Sellers’ Questions & FAQs

Department Chair
Practicing Attorneys

Sellers’ Questions & FAQs


1. Should I retain an attorney? If so, at what point in the process and how are fees established?

Answer: Unless a seller is well-versed in the intricacies and customs relating to the sale of real estate, it would be false economy to attempt to sell without the assistance of an attorney. The buyer will in all likelihood have an attorney who will attempt to negotiate terms most favorable to the buyer. The negotiation of the agreement is an adversarial process, but if both parties are represented the attorneys know what is reasonable and what is not so that a fair agreement should be the result.

2. Should I use a broker or attempt to sell it by myself and see what happens? If I do use a broker, how is the fee established and is it negotiable?

Answer: A broker’s fee is typically 5 percent of the sale price. Sometimes brokers may reduce the fee but that is not the norm. Setting a fair selling price and adjusting it as markets fluctuate is one of the broker’s services which prevent the property from staying on the market and not selling. The broker also screens potential buyers and avoids those who are not properly motivated or who are incapable of obtaining financing. Using a broker also avoids direct interaction between buyer and seller either or both of whom may lack the necessary perspective to avoid personal involvement.

3. What, if anything, am I required to disclose to a buyer?

Answer: Disclosure requirements change from time to time but at the present time the seller need to only disclose the existence of the lead paint statute and use the forms relating thereto in addition to disclosing any releases of hazardous materials. If sellers are questioned they must either remain silent or answer without equivocation. Silence could be misinterpreted as evidence of a problem where none exists. The best practice is to disclose any problems such as a wet basement and document the disclosure in the agreement to avoid problems in the future.

4. Should I sign a seller’s disclosure if requested by the broker?

Answer: Sellers are under no obligation to sign any such forms and should avoid doing so.

5. Can I change my mind after I sign an offer?

Answer: If the seller for any reason elects not to sign the purchase agreement after accepting a written offer, the seller runs the risk of being sued to force the seller to convey the property or face monetary damages.

6. How much time is between accepting offer and closing?

Answer: Generally, four to six weeks, although times do vary, which accelerate or delay a closing depending upon lender schedules for processing the loan and issuing a commitment. Attorneys for lenders also require time for title examination and document preparation.

7. What documents in addition to the deed must I sign at closing and must I attend the closing?

Answer: Sellers need not attend the closing if they have executed a valid power of attorney allowing someone to act in the seller’s place. The seller would have to sign the deed prior to the closing and have the closing attorney preapprove both the deed and power of attorney. Documents to be signed at closing vary from lender to lender and statutory requirements.

8. Who is responsible for obtaining a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector certificate?

Answer: Obtaining the certificate is the seller’s responsibility but the broker usually makes the necessary arrangements.

9. I am selling a condominium unit. Is there anything I must do because of that?

Answer: Sellers of condominiums are responsible for preparing and signing the deed and obtaining a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector certificate, a 6(d) certificate, an insurance certificate, and a release of any right of first refusal which the condominium association might have.

10. Who pays off my mortgage?

Answer: The closing attorney representing the buyer’s lender obtains the payoff amount, deducts the payoff amount from the seller’s proceeds and sends the payoff amount to the seller’s lender.

11. What must I do if my property uses a septic system?

Answer: Septic systems in Massachusetts are governed by Title 5 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations. An inspection must be performed in conjunction with all transfers of real estate. The buyer’s lender will require a copy of a satisfactory inspection report.

12. Must I inspect for lead paint and what is the property transfer information notice and who prepares it?

Answer: The seller does not have to inspect for lead paint but must provide the buyer with a lead paint notice package, including the property transfer notification certification and any materials referred to in the form.

For additional information about selling real estate, please contact us online.

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