Buying a home is the most expensive transaction that most of us will ever make. In addition to the large sums of money involved, real estate contracts can be lengthy and complicated. Precautions must be taken over potential defects, so an exciting purchase doesn’t turn into a money pit.
For these reasons and more, it’s essential to work with a real estate agent you trust. It’s also crucial to consult a real estate attorney to advise you throughout the process, and especially at closing, where any problems can significantly increase costs or jeopardize the sale.
Elements of a contract
When making an offer, it’s crucial that everything is in writing. Here are five aspects included in most real estate contracts:
- Financing terms: Most people can’t pay cash for a home. Instead, they should seek pre-approval from a qualified lender for a mortgage, as well as the type of loan, such as VA, FHA or conventional 30-year loan.
- Closing costs: The agreement should stipulate who will pay for standard expenses, such as escrow fees, title insurance, recording fees, transfer taxes, etc. Buyers and sellers divide many of these costs.
- Home inspection contingency: A certified home inspector should perform a comprehensive inspection to identify potential defects or expensive repairs to the property. Buyers can walk away from the deal, usually without penalty, if any major issues exist that the seller did not disclose.
- Fixtures and appliances: Part of the seller disclosure should list all appliances included in the sale. If they do not list the washer and dryer or refrigerator, don’t assume they are included and don’t rely on a verbal agreement with the seller.
- Closing date: Typical time frames are 30, 45 and 60 days for the sale to close. Determine how much time you’ll need, especially if you are selling your current home, moving for a new job or are currently under a lease agreement through a specific date.
How can a lawyer help?
Real estate attorneys provide an important role, even if they are only involved in the closing process by:
- Examining all documents associated with the sale agreement
- Reviewing the title
- Preparing a report for title insurance companies
- Dispensing all fees and funds
- Coordinating communications between all parties
While Ohio home buyers do not have to be represented by an attorney during closing, as is required in other states, their services can be extremely valuable due to the sums of money involved and potential pitfalls that can happen during the process.