Buying a home means committing yourself to a community. This will be your home for years to come, so you'll want as few problems as possible. When you're purchasing a home in Alaska, you should be aware of the legal issues involved in residential real estate transactions, including disclosures, obtaining valid title, removing encumbrances, and dealing with zoning issues, assessments, taxes and other legal issues. Additionally, you should contact a real estate agent who can help make sure you have the proper documents and help negotiate a home purchase for you.
A Real Estate Agent Can Help
Many people buy houses on their own, without the assistance of a real estate agent, but there are numerous benefits to working with an agent. They include:
- Knowledge of the community
- Ability to quickly find a home for your needs
- Knowledge of median home prices and market conditions
- Preparation of your offer
- Handling all your paperwork
- Managing deadlines
- Hiring competent inspectors
- Negotiating the sale.
Locating a Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents in Alaska aren't hard to find. The Real Estate Book has a site for locating agents, or you can go to any of the real estate agencies listed online or in the Yellow Pages. Asking relatives or friends about agents they've used and with whom they were satisfied is an excellent resource as well.
Property Disclosure Obligations
Alaska law requires that sellers provide a State of Alaska Residential Real Property Disclosure form with a statement of property defects. The disclosures listed in the form can include:
- Environmental conditions
- Encroachments or easements
- If the home meets thermal standards
- If a felony, drug-related or violent crime took place on the property
- Any issues regarding radon gas, UFFI insulation or lead-based paint
- Any unresolved disputes, insurance claims or other issues with homeowner associations
- Anything else affecting the property’s value that a prospective owner should know
A purchase agreement is a legal document that contains the material terms and conditions of your real estate transaction. Any real estate transaction must be in writing to be valid. Purchasing agreements in Alaska must include:
- Purchase price
- Identity of the parties
- Down payment amount
- Duration of the offer
- Date of closing and possession
- Items included or not included in the sale
- Legal description
Before closing on your home, you'll need an independent home inspection performed by a competent inspector. The inspection should include a search for several issues, including:
- Susceptibility to environmental risks such as earthquakes or floods, if applicable
- Presence of chemicals and gasses
- Foundation and structural integrity
- Heating and cooling system, electrical, plumbing, walls, drainage, basement and flooring
Finding a Home Inspector
An Alaska home inspector must have a state business license and possess a certificate of registration from the Division of Corporation and Professional Licensing. You can find one through the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.
Title searches are conducted by title companies who look for proof that encumbrances against the property are satisfied and for the presence of easements, rights-of-way, and any covenants, conditions or restrictions that could affect title to the property.
Title insurance is required by all lenders to ensure clear title and to protect against fraud and defective documentation that could affect the title.
Retain a Real Estate Lawyer
Residential real estate laws in Alaska are complicated, and each transaction is unique. For legal advice, please contact an Alaska real estate lawyer.