IF YOU ARE BUYING A HOME…
1. Never sign an agreement without having it reviewed by a qualified real estate attorney first. Most “form” agreements are biased in favor of the seller. Even when you are working with a Buyer’s Broker, they cannot cover all of the legal issues. Without such a review, your interests and this major investment will not be adequately protected. If you are buying a property in New Jersey, New Jersey has an Attorney Review Statute that allows a three-day period to have your agreement reviewed and approved or disapproved by an attorney.
2. Before you go to the expense of inspections or mortgage applications, it’s important to check with your attorney to make sure the contract and any addenda have been signed by all parties. Also, tell your lawyer of any agreements between you and the sellers regarding personal property, repairs, change of settlement dates, or any other matters not contained in the contract.
3. In your appointment book or diary, write down all contingency dates, such as Termite, Home Inspection, Lead Paint Inspection, Radon Inspection, Septic Inspection, Well Inspection, Mortgage Application, and Mortgage Commitment dates. Then tell all this to your real estate agent, especially the schedule of inspections. If any of the dates cannot be met, immediately contact your lawyer so that she or he may request an extension. It’s vital, because failure to meet the deadlines may result in your giving up the contingency.
4. As soon as the Seller signs the Agreement, you should immediately obtain a binder for homeowner’s insurance on the property. Your insurance agent can arrange for this.
5. If any of the inspections reveal defects, get a written estimate for repair of the defective conditions. Your Realtor may be helpful in obtaining estimates. Any repairs by the seller have to be negotiated, and an amendment of your agreement should be prepared and signed by all parties.
6. Prior to settlement, make arrangements for utilities in your name.
7. Prior to settlement, you must furnish your mortgage lender with the homeowner’s insurance policy. The policy must contain legal names and correct addresses for the lender and yourself. The amount of insurance must be at least equal to the amount borrowed. Generally, the insurance should be for at least the purchase price or fair market value, whichever is greater. You should also discuss additional insurance with your insurance agent — for your personal property, domestic help, and other or special insurance needs.
8. Do not make repairs or move property into your new home until after settlement.
9. You must make arrangements through the Realtor to conduct a walk-through inspection on or just before the day of the settlement. Approve or reject all heating, electrical, plumbing and septic systems, as well as appliances at this time, because after the settlement you cannot complain of defects. See Special Instructions for the walk-through inspection.
10. On the day of your settlement, you may have to either pick up the final closing package from your mortgage company or pay an extra fee (charged by the mortgage company) for a courier to deliver the package to the settlement.
11. Be prepared for unanticipated delays in settlement.
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© 2008 Miriam N. Jacobson