Whether you are looking to purchase, sell, lease or develop real estate in New Jersey, we at Hill Law Group have the experience and attention to detail that you need when making such an important decision.
New Jersey has long had a North/South distinction in real estate closing procedures. In Southern Jersey, attorneys are rarely involved in a simple closing on a house. Such closings are often solely handled by the title company. While this practice may be gradually making its way North, we strongly believe this is a misguided approach and a troubling trend.
The simple truth is that buying a home is most likely the biggest investment you are about to make and should not be taken lightly. Many significant issues are involved and as a result, there are too many opportunities for something to go wrong or be overlooked. The stakes are just too high not to use the services of an experienced real estate attorney. Please also note that a title company is not licensed to give you legal advice that only an attorney can provide.
At Hill Law Group, we understand that buying a home can be a highly emotional and stressful experience and will guide you and be accessible to you every step of the way.
Listed below are the typical steps in a standard purchase of a home.
Steps in a Real Estate Transaction:
1. Submission of Offer
Once the buyer has found the right house, the buyer will make an offer in writing. The buyer’s realtor will fill out a form contract which sets forth the offer as well as the terms of the contract, which will include the deposit amount(s), mortgage and inspection contingencies, inclusions, exclusions and a closing date.
2. Preliminary Negotiations
If the Seller does not accept the offer, negotiations will usually follow. These negotiations will be communicated through the buyer’s realtor and the seller’s realtor. Once the purchase price and terms have been agreed to, both buyer and seller then sign and initial the revised contract.
3. Attorney Review
After both parties (buyer and seller) have executed the revised contract, the contract is then forwarded to both parties’ attorneys for their review. All realtor prepared contracts are subject to a three-day attorney review period. The three-day attorney review period is calculated from the day after the revised contract is executed and does not include Saturdays, Sundays or legal holidays.
The three-day period of review allows the attorneys to review the contract and explain the terms to their clients. The contract will be legally binding at the expiration of the three-day period unless an attorney for either party reviews and disapproves of the terms of the contract.
If either attorney disapproves of the contract, the contract becomes null and void and the parties have no further obligation to each other. However, more often, the attorney who disapproves the contract will put forth suggested changes to the contract and further negotiations may ensue. If the other party agrees to the changes, the contract will become binding.
During this period of further negotiations, either party may cancel the contract without penalty or consequence. Since there is not yet a firm contract, the seller’s realtor is obligated to continue to present other offers to the seller should they arise.
4. Binding Contract
Once a binding contract is formed, a home appraisal will be ordered and inspections of the property will be carried out. The inspection will investigate for structural, plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other defects. Radon testing, inspection for termites and other pests, lead paint, asbestos and searching for oil tanks and other environmental concerns may also be carried out.
If a mortgage commitment is required, the buyer will seek to secure one during this time. The parties will usually stipulate in the contract the amount of time in which the buyer has to secure a mortgage commitment. If the buyer fails to comply with this time requirement, the contract will become null and void unless both parties agree to waive it. This is referred to as the mortgage contingency clause.
5. Negotiating for Repairs
The inspection report will list the condition of specific items and make recommendations for continued maintenance and appropriate upgrades. While minor issues are expected, if the inspection reveals any structural or dangerous conditions, the buyer’s attorney will negotiate with the seller to remediate these issues by either repairing such defects or to provide credits.
6. Survey, Title Search and Homeowner’s Insurance.
After the buyer secures a written mortgage commitment, and the home appraisal and all inspections have been done, the buyer’s attorney will order the survey, title search and flood certification. Homeowner’s insurance should be purchased by the buyer who will be required to produce a year’s paid receipt as proof of insurance at closing.
7. Final Steps
A couple of weeks before the closing, the buyer’s realtor will obtain the certificate of occupancy certifying that the home is in compliance with applicable building codes and other laws, and is in a condition suitable for occupancy. A final walk-through is then carried out one or two days prior to closing after the home has been vacated.
If you are in the market for buying, selling, leasing or developing real estate in New Jersey, call us now at 201-621-0412 for help through this most important transaction.