Especially in a seller’s market like we have today, successfully buying a house you love is a big win. But even when homes are hard to find because so few are on the market and those that are may be snapped up quickly, it’s still important to exercise care. A home is likely the most important purchase you will make in your lifetime.
It’s helpful to understand the process of buying a home, from negotiating and signing the contract to having the property carefully inspected and through to the closing.
The Law Office of Gary M. Landau, located in Coral Springs, Florida, assists home buyers in Broward and Palm Beach Counties through all the legal steps of purchasing a house. The firm believes strongly that it is important for everyone to have an experienced real estate attorney on your side as you go through the process.
How Do I Choose the Right Home?
When you are looking to buy a home in Florida, it’s important to stop and assess your goals. If your kids are grown and you’re looking for activities, perhaps an over-55 community is for you. If you want income to help defray your mortgage, a duplex might be a good investment. Don’t be swayed by what other people want: only you can know what the right type of property is for you.
Check real estate prices in your area of choice and set a realistic amount for how much you can afford to pay In this market, you may have a stretch a bit, but if you buy a home well outside your budget you may struggle not only to pay your mortgage but also to make all the repairs every home eventually needs.
If you’ll be getting a loan, find a bank, credit union, or competent mortgage broker early in the process. They can help you evaluate what you can realistically afford and provide a letter that will sway a seller that you’re a safe bet.
What Should I Watch Out For in a Real Estate Purchase Contract?
A real estate contract is a legally binding agreement. Once you sign it, you are committed to all its terms. In Florida, the convention is to present a signed contract to a seller with your offer. But once the seller counter-signs, your contract is sealed.
That’s why I always tell clients and potential clients it’s crucial that you run the contract by a real estate attorney before you present your offer, even when your Realtor erroneously tells you it’s not necessary. Most attorneys will read a contract quickly and highlight problematic clauses, which you can change before you sign and present it.
It’s especially important to watch for these contract points:
- What are the financing terms? Does the offer revert to an all-cash deal if you cannot obtain a mortgage? (If so, you’ll lose your deposit if you can’t come up with the money.)
- Who pays the closing costs, including escrow fees, title insurance, and transfer tax?
- Who selects the closing agent? If you’re paying closing costs, it should be you.
- How much time do you have to inspect the home? And what happens if the home inspection uncovers significant flaws?
- Does the sales price include appliances or fixtures?
- What is the closing date? Is it a realistic date for you to get your financing and all paperwork completed?
Don’t assume that the real estate purchase contract your Realtor tells you to sign is “standard.” Everything can be negotiated.
What Happens After I Sign a Real Estate Contract?
Once you and the seller have agreed on the terms and signed the home purchase contract, your path to becoming a new home owner goes through the following steps:
1. Loan Application. If you’re taking out a mortgage, apply for this right away, as it takes time to process. Be sure to work with a reputable lender who won’t charge extra fees.
2. Home Inspection. It is imperative not only that you have the property evaluated by a licensed inspector but that you do it immediately, giving you time to back out of the deal during the inspection window outlined in the contract.
3. Appraisal. A professional property appraisal is typically a condition for loan approval. The appraisal ensures that the property’s value justifies the amount of the loan. The contract should specify what happens if the appraisal comes in lower than the sales price.
4. Real Estate Title. While you’re arranging for a loan and inspection, your real estate attorney will be examining the title records to ensure that no liens or other issues impede the sale.
5. Insurance. If you’re taking a mortgage, you will need to make arrangements for homeowners insurance to start on the day you take ownership.
6. Final Walk-Through. This final property inspection before closing ensures that the property’s condition has remained the same as it was when you signed the contract. The walk-through will also confirm that the seller has completed any repairs they committed to.
7. Closing. The big day finally arrives. At closing, which can be done in person or by mail, you and the seller sign all necessary paperwork. Once the funds are transmitted, you will receive the keys to your fantastic new home.
Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer?
Some people think they can get through a closing with just a title company. But their job is only to close the sale, not to look after your interests. A real estate lawyer also closes the deal, but simultaneously is working to protect you.
In most cases, your real estate attorney will:
- Explain all the clauses of the contract before you sign and suggest changes that help you.
- Oversee that all the steps are proceeding on the proper timetable.
- Check that the property’s title is clear and work to fix it if it isn’t.
- Help settle any issues that arise before closing between the buyer and seller.
- Prepare the closing disclosure form (CD), ensuring all figures are correct.
- Draft and gather all necessary paperwork.
- Hold the escrow monies in a separate account, then distribute everything to their rightful recipients after the closing.
- Conduct the closing as the title agent, ensuring that everything is done according to the law.
Congratulations! Once you’ve completed all these steps you will be the owner of your wonderful new home.
Gary M. Landau, P.A.: Real Estate Lawyers Located in Coral Springs, Florida
Real estate attorney Gary M. Landau and his team have been serving South Florida for over 20 years. We cover all matters related to real estate law, including drafting contracts, providing legal advice, and serving as a closing agent/title company for all real estate deals.
Instead of searching online for “real estate attorney near me, talk to experienced South Florida real estate lawyer Gary M. Landau in Coral Springs, FL. Consultations are free. Simply call (954) 979-6566. You can also fill out our contact form here.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction.