About Real Estate: Honesty is always best policy, especially when selling home

Q. We are getting ready to sell our house. The roof leaks when the rain comes, but we don’t want to spend the $4,000 or so that it would cost to repair it.

Could we avoid our state’s real-estate disclosure laws if we market the property on an “as-is” basis?

A. Sorry, but no.

Many sellers think they can skirt their state’s defect-disclosure laws by offering their home as-is, but they’re sadly mistaken.

When a property is marketed as-is, it simply means that the seller will not pay for any needed repairs that are discovered while the sale is being finalized or after the transaction has closed — nothing more, nothing less.

The catch, though, is that real estate laws in nearly every state now require sellers to disclose any problems that they already know about, whether they’re willing to pay for the work or not.

These laws allow a buyer to adjust his or her offering price accordingly, even if the buyer wisely chooses to have the property examined by a professional home inspector before the deal is closed or, sometimes, under certain circumstances, long after the title to the home has been transferred.

Either fix your home’s leaky roof now so you can market it for a better price, or let the buyers know about the problem in order to reduce the chance that you’ll get sued later.

If you don’t have the cash to make the repairs now, be willing to accept a slightly lower sale price, or offer to give the buyers a credit from the sale proceeds to do the work themselves after they move in.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA

Faulty wiring tops the list of the common problems found by professional home inspectors, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors. Poor drainage systems and lousy roofs follow.

Q. I was interested in a column you recently wrote about credit reports and credit scores.

However, your column made me wonder about something else: Is my credit score affected by the fact that I now pay most of my bills through my bank’s automated “bill-pay” system that is linked directly to my checking account, instead of manually writing a personal check like I did before?

A. Don’t worry. Paying your bills in a timely manner is what’s most important to your credit rating and credit score. It doesn’t matter whether the payment comes via an automatic bill-pay system that you established with your bank, or instead from a hand-written personal check that you send through the mail.

I have nearly all of my monthly bills directly debited from my checking account. It’s convenient and saves time and postage. As a bonus, it helps to protect my credit score because I won’t miss a payment if I forget to write a check or it gets lost in the mail.

Q. We are shopping for a new home. My wife and I saw a terrific home at a reasonable price, but there are some large electric transformers nearby and several power lines that go across the neighboring streets.

I’ve heard that transformers and power lines give off radiation, but my wife and our sales agent both say they don’t pose a health risk. What do you think?

A. Power lines don’t directly emit radiation, but they do create electromagnetic fields, or EMFs. These low-level EMFs are roughly the equivalent of what you would get by using a microwave oven or other household appliance.

Exhaustive studies by both the U.S. government and the international World Health Organization (www.who.int) report that there’s no convincing evidence that exposure to low-level EMFs creates a health risk. Yet many buyers still avoid homes near transformers or power lines because they aren’t persuaded by those extensive reports.

Because of that reluctance, homes near those lines or transformers often sell for less than comparable properties in neighborhoods where lines don’t exist or are buried underground. The homes’ potential resale profit, though, can be limited, too, because a future buyer may share the same concerns.

Send questions to David Myers, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-2960, and we’ll try to respond in a future column.