Selling a single-family house

The seller of a single-family house is always liable for the information provided to the buyer regarding the age and defects of the building, the plot of land and the area in which the property is located.

The seller’s liability for providing information to the buyer is not affected by hiring a real estate agent or commissioning a formal condition inspection. The real estate agent and the condition inspector are only liable for performing their work in a professional manner.

If you are selling your single-family house on your own, find out the following information and acquire the relevant documents:

  • the type of house in question, i.e. is it a single-family house or a holiday home
  • are you selling real estate, a share or parcel of real estate or a building on rented land
  • the zoning status of the area, building prohibitions and the contact information for zoning authorities
  • if the house is fairly new, its building permits, blueprints and building inspection documents
  • the municipality and district or village in which the property is located, its property identifier and street address
  • the area of the plot of land
  • building rights
  • buildings and other structures such as playhouses or gazebos belonging to the property
  • restrictions on the use or assignment of the plot of land
  • in case of rented land, the lessor, the lease agreement, the remaining time on the lease, the amount of rent and any restrictions on
  • assignment of the right of lease
  • lien, fees payable by the buyer and other encumbrances and easements
  • the exact or estimated year the building was commissioned for use
  • primary construction material, roofing type, surfacing material used for the roof and the heating system
  • number of rooms and area, classified into living space and other space
  • average heating costs
  • a map of the boundaries of the plot of land
  • a floor plan of the building
  • an energy certificate is required for all buildings to which the requirements of building code are applied. The owner of the building (or in some cases, the possessor of the building) is responsible for obtaining the energy certificate.

More information about the energy certificate (in Finnish)


Information about selling a single-family house 

  • Buyers of single-family houses need to know what condition the house is in. The seller must truthfully disclose information regarding the age and defects of the building as well as any renovation work done. The seller may not conceal obvious water damage and hope that the buyer will not make claims based on it. Then again, the buyer must also understand that an aging house may need repairs and maintenance.

    For instance, if a 50-year-old house still has its original metal-sheeted roof, the seller should tell the buyer if the roof has ever leaked. The seller does not need to specifically notify the buyer that the roof needs maintenance or needs to be replaced.
    A condition inspection is not mandatory. If you do not have adequate information regarding the condition of the house and the buyer lacks sufficient knowledge to assess it himself, a carefully conducted condition inspection may reveal the potential problems of a building.

    However, a standard condition inspection consists of inspecting the external surfaces of the house, which generally does not reveal problems such as humidity damage concealed within structures.

  • The seller is liable for information regarding the property provided to the buyer.

    If you use a real estate agent to sell the property, remember that

    • you are liable for information given to buyers by the real estate agent
    • you are also liable if some necessary information is not disclosed to the buyer
    • the real estate agent is liable for ensuring that he undertakes his duties in a lawful and qualified manner

    Make sure that all significant matters pertaining to the property are recorded in writing in the real estate agency agreement. If this is done and the agent fails to communicate the matters in question to the buyer, the liability lies with the agent.

    For instance, if the maintenance history of the house is recorded in a notebook, it should be shown to prospective buyers.

  • In real estate transactions for houses bids are not binding in the same way as they are in transactions related to shares in housing companies. Withdrawing a bid does not result in having to pay a standardised contractual penalty or losing the down payment in its entirety.

    In real estate transactions, the parties are only bound by preliminary agreements of sale in the form specified in the Code of Real Estate and witnessed by a notary public. However, the preliminary agreement method is rarely used.

    If either party cancels the transaction after accepting a bid, the party withdrawing from the transaction must compensate the other party for reasonable costs incurred from activities related to the transaction such as advertising and visiting the property. If the buyer has made a down payment, the seller must refund him for the amount in excess of said costs.

  • The deed of sale for a real estate transaction must specify at least

    • the purpose for which the real estate is transferred
    • information to identify the real estate
    • the seller’s and buyer’s personal information
    • the sales price and other relevant payment.

    The conclusion of the transaction must be witnessed by a notary public who witnesses the transaction in the presence of all signatories or their representatives.

    Single-family house transactions can also be performed electronically in the online real estate deal service managed by the National Land Survey.

    The deed of sale should also include plenty of other details, such as information on

    • the assignment of title, occupancy rights and liability for risk
    • the transfer of agreements on the supply of electricity and HVAC services.

    Deeds of sale often feature standardised clauses to express the fact that the house is old and that the basic information regarding the real estate has been disclosed.

    Such standardised clauses include e.g.

    • ”The buyers have carefully inspected the object of sale and accept it in the condition it was in at the last viewing”
    • ”The seller affirms that he has disclosed all information he is aware of and changes to such information prior to concluding the transaction, if any, which may have affected the buyer’s decision to conclude the sale”.

    These standardised clauses does not free the seller from his liability regarding defective information or quality detected after concluding the sale.

    If a condition inspection has been commissioned for the house, the deed of sale should specify that the buyer has been provided with a copy of the condition inspection report prior to concluding the sale. In this case, the buyer has also been informed of the potential risks of the house.

    Preparing an appropriate deed of sale is one of the obligations of the real estate agent. If an agent is not used, the service of preparing the deed of sale may be purchased from a real estate agency, a law firm or a bank.