9 tips for home buyers in non-disclosure states

For many, buying a home is a complex process, and navigating the real estate market’s rules and regulations can be tricky, especially in states where property sale prices remain a secret. Buying a home in a non-disclosure state, where sale prices are not available to the general public, presents a unique set of challenges and requires home buyers to be more proactive in gathering information. 

With the right knowledge and strategies, you can still negotiate a fair deal, even with the challenge of “hidden” numbers. Here are nine tips to navigate the home-buying process in non-disclosure states.

What is a non-disclosure state?

A non-disclosure state does not require the disclosure of sale prices of properties or other sales information to be reported to any public body, such as the local assessor’s office, or recorded in any public database. 

Some states are “limited disclosure,” meaning sales information may be submitted to the local assessor but not made available to the public. Others are “full disclosure,” meaning all property sales and prices are reported, and are a matter of public record. 

There are currently twelve non-disclosure states in the U.S.:

  1. Alaska
  2. Idaho
  3. Kansas
  4. Montana
  5. New Mexico
  6. North Dakota
  7. Utah
  8. Wyoming
  9. Louisiana
  10. Missouri (partial)
  11. Mississippi
  12. Texas

Purchasing real estate in a non-disclosure state can significantly impact home buyers because it’s next to impossible to find property sale prices through public records. Without sales figures, it’s difficult to access comparable sales, and home buyers may find it challenging to gauge the fair market value of a property. Buyers should focus on other factors when estimating a property’s value, such as location, condition of the home, local amenities, and current market trends. 

Tips for homebuyers in non-disclosure states

1. Work with a real estate professional with MLS access

In non-disclosure states, the role of real estate agents becomes even more crucial. Experienced agents have access to databases, networks, and resources that can help buyers gather information about recent sales in the area. 

Work with an experienced and knowledgeable real estate agent with a strong track record in the region you’re interested in to help you navigate the complexities of home buying in a non-disclosure state. 

Even in a non-disclosure state, sale prices are listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and most real estate professionals are registered with their state’s MLS to gain access to this essential tool of the trade. It’s worth noting that some types of sales won’t appear in MLS listings, such as private sales, including FSBO (for sale by owner), or a sale transacted by an agent who is not registered with the MLS. 

With MLS access, your real estate agent can pull a list of comparables: homes that recently sold and how much they sold for. Comparables can help agents assess current market trends, and make informed decisions when it comes to a fair offer price. 

Stay informed about local market trends, such as inventory levels, demand, and median home prices. Online real estate platforms, local newspapers, and real estate blogs are valuable sources of information. 

Attend open houses and talk to other homeowners to get a sense of the market dynamics in the area. 

3. Use online valuation tools

Though they’re not perfect, online valuation tools can offer estimates based on public records and algorithms. While these online tools aren’t a definitive statement of a home’s value, they can be a great starting point, especially when combined with other data like a home’s list price, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, property tax history, and any price reductions. 

4. Get a professional appraisal

A professional appraisal becomes even more important when you’re buying a home in a non-disclosure state. 

Appraisers have access to detailed property information, and while they may not disclose exact sales prices, they can provide insights into the valuation process. 

Hire a local, licensed appraiser to assess the property you’re interested in, evaluating the home’s condition, size, age, and other amenities. While the appraisal is not a guarantee of the final sale price, it can help you understand the fair market value of the home and can assist in making informed decisions during negotiations with the seller. 

5. Network with locals

Connect with local residents and community members to get insight into the neighborhood. Social media groups, community events, and local forums can yield important information about a neighborhood’s history, including recent trends or concerns, as well as properties considered hidden gems. 

6. Consider future development

Investigate potential developments in the area, as they can significantly impact property values. Check with local planning departments and review zoning regulations to understand the potential for new infrastructure, commercial developments, or zoning changes that may affect the neighborhood. 

7. Be diligent with a home inspection

Since non-disclosure states lack public information on property conditions, a thorough home inspection becomes even more critical. Hire licensed inspectors to evaluate the property’s structural integrity, vital systems, and identify potential or existing issues. 

You can request the seller disclose any known issues, and negotiate repairs or price adjustments based on the inspection’s findings. 

8. Be patient and flexible

In non-disclosure states, the home-buying process may take longer due to the need for extensive research and negotiation. Be patient and stay flexible as challenges arise. 

Keep alternative properties in mind and be open to adjusting your criteria to find a home that meets your needs within the dynamics of the local market. Be prepared to leverage your willingness to walk away if the price isn’t right or negotiations break down. Don’t get too emotionally invested in any one available property, and remember there are always other homes. 

9. Get input from a qualified attorney

Seek legal advice, especially when dealing with contractual matters. A real estate attorney can provide guidance on local laws, review contracts, and ensure that your interests are protected throughout the home-buying process.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.

To contact the editor responsible for this piece: zeb@hwmedia.com

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