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Sure, you've heard the old saying: "Buyer beware." But in today's litigious legal world, sellers can't afford to take a purely passive approach to real estate defects. Even an "as-is" contract won't protect you if you knowingly conceal information from a potential buyer. If you know there's a problem with your property, it's up to you to point it out — or face a costly legal claim!

Just what kinds of problems should you disclose? Anything that's "material" — that is, that might make a difference to the buyer. Be sure to disclose in writing such items as:

Ask your realtor about other legally required disclosures in your area. In some states, you may be required to disclose the fact that a violent crime has occurred on the property, or to notify buyers about the availability of a list of registered sex offenders. Other mandated disclosures may include seismic activity reports, earthquake readiness, and other data. State law may also prevent sellers from having to disclose that a previous resident had AIDS.

Remember that your best protection against future claims is always a full and honest disclosure. If you have questions talk to your realtor.

TIP: Make sure you put all disclosures in writing, even if you also discuss a matter with the buyer in person. Your realtor can assist you by providing a disclosure form.