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Knowing Real Estate Laws Before Buying a Home


Purchasing a home is perhaps one of the biggest investments a person will make. Understanding laws about your real estate purchase can place a buyer or seller at a greater advantage during the process. An attorney is the best source for legal advice, not a Realtor or loan officer.

Following are answers to a few common real estate legal questions to consider when purchasing a home, but remember to always consult your attorney:

What Happens at Closing?
For the first-time homebuyer, closing can be a nebulous concept. When all contingencies are met, the buyer and seller meet to sign numerous copies of all of the legal documents to make the sale official. After this “closing” process, the transaction is recorded at the local register of deeds and becomes public record. The keys are given to the home buyer at the closing.

What is “For Sale By Owner”?
Some sellers choose not to use the assistance of a realtor but elect to sell the property on their own, referred to as “for sale by owner” or “FSBO”. Sellers often choose this option to save on commission costs. Despite not having a realtor involved, it is often advised that an attorney is consulted to prepare the Offer to Purchase.

What Role Does An Attorney Play in Financing?
A buyer secures financing through a lender, bank or credit union. However, legal advice is often helpful in the financing process. An attorney is a good resource to evaluate mortgage options and review the often complicated mortgage documents for first-time home buyers.

Is A Purchase Offer Legally Binding?
A purchase offer is a buyer’s offer for a property and is a legal document. However, the offer is only legally binding if both the buyer and seller are in agreement and have signed it. This process often involves several rounds of negotiations until a final purchase price is agreed upon on both sides.

A purchase offer, or offer to purchase, includes the following information:

  • Names and addresses of buyers and sellers
  • Location of property
  • Amount buyer is willing to pay and amount of any earnest monies involved
  • Closing timeframe
  • Conditions to be met prior to closing

What is the Title Search?
A very important part of buying a home where an attorney’s help is vital is that of the title search. During this process, the attorney examines the records recorded at the Registrar of Deeds for accuracy and to ensure that all liens are cleared or released.

Purchasing a home can be both exciting and confusing to the first-time and seasoned homebuyer. Understanding the process is vital to a successful transaction. Additionally, having a clear understanding of the legal aspects of purchasing a home can make the process run much more smoothly.

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