Knowing the ins and outs of the home buying process is the key to achieving a good result
If you're buying a home, then there's a good chance that you're also experiencing a significant life event, such as marriage, the birth of a child, relocation, or even a new job – things that will keep happening and that will keep a level of demand that needs to be met. Remember: you're buying a home for your family!! It's essential to familiarize yourself with the pre-closing process, leading up to the purchase of your home, in order to avoid getting a raw deal:
(1) Mission Critical: the Attorney Review Period – Contrary to popular belief, signing the contract is only the beginning of the home buying process. That's when the attorney review period commences wherein both parties, the buyer(s) and the seller(s), have three (3) days to let their respective attorneys review the contract. Critically, either party can disapprove of the contract at this time, rendering it null and void. Failing to disprove the contract during this period results in a binding contract that is much more difficult to escape if, for example, something horrible is uncovered during the home inspection process. Moreover, every real estate sales contains provisions addressing everything from wood destroying insects and lead paint to cooling and heating systems. Review them carefully! Changes to the contract are routinely made by way of a letter, prepared by your attorney, “cancelling” the contract and setting forth proposed changes which the other side can accept or decline. (2) Obtaining the right kind of mortgage (promptly) is essential – I can't emphasize this enough: you should apply for a mortgage immediately upon signing the contract. One of the most important contingency clauses alluded to above is the mortgage contingency provision. The mortgage contingency provision literally means that your purchase is contingent upon obtaining a certain type of mortgage. It is important to review the mortgage contingency clause carefully and the subsequent mortgage commitment letter, too; failing to be approved for a right type of mortgage could leave you holding the bag. (3) Making the Most of Your Home Inspections – It is extremely important to schedule a thorough home inspection. Many home inspectors are engineers or have spent many years in the building trades. You should absolutely accompany your inspector during the inspection in order to familiarize yourself with the property and any potential issues. Typically, home inspections are required by the terms of the contract to take place within ten (10) days of the contract signing date. Other inspections may also be necessary including, but not limited to a lead paint inspection, termite inspection and, for older homes, a sweep for underground oil tanks. Thereafter, you and your attorney will may prepare a comprehensive repair letter seeking certain remediation of broken/defective home elements; this could include anything from a hole in a ceiling to busted sidewalks that need to be repaved.
(4) Don't forget the title and survey! – Either your attorney or your real estate agent can recommend a title company to investigate t he chain of title and uncover any liens (like mortgages, easements, taxes, or even child support liens) against the property which will need to be disposed of at the time of closing. The title company will also provide title insurance to protect your interest in the new property and, often, recommend a professional to perform the survey which will further verify the status of any encroachments, easements or zoning violations. (5) Closing strong – The most important document at the closing table (besides the checks) is the HUD-1 form, typically provided a day or two prior to the closing date, containing an itemized list of estimated fees, charges, and services for both the buyer and the seller. You'll learn the projected amount of money you'll need to have with you for closing, too, upon receiving the HUD-1, an amount which is usually a conservative estimate on the high side. An attorney can help you review the HUD-1, check for errors, and help negotiate any emergent issues at the closing table. This is a basic overview of the major steps involved in buying a home. Clearly, listing EVERYTHING that can go right (or wrong) during the closing process is impossible to do in one post. Each situation is unique. Don't freak out! At the same time, there are few purchases you'll ever make that will be as important (or expensive) as buying a home. Getting it right is worth the time investment. If you or a loved one have questions regarding the New Jersey residential real estate closing process, please contact us or call us at (856)546-1350 to schedule a confidential consultation with our experienced New Jersey real estate attorneys.