At a time when it seems like everyone is sharing everything on social media about their lives, it shouldn’t be surprising to find that this behavior has started to disrupt real estate transactions – but probably not in the way you might think. .
Social media is a great way to post real estate listings and real estate services. I think most people in today’s world of real estate marketing would agree with this statement. It is also, however, a way for members on the other side of your transaction to “spy on” you. The ability to digitally monitor individuals without their knowledge has allowed real estate buyers to confirm or deny information that may or may not have been disclosed to them throughout a transaction.
Many states in the United States have some form of disclosure law, regulation (s) requiring a home seller or licensed real estate professional to disclose certain facts about the condition of a property of which they are aware. Even in states where disclosure is not mandatory by the seller, there are often regulations requiring real estate agents to take on this responsibility.
Enter social networks. How many times have you seen a friend, coworker or family member use social media to complain about a water leak in their roof or about a contractor who did a shoddy job? The emotional relief of removing this negative energy from your chest is wonderful at this time, but through this post a salesperson can prepare for some big trouble down the road.
There are so many different groups, apps, friend pages, work pages, contact circles, and chat sequences, and all of these areas are ripe for reading. Depending on the state in question and to what extent a seller is required to meet state disclosure standards, the mention of an issue with an owner’s property on social media and the subsequent absence of that issue on a seller’s disclosure statement, even if they think the issue is resolved, can lead to major problems.
Being in Florida, one problem I see quite often is with air conditioning (HVAC) systems. In new construction today, I see HVAC systems sized to accommodate the average cooling or heating load over a full year rather than dealing with either end of the extreme. It’s pretty hot in Florida and in the summer virtually all of the state’s HVAC systems are operating at full capacity to combat the high temperatures.
Because an “average” cooling load does not account for those extreme few months in the summer, HVAC systems tend to run all the time, and because they are pushed to their limits, they sometimes have problems or problems. break down. When this happens, homeowners become frustrated and some take to social media to voice those frustrations. A recent problem that I have witnessed has to do with this situation.
This particular owner had bought a new house a few years ago. From the time they originally closed until the sale date, they had constant HVAC issues. They discovered early on on their property that the two systems the builder installed were three ton units and, following several visits from various HVAC contractors, were told that larger four ton units would have been more appropriate for the size of the house. In this case, the units were unable to keep the house at the desired temperature during the summer months and froze, causing them to fail regularly.
When it came time to sell during the winter months, the owner did not include this information in his seller’s disclosure statement and, when inspecting and selling the property, the system HVAC was working.
Fast forward a few months to the heat of summer. The HVAC system was constantly breaking down and the new owner began interviewing several HVAC contractors to try to identify a solution to the problem.
This is where the original owner’s problems really started. The new owners have joined the local neighborhood app. In the end, the previous owner never left the group, and all of their posts from the previous year about HVAC issues have remained intact in all their glory. Coincidentally, one of the HVAC contractors hired by the new owners was the contractor who told previous owners their units were undersized.
Double whammy: not only did the new owners now have direct information on the faults of the previous owners; they received corroborating evidence from the certified HVAC contractor who diagnosed the initial problem.
In Florida, the standard of a 1986 case, Johnson v. Davis, says that “when the seller of a house becomes aware of facts which materially affect the value of the property which are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer, the seller is under an obligation to disclose them to the ‘Buyer “.
In this case, the HVAC problems were not easily observed because the system was operating at the time of the spring inspection, and the buyer would not otherwise have known that this problem existed. When presented with this information by legal counsel to the new owners, the former owners opted to settle the cost of a complete HVAC system replacement and payment of legal fees, nearly $ 20,000 in total.
In general, it is always wise to consult with a real estate lawyer to understand your individual situation and to approach the disclosure with honesty. It is also wise to avoid unnecessary public discussion regarding your property. You can have a small problem that never creates a problem, or you could have a complete disaster.