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Real Estate FAQs
BUYING A HOME
Our NJ real estate lawyers represent individuals in residential real estate purchases and sales. Home ownership can provide you with many benefits: secure shelter, a long-term investment and tax advantages. However, a home is also a major financial commitment. There are ways to avoid costly mistakes that can strain your budget and your patience. This article contains tips to help you avoid problems when buying a home.
A home is the largest single investment of most Americans. Often, the first question is whether you afford the home you want to buy. At the time of your home purchase, when the legal title is transferred to you, you will have to pay for the home and closing costs. Usually the bulk of the purchase price is paid with a mortgage loan. You will thereafter need to budget for insurance premiums, maintenance, monthly loan payments, property taxes, utility bills, and repairs. To avoid surprises, examine the seller’s bills to get an idea of the monthly expenses for the home. Also check the age and condition of appliances, plumbing, roof, structures and wiring since they might need repair after your purchase.
USING A LAWYER
Our NJ real estate lawyers can help you through the home buying process by preparing or reviewing the purchase contract, advising you about financing and title insurance, answering your legal and tax questions, and arranging for the documents necessary to complete the purchase. When you first contact us, you can ask for an estimate of legal fees and closing costs.
You should consult our attorneys before or immediately after you sign a contract to by a home. Although a printed form may be used for the purchase contract, we can make changes that protect you. For example, a change in the form may give you the right to cancel the purchase (and get a refund of your deposit) if you obtain an unsatisfactory inspection report.
You may want a real estate agent to help you find and evaluate a potential home. Many real estate agents participate in multiple listing services that enable them to quickly identify homes that might be suitable. Also, an agent can help you complete the steps involved in a home purchase. Sometimes the agent represents the seller and the interest of the agent is in concluding the sale. The purchase contract an agent prepares may not be favorable to you as one prepared or revised by our lawyers.
In New Jersey, the first document you sign is a Contract of Sale that contains the purchase price. You should not sign a contract of sale unless it protects your rights. Our NJ attorneys can prepare the document or review a printed form agreement that you receive from your real estate agent.
Most contracts of sale provide for a cash deposit to show the seller that the buyer is serious. It should contain details about who will hold the deposit and how it will be applied. If you don’t go through with buying the home, you may lose the deposit. We can advise you about the circumstances that affect your rights to the deposit.
Any conditions that must be met before you complete a home purchase should be stated in your contract of sale. For example, many buyers make their home purchase contingent upon obtaining financing, selling their present dwelling or obtaining a satisfactory report from a home inspector. Before you sign a contract of sale, our New Jersey real estate lawyers can make sure it contains provisions allowing you to cancel the purchase and get your deposit back if your conditions are not met.
The “closing” of a contract of sale usually completes the purchase and takes place at a meeting in the office of an attorney. At the closing, the buyer and seller sign and exchange the closing documents and the buyer pays the purchase price. At this time, the buyer receives a title the keys to the house. One of our attorneys attends the closing to ensure that the documents and computation of closing costs are correct.
The closing costs are payable at the closing and include appraisal fees, attorney’s fees, lender fees, prorations (insurance, taxes, and other items), recording fees (for deed and mortgage), survey fees, title examination fees, title insurance premiums and transfer taxes. Our experienced real estate lawyers can tell you what to expect in closing costs and which are tax deductible. If you obtain FHA, VA or other federally related financing, your lender must provide you with an estimate of its charges before the closing.
Before closing, many home buyers hire a professional inspector to examine the structure, plumbing, wiring, appliances, heating and other systems for defects or needed repairs. Be sure that the contract of sale gives you the right to cancel the purchase if the seller before closing does not correct defects or deficiencies.
You receive “title” to your home when the seller gives you the deed at closing. The title may be limited by easements or building restrictions that affect your use of the home. Easements may give utilities or government authorities the right to use part of your land for electrical lines, gas lines, sewers or drainage. Before closing, we can conduct a title search and advise you of any limitations that may interfere with your use of the home or affect its resale value. This title search also will tell you if the seller truly owns the property and is capable of selling it to you. Be sure to obtain an up-to-date survey of the property before completing your home purchase. The survey may disclose encroachments that do not appear in a title search.
Title insurance protects you against the financial loss you may suffer if there are encumbrances, easements or title defects that were not revealed in a survey or title search. The cost of title insurance is usually paid at closing. Your lender will probably require that you buy title insurance to protect its mortgage interest in the home.
Your home can be a valuable investment and provide years of enjoyment. You can protect yourself against expensive mistakes if you proceed carefully before signing a contract of sale and closing the sale. If you are considering buying a home, ask our NJ real estate attorneys to handle your contract of sale and closing.