Today's real estate climate is not the "Buyer Beware" of decades ago. No longer do you hide the facts and hold your breath that the Buyer doesn't ask the right questions.
Even with the most honorable intentions, issues can arise. Typically, the more serious issues that come up between buyers and sellers are questionable boundary lines (location of, easements, rights-of-way), septic problems (failing system), and moisture issues around rot and mold. These can become contentious, leading to terminated contracts or legal battles.
Disclose, disclose, disclose. That is the key to keeping things moving forward and avoiding the post-closing litigation. A property owner who lists with a professional will be asked to fill out a 6-page Seller's Property Information Report. This facilitates full disclosure of material facts regarding the home. It encompasses 7 sections: Land, Mechanical systems, structural components, water supply, sewer/septic wastewater system, additional information, and condo/homeowners' associations.
Sellers are expected to fill this out accurately and to the best of their knowledge. Such disclosures protect both the buyer and the seller.
If a home is not listed with a professional, a buyer needs to ask all the right questions, and a Seller needs to come clean about everything related to the house. This includes, but is not limited to, information regarding flood areas, underground storage tanks, accurate boundary lines, rights-of-way/easements, condition of appliances, septic maintenance, and results of radon and water tests. Getting this information in writing is essential.
This is not a don't ask, don't tell situation. If you are aware of or should be aware of material facts about the home, you need to disclose. There is no perfect home and buyers understand this. They just want there to be no surprises after the fact. They want to be aware of everything before jumping in.
The home inspection is a time when the unknowns should come to light, including home issues that the seller was not aware of. If an inspector's list of issues includes a handful of things the buyer was told about pre-inspection, those things are not deal breakers. It's the surprises that tend to slam the breaks on a deal, or at least make everyone head back to the negotiation stage.
So, whether you are using a real estate professional or going it alone, make sure you disclose everything about the home. If you are on the buying side, ask lots of questions. When it comes to the material facts of the home, nothing is off limits.