Why Legal Language Is So Important In Real Estate Listings

Posted on: 4 August 2020

Listing real estate isn't like other forms of selling. You can't just jam together a bunch of shiny-sounding words and get on with your day. The law treats real estate listings as disclosures, and it's important to word them competently as disclosures rather than as marketing copy. You'll want to have an attorney from a real estate law firm look over any listing you publish, and here are three things you should know about the process.

Ambiguous, Unclear, or False Language

All ambiguous, unclear, or false language in the listing benefits the buyer if litigation happens down the road. The seller is the party that drafted the language in the listing, and consequently, they accept liability. If a court finds the language of your listing was misleading, inaccurate, or hollow, you may be ordered to pay damages to the buyer.

What Copy Should You Check?

All publicly-facing information you produce about a property has to be accurate. It also has to include a good-faith effort to disclose relevant information that might be positive or negative for a potential buyer.

Did you post it on a listing website? That meets the legal requirements for disclosure. The same logic applies to anything that goes in a newspaper, pamphlet, trifold, or flier. If it's something a member of the public could come across, it needs to be compliant.

How Do You Accomplish That?

The first order of business is to turn up as much information as possible about the property. Old information is considered just as important. If the property sits on top of a toxic waste dump that was reclaimed 40 years ago, that's considered information the buyer deserves to know. That applies even if the related risks have been fully mitigated and the property has been safe for decades.

You can find much of this information on record at the county register. For a real estate law firm, the county register is an endless font of information about subdivisions, health risks, property disputes, and a million other relevant issues.

It's also important to disclose any unusual sales terms. For example, if the buyer will have to take over your current mortgage, they deserve to learn that when they read the listing.

You should have a house inspector visit the site and produce a report, too. If you're not going to effect repairs the inspector says may be necessary, such as fixing the foundation or the roof, you should also disclose those.

For further details, reach out to a local real estate law firm.