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Buying/Selling Homes
Jack Stern
associates
New York real estate law

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Buying or selling a home is one of the most important financial and emotional decisions you will make. There is nothing in the law that prevents you from buying or selling your residence on your own. However, most real estate experts, sellers, and increasingly buyers employ the services of real estate brokers and lawyers to help them navigate through the often confusing world of real estate transactions.

 Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer if I Want to Buy or Sell a House?
There are many steps and a lot of information involved if you wish to buy or sell a residence.  A real estate attorney can guide you through the process.  A real estate attorney will also review listing agreements with brokers, offers, and purchase contracts before you sign them to make certain that your requests are met.  Further, a real estate attorney can advise you on financing the house of your dreams

Listing agreements

 A listing agreement is a contract between the seller and the broker that stipulates the parameters and rights of the relationship.  It is best to consult with an attorney before signing any legal document or contract.  The listing agreement includes information on the following:

  • The price at which the property will be marketed
  • The manner in which the property will be marketed
  • The commission the broker expects and when it will be earned
  • The length of the relationship between broker and seller
  • The length of time a house will be listed on the market. This could vary.


What is a Real Estate Broker?
A broker is a professional who helps you buy or sell your home. Both buyers and sellers of residential real estate benefit from a broker. For example:

  • Many brokers are members of a multiple listing service ( MLS ) - Brokers subscribing to a MLS share their exclusive listing agreements with other broker in order to expose your home to more sellers.
  • Brokers are professionals. Brokers are required to be licensed and are educated to help you sell or buy your home.  You have a right to expect your broker to act honestly, competently and with integrity.

Disclosures About a Property
The seller is usually required to make specific disclosures about the property. This includes:

  • Material defects within the seller's knowledge - Many states require a seller who knows of a problem with the property to disclose the presence of this problem to the buyer.  New York State has enacted a Property Condition Disclosure Law. If you are not provided with a full disclosure statement in most cases you are entitled to a $500 credit at the time of your purchase.
  • Actively conceal material defects - Generally, a seller cannot actively hide a defect in order to attract a buyer to the property.
  • Buyer's Duty to Inspect - Most states find that the seller does not have an obligation to disclose any defects before the deed is transferred. Thus, the buyer should hire someone to inspect the property for any defects that are not easily noticeable.
  • Inspection Contingency - The buyer has an absolute to conduct a property inspection by a qualified engineer or construction expert of the Buyers choosing at the buyer's expense.  This inspection is generally done after the signing of a binder, but before the contract is signed.

Encumbrances on the Property
An encumbrance is something that may prevent a buyer from taking the legal title or possession of the property. Most encumbrances are recorded at the county recorder's office.  These encumbrances can include mortgages and other liens as well as easements.  A title insurance company should inform you of any such encumbrances on the property.

Financing the Purchase

A buyer may not have enough cash up front to pay the entire purchase price for a property.  A financial institution may be able to lend the buyer a portion of the purchase money and attach a mortgage to the property.