Residential Real Estate
Choosing the right attorney to assist you in the biggest purchase of your life is critical. You should choose an attorney with experience and one who knows the jurisdiction. Our firm has represented literally hundreds of buyers and sellers in the most important transaction of their lives. We know Long Island and we know the real estate players.
This rest of this section of our web-site is meant to provide a general overview for the purchase and sale of residential property. It is not meant to serve as a replacement for legal counsel, but merely as a basic outline or reference to follow when entering into what is, for most people, the single largest investment they will ever make.
THE REAL ESTATE BINDER
The most important thing to remember, whether you are buying or selling a home, is that the binder agreement you sign may be construed as a contract since it contains all of the essential terms upon which the parties agree, among them the selling price, the down payment, the mortgage amount and the closing date. It is recommended, therefore, that if at all possible, you consult with counsel prior to signing a binder the purchase or sale of your home.
THE ENGINEER’S OR HOME INSPECTION REPORT
Remember, most purchasers are not experts in home construction. It is important, therefore, that prior to entering into a contract to purchase a home to get at least a verbal report on the integrity of the structure and all of the systems therein. A competent home inspector will not only assess the current condition of the home, but will alert the Purchaser to anticipated repairs and/or the useful life of appliance, the roof, and plumbing, heating and electrical systems, amongst others. An inspection can disclose a major defect or the presence of a hazardous condition such as asbestos or lead paint which can lead to a decision not to purchase a particular or can be used as a bargaining tool in seeking a reduction in the price of the home from the Seller.
As a Seller, it is advisable not to ask your attorney to draw a contract of sale until after an inspection has been completed. In this way, the time and expense of drawing the contract is saved if an inspection reveals a condition that will impede the sale of your home.
CLOSING EXPENSES – PURCHASER
For the purchaser, an approximate estimate of the closing expenses you will incur can be achieved by calculating about five percent of the purchase price. These expenses include the cots of obtaining your mortgage, your title insurance search and policy, your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy, Mortgage Tax and escrow deposits for real estate taxes. Your attorney will review closing costs with you at or prior to the contract signing. VERY IMPORTANT – if you see a mortgage professional prior to seeing your attorney, insist on receiving a good faith estimate from him or her. It is your right, and it will break down what the mortgage company is charging you. If the purchase is over $1,000,000.00 the Purchaser will be liable for the “mansion tax”, or 1% of the purchase price of a 1-3 family home, condo or coop unit. Other taxes are applicable in other jurisdictions – your attorney will review with you are your intake.
CLOSING EXPENSES – SELLER
A Seller, in addition to paying off all mortgages and liens which encumber the property being sold, is responsible for the payment of New York State Real Property Transfer Tax and the Broker’s Commission if the services of a broker have been retained.
Please Note: If the property being sold is located within the City of New York, an additional transfer tax will be imposed upon the Seller.
CHOOSING AN ATTORNEY
When choosing an attorney, very often the first question asked is “how much do you charge”. The price for representation varies with each transaction. The questions you as purchaser or seller need to ask is, “what am I getting for the fee that I’m paying?”. There are many attorneys out there who charge a very low flat fee for representation. What you may not know is that very often what you are getting is the services of a non-attorney until closing or at closing. As this may be the most important purchase of your life, it is important to choose an attorney with experience in the field and one that will personally attend to your needs throughout your transactions. While price may be a consideration, it shouldn’t be the only one.
THE CONTRACT OF SALE
Both the Purchaser and the Seller should be represented by independent counsel so that their respective interests are protected. Traditionally, it is the attorney for the Seller who prepares the Contract of Sale after obtaining all of the requisite information and documentation from the Seller. Once the Contract has been prepared, it can be decided whether or not there will be a “sit-down” contract signing, or if the contracts will be reviewed by the Purchasers and counsel and the amendments then negotiated by phone with the Seller’s attorney. Once the norm, sit-down contracts are now few and far between given the difficulty of coordinating schedules so that everyone can meet together.
FINANCING THE PURCHASE
Deciding upon which type of mortgage to choose can be a time-consuming and often confusing and frustrating process. It is suggested that Purchasers begin their hunt for a mortgage even before a contract is fully signed. There are many factors to be considered in deciding which mortgage is the best one for you. Do you want a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage? Do you want a 15 or 30 year terms? How many points are being charged? What are the additional bank closing charges? Will the bank require an escrow account be established for the payment of taxes and homeowner’s insurance? You should consult with a reputable mortgage banker who can provide answers to all of your financing questions. If you still have questions that remain unanswered or if you are still unsure of how to proceed after meeting with your mortgage banker, consult your attorney prior to beginning the application process so that problems may be avoided at the outset. If a broker or banker is recommended to you by a real estate broker or attorney, ask if that broker is associated with the one making the recommendation. Very often this is the case. Know that you are not required to use who the broker recommends!
TITLE INSURANCE – WHAT IS IT AND WHY IS IT REQUIRED
At some point after the contracts are executed, the Attorney for the Purchaser will order a title search. This search will assure the Purchaser that the Seller does indeed hold title to the premises that is being sold, and will also reveal all of the mortgages and liens which must be satisfied by the Seller at the closing. Additionally, the title company will search the housing and building records of the town in which the premises is located, obtaining copies of the Certificates of Occupancy and also whether or not the premises is in violation of any of the town ordinances. At the time of closing, the Purchaser will also be required by the Lending Institution to purchase a policy of title insurance to insure the lender’s interest in the property. Simultaneously, the Purchaser will also purchase insurance for the Purchaser’s interest in the property.
Once the attorney for the lending institution is satisfied that a policy of title insurance in the form required by the lending institution can be issued by the Purchaser’s title insurance company, the Purchaser’s attorney will be ready to schedule the closing with the attorney for the Seller, the title insurance company and the attorney for the lending institution. The closing will generally take place at the office of the attorney for the lending institution. Just prior to the closing the attorney for each of the parties should send to their respective clients a pre-closing letter if time permits, or a telephonic conference which will advise the Purchaser and the Seller of the respective amounts they can anticipate paying or receiving at the closing. It should also advise the parties to arrange for a final inspection of the premises prior to the closing so that it can be ascertained that all of the items guaranteed to be in working order at the time of closing are in such a condition.
ADVICE & DISCLAIMER
All of the information contained on this web site is not meant to be advice, nor should it be followed. This is meant merely as a helpful tool and as a starting ground for a purchaser or seller who is in need of direction. Each case and matter is different. We highly suggest the retention of counsel before engaging in any of the matters discussed. This firm does not represent nor warrant the accuracy of any of the information contained herein, nor should it be relied upon. Please feel free to contact this office by either e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone. We are eager to help you.