By Kathleen Willcox

Aug 29, 2023

The truth, as you’ve heard, can set you free. And when trying to sell your house, that old adage is especially relevant.

Sometimes bending or obscuring the reality of a home’s past might seem like the easiest path when dealing with potential buyers or even agents. But home sellers should resist any urge to fudge the facts when it comes to the home disclosures they are required to share with buyers.

While home sellers might already know it’s wrong to lie about your leaky roof or wonky electrical system, other potentially sticky fibs are less obvious. So read on for some of the most common half-truths real estate pros see—and make sure you’re not unintentionally telling any whoppers yourself.

The lowdown on disclosures

While it might be tempting to inflate your home’s square footage—and gloss over a mold infestation from years past—doing so imperils your chances of selling.

There are federal laws requiring certain disclosures from sellers. For instance, if you’re selling a home built before 1978, you must inform buyers that the home could contain lead paint. And many states have specific disclosure laws, as well.

But in general, a typical seller’s disclosure will include information on the state of the roof, any history of flooding or severe leaks, defects in the foundation, pest infestations, issues with plumbing, or boundary disputes.

So here’s what to never, ever say—or write—when describing your home to possible buyers.

1. ‘All the appliances work’

Even the tiniest details matter when it comes to home sales.

“I had a deal almost blow up over a microwave,” says Jimmy Hughes, a broker with JMR Realty in Oklahoma City. “I was representing the buyer and the seller. And the seller accidentally checked the wrong box on the disclosure form, stating that the microwave was in working condition.”

It wasn’t.

Hughes says all parties eventually were able to settle the matter, but it caused “quite a bit of controversy.”

So whether you’ve got a bum burner on the stove or your ice maker is kaput, be sure to tell buyers the whole truth about your appliances’ health.

2. ‘The closets have tons of space’

Is your closet truly a walk-in? If not, don’t paint a rosier-than-real-life picture of this seemingly small part of your home.

“Making false claims, even about minor details like the size of a closet, can hurt you,” says Ben Kuhl, CEO of Shelf Expression in Charlotte, NC. “If a homeowner says they have a large walk-in closet, but in reality, they have a modest one, it can create disappointment. And this can make potential homebuyers question other details about the property.”

For a closet to be a walk-in, someone must be able to actually walk into the closet (as the name suggests) and have enough room for someone to comfortably browse the racks and shelves.

3. ‘This neighborhood is so peaceful’

While it could be tempting to hide unpleasant details about the quality of life in your home, you need to be upfront about any drama you’ve had with the neighbors or any major sources of noise.

“I’ve come across a lot of people who tend to omit the truth about their neighbors,” says Alex Cappozzolo, co-founder of Brotherly Love Real Estate in Philadelphia. “Around 45% of homeowners will not disclose the fact that they have had issues.”

Although a neighborly dispute might not seem that significant, it is. And sellers have a legal obligation to disclose it, says Cappozzolo.

“It might be something, small such as a noise complaint, but the buyer has the right to know,” adds Cappozzolo.

4. ‘All the renovations are on the up and up’

One surprisingly common fib? Sellers stretching the truth about a remodel.

“Most communities insist that you have a permit before you are allowed to remodel your home,” says Cam Dowski, founder of We Buy Houses Chicago. “Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t go through the processes as prescribed by the authorities and end up telling lies in order to sell their home.”

But if it comes to light during the home inspection that you did unpermitted work, it will lead to major issues—and could scuttle the deal.

“In my experience, revelations like this make potential buyers nervous about purchasing the property, since they don’t know what else sellers may have lied about,” says Dowski. “Buyers also don’t want to get caught up in unnecessary paperwork or a lawsuit that may arise from the situation.”

5. ‘What mold problem?’

You’ll have to spill the beans if your home has been subjected to mold or pest infestations—even if you eliminated them.

“Mold and pests are serious health threats,” says Shaun Martin, owner and CEO of We Buy Houses Denver. “So if you’re aware of any kind of current or former infestation, it needs to be addressed—and disclosed—before you put your home on the market.”

6. ‘Our home holds only happy memories’

A seller with a home that has been through a natural disaster or that was the scene of a heinous crime must share the gritty facts with buyers.

“You can’t fudge or omit a property’s history,” says Mike Qiu, owner of Good as Sold Home Buyers in Kirkland, WA. “Previous fire damage, natural disasters, or crimes that have occurred on the property must be shared. Hiding the information can make the property seem more attractive, but it risks putting the buyer in an unwanted situation.”

So save the tall tales for your next campfire. And if you do fudge, exaggerate, or fib in your disclosure statement, the buyer could walk—or file a lawsuit against you for fraud.