Q: I’m selling my home. Must I tell the buyer that the stove is on its last legs?
A: If you lead potential buyers to believe that an appliance is in working condition when it’s not, you’re being deceptive, says Jack Marshall, president of ProEthics, an ethics training and consulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia. “Just think,” he says. “Wouldn’t you want a person selling you a house to be totally forthright?” What’s more, in 45 states and the District of Columbia, sellers are sometimes required to fill out a disclosure form listing any major defects of the property, including any appliances that come with the purchase. Fudge the facts and you may be in violation of the law. (Check with your real estate agent to learn your state’s provisions.) Even if you aren’t legally bound to complete such a questionnaire, there’s still plenty of incentive to speak up: If you don’t disclose any problems and the home inspector finds one, this can prolong or even jeopardize your closing. However, if you act in good faith, your buyer is more likely to do the same.