Buying A Home: How To Protect Yourself
Buying a home is likely the biggest and most complicated transaction you will ever
make. Though most home sales work out well, some do not and result in costly and
time consuming legal disputes. Fortunately, there are easy ways to avoid problems when
buying a home. Here are tips.
When you find the home you want, you will submit a written
offer. If accepted, it becomes the contract. Although the offer will likely be
on a pre-printed form with much small type, it’s vital to read and
understand it before signing, as it covers all aspects of the purchase,
including the sale price, deposit amount, a description of the property,
inspection and repair requirements, who will pay for closing costs, and how
disputes are resolved.
Even though the offer is on a pre-printed form, remember that all terms are
still negotiable. Terms can be changed and new terms can be added.
It's important to have a lawyer review the contract before you sign it.
A lawyer can help make sure there are provisions to protect
• A financing clause. The contract should have a financing clause unless you are paying all cash for the house or specify
that there's no loan contingency. A financing clause gives you important
rights if you are unable to get the loan you want. The financing clause will describe the terms of
the loan and give you a time limit in which to obtain it. If you cannot
get the loan, you have the right to cancel the deal or remove the financing
contingency and proceed with the transaction.
• A home inspection clause. This gives you certain rights if an inspection of
the house reveals serious defects. Once you receive the
inspector's report, you must approve of the home's condition or ask the
seller to make repairs or take other action, like lowering the
sale price. If the seller is willing to make the repairs, the transaction
goes ahead. If the seller is unwilling to make the repairs, you have the
right to either proceed with the transaction or cancel the deal.
• A “sale of other home” clause. In many cases, before a buyer completes the
purchase of a home, he or she needs to close the sale of an existing home. Having a
"sale of other home" clause lets you cancel the deal if you are unable
to sell your existing home.
• A list of items included in the sale. When you buy real property, you’re
buying the land and everything attached to it. But problems can result if the
seller takes things from the house that you thought belonged to you, such as
light fixtures and appliances. To avoid disputes,
be sure the contract states all items that are included in the sale.
Another vital thing to remember about the contract is to make sure all
oral promises made to you are put in the written contract,
including anything the agent or seller tells you will be done. This is important
because verbal agreements related to the sale of real property are not
legally enforceable. In the event of a dispute between you and the seller,
the terms of the written contract will prevail.
Real Estate Brokers
Many buyers are not aware that the seller's broker only has legal duties and
responsibilities to the seller. To make sure your interests are
properly represented and you are getting the best deal, consider hiring your own
It is important to remember that your real estate agent gets a
commission only if you buy. To many agents, getting a deal done is more
important than protecting you. Watch out for an agent’s advice aimed only to
finish a deal, especially if the suggestion is not best for you. Our law firm
can properly protect your interests when buying a house, and our loyalty
is to you alone.
Make sure the house can be insured at reasonable cost. Check if it's in an earthquake, flood,
hurricane, fire or landslide zone, which can mean higher insurance costs. Ask an
insurance company to confirm they will provide insurance.
“Title” is your ownership, and your right to use the property
without other people saying they have rights in the property. Before you buy a
home, seek legal help to make sure you’re getting clear title so you can use the
home without interference and later sell it without problems. You should also
buy a title insurance policy. This protects you from problems in the chain of
title, such as liens or forged deeds. It pays your losses if someone makes a
A leading cause of disputes involving the sale of homes is over problems the
buyer discovers soon after moving into the house, such as leaks, foundation
cracks, termites, mold or other serious and potentially expensive problems. To help reduce
the chance of disputes, have the home inspected by professionals. The
inspection should cover several key areas, including the home's structure,
environmental hazards (like mold or asbestos), pest control and soil (especially
for hillside homes). Although many states now require sellers to make full disclosure about the property,
sellers are usually not liable for defects if they really were unaware of them. Also, sellers may
not think some problems are serious enough to warrant disclosure.
Many home buyers are tempted to rush into things without paying attention to details.
But if you take steps at the start — by making sure the contract has provisions to protect
you in case of problems, using your own real estate broker, ensuring you are getting
clear title, having the home professionally inspected, and having the contract and
other key documents reviewed by your lawyer — you can likely avoid future problems.