While buying a house is a long, complicated process, doing a bit of research, being prepared for these legal considerations, and finding a good attorney can ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Buying a house is often considered one of the most stressful things you can do in your lifetime — it’s a huge legal process with lots of hurdles to overcome. To help you get your head around some of the more complicated aspects of house buying, here are the main legal considerations you should be aware of:
Understand the full costs
As well as the deposit for the house, you’ll also incur a number of other costs including hiring an attorney, legal fees, and recording fees. You’ll also have to pay for a title search, title settlement, and title insurance, which will be required by your mortgage providers to protect against any issues with the property title.
If you’re considering moving into another state you should also consider how much property tax is going to be as it can vary considerably.
Pre-approval for a mortgage
Before you start looking at houses you should get preapproved for a mortgage. This will give you a clear idea of how much you can borrow from the bank and what properties you can afford. If you want to find the best mortgage deal then use an online mortgage broker who will compare lots of different lenders. You just need to share your personal details, proof of income and pass a credit check and once you’ve found a deal you’ll have a letter that outlines the mortgage you’ve been pre-approved for.
Pre-approval doesn’t mean you are guaranteed that money, and they are only valid for a specific time. But it’s important to get one because it shows a seller that any offer you put down is valid. Once you’ve found a place you’ll have to provide more information and documentation to have your mortgage approved.
If you’re buying a house with someone you need to consider how you split ownership of the property. You can split the property equally or unequally as Tenants in Common, for example, it could be dependent on how much each of you contributed to the deposit or how you’ll divide monthly mortgage payments.
Making an offer
When you find the house that you want your next step is to put in a purchase offer for the amount you’re willing to pay. It’s important to carefully consider what you can afford, and how much you think the house is worth. Remember that the real estate agent who is selling the house is usually working on the behalf of the homeowners – so they are going to be interested in getting the best deal for their client.
While purchase offers are completed with the real estate agent, it’s worth consulting a real estate attorney to review your offer. After it’s submitted the owners can accept, reject, or counter your offer, but once it’s been agreed in most cases you’ll have to put earnest money in escrow. This means an amount of money to demonstrate that you’re serious about your offer; if you back out of the sale then the seller can keep that money.
A home inspection gives you a chance to hire someone to check the property for any problems or issues that either need repairing by the owner or could be a reason to lower your offer. It’s important that the contract for the house sale includes a provision for you to get a home inspection before it’s all finalized.
Dealing with a competitive market
If you’re looking in a popular area then properties are likely to be snapped up fast. There are certain things like contingencies on your offer (such as you need to sell your current house before this sale is complete) that might put the sellers off.
It’s important to consider your priorities though, in most cases selling your current home without somewhere else lined up isn’t practical but if it’s highly competitive you might consider rented accommodation in the meantime.
And some buyers might even be tempted to skip the home inspection to keep the process moving quickly – but that’s risky, especially with older properties. It’s your responsibility to check the condition of the house before you buy it.