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Uncovered: What would Brits not disclose when selling their home?

The property market has undergone some swift changes during COVID-19, with searches for the likes of ‘virtual viewing’ increasing by 59% when compared to that of 2019. However, with the lockdown eased and more people looking to sell their homes, it appears that Brits are keeping certain things regarding their houses a secret.

As it can take an average of 129 days to sell your home, Boiler Plan has surveyed 1,000 of the British public to reveal the issues homeowners would choose not to disclose to potential buyers to ensure it does not affect the sale of their home.

‘Bad neighbours’ are the most common issue with almost half of Brits saying they wouldn’t disclose this issue when selling their home

Recent figures have revealed that complaints regarding neighbours have increased during the lockdown. Boiler Plan’s research has uncovered neighbour disputes are the most common issue Brits wouldn’t disclose to potential buyers.

Almost half (47%) of Brits would keep any problems with their neighbours a secret to help increase their chances of selling their home. However, that’s bad news for sellers as it is their duty to inform potential buyers of any disputes they may have had with their neighbours. To meet legal obligations, the seller must be accurate and that includes disclosing issues that have involved official bodies - such as noise complaints to the council.

1 in 8 homeowners would not disclose crime sprees in the area or surface problems with their property

Staggeringly more than 1 in 8 (13%) would hide any crime sprees in the area - such as burglaries - which, again, must be disclosed as they could influence the prospective buyer’s decision. In fact, not doing so could affect your future contract.

Similarly, 13% of Brits also stated they would keep any surface damage issues from a buyer, such as broken fences and bad paintwork, which could end up costing those looking to buy the property.

On average, repairing a full, broken fence can cost anywhere between £500-£700, so it might be worth considering updating your kerb appeal before putting your home on the market. Depending on the size of your home, hiring professional painters can cost around £2,100, which may be the reason some homeowners are not disclosing surface damage.

Zoe Kenworthy, Director of Sales and Lettings at Wardsmith & Co, said: “The 2008 Consumer Protection Against Unfair Trading Regulations requires a seller to inform their estate agent – and any potential buyer - of material information that may affect an average consumer’s transactional decision, not only to buy a property but even “an omission that may affect a potential buyer’s decision to view a property”.

1 in 10 Brits would hide problems with damp when selling their home

Repairing a damp problem can be expensive. But, leaving the issue can, ultimately, affect the structure of your home, which can be identified during a survey when looking to sell your home. If this is identified, you could lose any potential offers if you attempt to hide problems with damp.

That’s why, we recommend you repair it as soon as you realise. Damp proofing a wall can cost around £280 per wall, but it can run into the thousands if left untreated.

If you are struggling with damp, read our guide on how to identify the different types of damp and to treat it.

6% would not disclose issues with central heating or structural damage, potentially leading buyers to seek compensation

Updating a central heating system can cost anywhere between £1,700 and £3,500, which is worth the cost if you could potentially lose your sale due to withholding information. One of the biggest recommendations from estate agents is to get your home sale-ready, which includes reviewing the Energy Performance Certificate. This means looking if there are any ways you can improve the energy efficiency of the property to help with a faster sale. That small cost could potentially cost significantly more if you hide issues with your central heating and the buyer looks to seek compensation.

It is also extremely important to disclose any problems with the structural damage of your home. However, 6% of Brits would omit those issues.

If your house does have structural problems, you need to decide whether to repair before selling or, likely, accept a lower offer when it comes to placing your home on the market. Structural damage can vary, with subsidence being one of the most common issues. It can take around £10,000 - £15,000  to cure subsidence that has been left, so it’s better to identify issues as early as possible.

Zoe Kenworth said: “White lies or vagueness, can rebound even after you have moved out, as a buyer can still legally seek compensation”. This could potentially cost thousands.

Residents in the North West are the most honest, with 2/3 of homeowners highlighting their issues with neighbours to buyers

As part of their research, Boiler Plan also analysed their findings to uncover which regions are the most honest when it comes to selling their home.

According to the survey of 1,000 homeowners, those in the North West are more honest about disputes in their home and are also the most likely to disclose issues regarding bad neighbours. Over two thirds (66%) of those from the North West stated they would not hide any problems with their neighbours when attempting to sell their home.

Surprisingly, despite the large concentration of properties in the capital, Londoners are the second most likely to provide information on bad neighbours to potential sellers, with almost 3 in 5 (58%) saying they would mention those issues.

This is compared to less than half (46%) of Brits in West Midlands, East of England, Northern Ireland and Wales who said they would disclose any issues with neighbours, making them some of the most dishonest regions when it comes to selling their home.

Crime within the area is another issue people looking to sell their home should disclose but not all do. Residents in the South West are more willing to hide crime sprees within their area, with 19% stating they would do so.

Surprisingly, it’s the North West that comes in second for this, with 16% saying they would not disclose information on crimes near their home.

Homeowners aged between 25-34 are more likely to hide issues with their home to help sell

It appears age does make a difference when it comes to selling your home. After analysing the survey, Boiler Plan found that 97% of Brits aged between 25-34 are more likely to withhold information.

This could be due to the average of first-time buyers moving from 31-33 over the past decade, suggesting it is harder to get on the property ladder so homeowners may be more willing to withhold information.

Likewise, it has been reported that it takes around 129 days to sell a home, so it may be that homeowners are desperate to sell - particularly in the current climate with the effects of COVID-19 - and that is why more people are willing to hide problems with their property.

What should you disclose when looking to sell your house?

But there are things you should disclose when selling your home. These include pertinent information that could affect the buyer’s decision:

  • The reason previous offers may have fallen through
  • Any major issues that have been highlighted during a property survey
  • Any disputes and complaints with neighbours
  • Whether there have been any (known) burglaries in your area
  • Proposals for nearby construction and development
  • Connection to services and utilities
  • Services (such as central heating, drainage, electricity and sewerage)
  • Transaction information
  • Any informal and formal arrangements
  • Any environmental matters
  • Council tax
  • Guarantees and warranties
  • Planning, altercations and building control
  • Notices
  • Boundaries and boundary features

Ian Henderson, Managing Director at Boiler Plan said: “It’s very concerning the number of people who would hide information regarding their property to potential buyers. We advocate being as honest as possible to make sure the buyer has everything they need to make the right decision. Not doing so could potentially cost you so much more, as buyers could look to seek compensation and repair costs .”

If you are still unsure about selling your home, you can find more information on Citizens Advice. However, if you are looking for the likes of energy saving tips before selling your property, check out our Advice Centre.

Methodology

Boiler Plan surveyed 1,023 of the British public to ask what they would not disclose if they were looking to sell their home. The respondents could pick one answer. Any discrepancies with percentages are due to rounding up.