Buying a home brings great expectations for an exciting future. But before starting your search, be aware of the complex legal issues involved in a residential real estate transaction. These include: disclosures, getting clear title, removing encumbrances, and dealing with zoning issues, assessments, and taxes. Contact a real estate agent who can help you find the right home for you and who can handle the labyrinth of paperwork involved in any home transaction.
Work With a Real Estate Agent
Working with a real estate agent has enormous advantages, including:
- Knowledge of the community
- Ability to match homes to your needs and goals
- Steering you away from unsound homes and disadvantageous deals
- Knowledge of median home prices and market conditions
- Preparation of viable offers
- Managing deadlines
- Negotiating a reasonable deal
Locating a Real Estate Agent
One way to find a real estate agent in your area is to go to the website for the National Association of Realtors or to the local Chamber of Commerce. Other business professionals are a key source for names of reputable agents as well. Find a full-time agent who has a diverse marketing plan and a track record of success.
What Disclosures Are Required
Minnesota law requires the seller to disclose certain information to potential buyers. Although not required, most sellers use the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement detailing known defects, though the agent is not required to verify them. The disclosures embodied in the form include:
- Encroachments, easements, and restrictive covenants
- Location on 100-year flood plain, if applicable
- Water problems
- Environmental issues
- Foundation and structural integrity
- Sewage system
- Presence of wells
- Presence of human remains
- Defective appliances
A purchase agreement is a binding enforceable contract to buy and sell a home that contains the material terms and conditions of the real estate transaction. Purchasing agreements in Minnesota must include the following:
- Purchase price
- Names and addresses of the parties
- Date and place of closing
- Duration of the offer
- Condition of the property
- Description of the property
- Items included or excluded in the sale
- Financing and terms
The Home Inspection
Before closing the deal for your home, you must have an independent home inspection performed by a competent inspector to be sure no material defects exist and the building meets building safety codes. A failure to inspect could leave you with no legal remedy against the seller.
An inspection should be conducted to look for:
- Termites and other pests
- Exterior grounds, drainage, and utility feeds
- Existence of radon
- Presence of conditions that could lead to mold
- Presence of lead
- Foundation and structural integrity
- Heating and cooling systems, electrical, plumbing, walls, drainage, basement, and flooring
Finding an Inspector
Minnesota has no state licensing requirements for residential home inspectors so you need to do your due diligence in finding someone who has been trained. You can find credible inspectors through the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.
Issues in Legal Titles
Title searches are conducted by title companies or attorneys who look for proof that encumbrances are satisfied. They also search for the presence of easements, rights-of-way, tax liens, and any CC&Rs, or covenants, conditions and restrictions, that could affect clear title to the property.
Title insurance is required by all lenders to ensure against any losses from defective titles that were unknown at the time of sale. It protects buyers against encumbrances that may affect the title.
Consult a Real Estate Lawyer
This article provides only a brief introduction to this topic and is not intended to be inclusive. Get more detailed, specific information about your transaction from a Minnesota real estate lawyer.