintains a current copy of this form on its website. Your Realtor® can also acquire the most current version of this form through their professional association.
This section asks whether the seller is presently occupying the home. If they are not living there presently, the form asks them to indicate for how long the property has been vacant.
Home systems and features
Sellers are asked to indicate Yes, No, or Unknown for the presence of many home features, some of which may be obvious (window screens, washer/dryer hookups, a pool or garage), and some of which may require closer inspection (the presence of a carbon monoxide alarm, for instance). The first page of the form also confirms specifics on whether the home includes central air conditioning — likely in the Lone Star State — sprinkler systems, gas or electric stove hookup, and a city or well water source.
Smoke, fire, or CO2 detectors
The seller will be asked to confirm whether their home does or does not have smoke detectors and whether these detectors are friendly to those with hearing impairment. The disclosure form also questions whether the property has a carbon monoxide alarm, emergency escape equipment, and/or other fire detection equipment.
Sellers are asked to disclose the approximate age of their home’s roof and information about the roofing type. A popular choice in this part of the country is asphalt shingle, though historic districts and properties especially feature a different material.
Additionally, the form asks sellers to indicate whether they are aware of any “defects” or “malfunctions” with significant systems in the home, including interior and exterior walls, ceilings, the foundation, and internal systems like the home’s electrical and plumbing.
Hazardous materials or conditions
Sellers are asked to disclose their knowledge of any potentially hazardous conditions on site, including drainage issues, wood rot or termite infestations, lead-based paint, and previous use of the structure for methamphetamine manufacturing.
Systems or equipment that need repair
Sellers are asked to disclose “any item, equipment, or system” in need of repair. This section of the form may catch issues with the property that were not included in previous sections.
Flood risks or water damage
Sellers are asked to disclose information about the property as it relates to flood zones. The seller is asked to disclose if they have ever received federal assistance for flood damage.
Legal, zoning, annexations, or use compliance
Sellers are asked in this form section to indicate if the home is a part of a designated homeowner’s association (HOA) or shares a common area with other homes (such as a pool or sporting courts). They are also asked to share any known information about alterations or additions that may be out of code compliance.
The Texas Realtors Association version of the form asks for information about whether the home is currently exempted from taxes for reasons including homestead, agricultural, or a disabled veteran’s status.
Deaths in the home
Sellers are required to disclose known deaths that have occurred either as a result of property issues (a gas leak, for example) or as a part of a lawsuit “directly or indirectly involving the property” — for instance, a domestic violence or murder case.
“In Texas, you’re not required to disclose deaths from natural causes,” Smith specifies regarding this portion of the disclosure form. So, for instance, if you inherited the home from a relative who passed from old age on the premises, you are not legally required to disclose this information. But if a murder occurred at the property’s address and you are aware of the fact, you must disclose that information to your prospective buyer.
Generally, “the mantra for sellers is ‘when in doubt, disclose,’” she adds, advising sellers to work with their real estate agent to disclose a level of information that is both legally obligated and appropriate. You want to be thorough without “over-sharing” old stories that may not have happened on your watch.
For those who are interested, see our story: How to Find Out if Someone Died in Your House
Some quirks specific to the Texas disclosure form are included below.
Texas Realtors® version of the form asks sellers to disclose diseased trees on the property, a particularly big deal in the capital city of Austin, where Smith does business. In some cases, she says, “I recommend [hiring] an arborist” to assess the property. Losing a beautiful tree to disease “would be really sad,” Smith notes, and adds that oak wilt is common in her area. Dead or diseased trees can also make your property more difficult to sell down the road.
Gulf of Mexico
Homes located close to the coastline may be subject to the Open Beaches Act and/or the Dune Protection Act. As a result, these homes may require additional permits before the owner can make repairs or additions. Buyers will also want to check with the Texas Department of Insurance to verify whether the property is located in a designated catastrophe area.
Buyers will want to be aware of a property’s proximity to area military bases. This can impact noise on the property, and a disclaimer to this effect is included on both versions of the seller’s disclosure form.
Disclosure exceptions: Texas
In compliance with Texas Property Code section 5.008, certain home sales may be exempt from part or all of the disclosure process. Particularly if the property you are selling is the result of an inheritance or is being foreclosed upon, consult your real estate agent about whether it would be right to consider involving an attorney in the sale.
Q&A: More expert tips about disclosures in Texas
What can I leave out of my Texas seller’s disclosure?
As Smith pointed out earlier, there can be cases where a seller might inadvertently over disclose information that is not legally required, which may put the home sale at risk..
She remembers one transaction where she was representing the buyers of a property. The current owner made the decision to share that her husband passed from natural causes in the house, even though she was not legally obligated to share the information. “It made the buyers very uncomfortable,” Smith recalls. She recommends consulting your real estate agent in order to be above-board and legally compliant, but careful with the information you share.
What if something breaks or is discovered after the disclosure?
According to Texas Realtors®, “Texas Property Code does not create a continuing duty or obligation to update the Seller’s Disclosure Notice.” However, “If information in the notice is no longer true, the seller may have a common-law duty to correct any misstatements or false impressions.” When in doubt, consult your real estate agent.
Are you ready to sell or buy a home in Texas?
The Seller’s Disclosure Notice form is a key component of real estate transactions for single-family homes in Texas. The form can be especially helpful to buyers when they are trying to gain knowledge about their prospective property.
As a seller, take the time to complete or review this form alongside your real estate agent. Lean on their expertise to help make sense of your home’s quirks and convey essential information. Doing so honestly can help you take this step of the process with confidence and calm.
HomeLight’s Agent Match can connect you with top-performing agents in Texas who have the local experience and market knowledge to successfully guide you through the home-selling or buying journey. From disclosures to closing, put a top professional in your corner who can guide you through each step of the process.
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