One of the most important decisions that a person can ever make is deciding to buy a house. Home ownership is one of the privileges of being an American; for many of us, it is a central part of the American dream. A home is where we live our lives, eat our meals, lay down our heads and raise our families. In many cases, a house is the single largest asset and financial liability we own.
Families’ entire financial future can ride on whether their investment in a house keeps its value. Realtors believe that buyers should have complete access to information so that they can make an informed purchasing decision. It is only when buyers are sure that they have the complete history of a house that they can feel confident in choosing the right one. We, as Realtors, take it as our supreme responsibility to empower home buyers to make informed purchasing decisions.
Our job is to help connect buyers with their dream home. It has become increasingly more difficult, however, when sellers are not required to disclose vital past flooding information regarding a property. Sellers should have to disclose all material facts — any piece of information that could affect the value of a home, and even the safety of the residents, should be disclosed.
Millions of Americans living across 20 states are in jurisdictions where there is no requirement to disclose past flooding of a house to a buyer.
That means a family can be completely in the dark about the risk of flooding. Past flooding serves as a solid indicator that a flood could occur again. Buyers need to be prepared for the risk of natural disaster destroying their home, but how can buyers be prepared if they have no indication of risk? This can be especially devastating if a homeowner does not know whether flood insurance is needed.
For hundreds of thousands of families in St. Louis County, flooding is a constant risk. St. Louisans live nestled in between our nation’s two largest rivers. With such a potential for flood risk, I believe that all St. Louisans seeking to buy a home should be informed of any past flooding history in a house. It is a sad fact that we live in a world where many sellers will not disclose material information unless mandated to do so by law. That’s why the government needs to step in and require this transparency in the housing market. In the long term, it would save everyone time, money and resources.
My fellow Realtors and I are calling on Congress to pass nationwide laws mandating that sellers disclose past flooding in a house. With such a gap in legislation across so many states, it is well within Congress’ authority to strengthen the market by requiring complete information. We have warning labels on food, drugs and chemicals so that consumers can be well-informed. The same principle applies to this as well. This legislation can be passed independently, or as part of renewing the National Flood Insurance Program.
No matter how it is done, it is clear that Missouri’s congressional delegation should take a lead in these important reforms. Residents of St. Louis County, as well as all American homeowners, should have the right to rest easy, knowing the full flooding history of their home.
Maryann Manion is a licensed Realtor and broker in St. Louis. She resides in St. Louis County where she has had numerous flooding issues over the years.