Finding the perfect house is only the first step in the home-buying process. Now you need to negotiate a good price, get an inspection, and make sure the property's title is clear. Before you begin looking for a house in Colorado, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Your Real Estate Agent is Your Advocate
A real estate agent does much more than find homes for you to look at. An agent has a legal duty to keep your best interests in mind, answer your questions honestly, and protect your privacy. You can find an agent by asking for recommendations from family, friends or other professionals. You can also search the website of the National Association of REALTORS for member agents.
Disclosing a Property's Condition
Colorado requires that sellers inform buyers of any problems with the property, including those that may affect value or desirability. The Colorado Real Estate Commission-approved disclosure form asks for information such as:
- Hail, wind or fire damage
- Roof damage or leaks
- Condition of electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning and heating systems
- Presence of asbestos, pesticides or other hazards
Federal law also requires disclosure of lead-based paint in houses built before 1978.
Your Purchase Agreement
When you make an offer on a home, you do it by submitting a purchase agreement. A purchase agreement is a legal contract that spells out the conditions of the sale. In Colorado, this document must include items such as:
- Property description
- Purchase price
- Additional items included in the purchase price, such as lighting fixtures
- Key dates, such as disclosure and appraisal deadlines and the closing date
Make sure your contract also includes the conditions under which your can legally back out of the deal.
An Inspection Offers Peace of Mind
Even if the seller has provided you with an inspection report, it's a good idea to have your own inspection performed to look for problems not already disclosed. Your inspector will do a visual inspection of things like:
- Heating and cooling systems
- Plumbing and electrical
Colorado does not license home inspectors, but you can ask your real estate agent or lawyer for a recommendation. In addition, national organizations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors, offer certification and provide searchable databases on their websites.
Ensuring a Clear Title
Before buying a house, it's important to be sure the sellers can legally transfer the title to you. A title search before closing can turn up potential problems and title defects, and title insurance will protect you from defects that may turn up later. Two common title defects are:
Easements: Easements exist when someone else, such as a utility company, has a right to use part of the property for a specific purpose.
Liens: Liens are legal claims to the property by someone other than the owner. Any lien holders must be paid before title can be legally transferred.
A Lawyer Can Protect Your Rights
Residential real estate laws in Colorado are complicated; please contact a Colorado real estate lawyer.