The Garden State is a bright and exciting place to buy a home. Before you begin your search, you should be aware of the legal issues involved in a residential real estate transaction, including disclosures, obtaining clear title, removing liens and encumbrances, and dealing with zoning issues, assessments, taxes and other legal matters. A professional real estate agent can help you find the right home and handle the vast array of rules and paperwork involved in any real estate transaction.
Help From a Real Estate Agent
The benefits of working with a real estate agent are substantial. Some of them include:
- Knowledge of the community and surrounding areas
- Matching homes to your needs and goals
- Steering you away from unsound homes and deals
- Knowledge of median home prices and market conditions
- Preparing a viable offer
- Help with financing
- Negotiating a satisfactory deal
Finding a Real Estate Agent
One way to find a real estate agent is to visit the websites of the National Association of Realtors or your local Chamber of Commerce. Friends and relatives who have had good results with a certain agent, as well as other business professionals, are also key sources for names of reputable agents. Finding a fulltime agent who has a diverse marketing plan and a track record of success will give you the best opportunity for a smooth transaction.
New Jersey law requires that sellers disclose certain information to buyers. Although it's not required and the agent doesn't have to verify them, most sellers use the Seller's Disclosure Statement detailing known property defects. Some disclosures included in the form are:
- A consumer information statement describing the four types of business relationships in which a licensee is permitted to engage
- Encroachments, easements and restrictive covenants
- Natural hazard risks
- Land condition
- Structural condition
- Known defects
- Plumbing, roofing, electrical, additions or remodeling
- Lead-based paint for homes built before 1978
A purchase agreement is a binding, enforceable document to buy and sell a home. It includes the material terms and conditions of your real estate transaction. Purchasing agreements in New Jersey must include:
- Purchase price
- Names and addresses of the parties
- Date and place of closing
- Duration of the offer
- Condition of the property
- Fixtures and personal property
- Financing and terms
Before closing on your home, you must have an independent home inspection performed by a licensed home inspector to make sure no material defects exist. The inspection also ensures that the building meets building safety codes. An inspection is not a code inspection or an appraisal, but failure to arrange for one could leave you with no legal remedy against the seller if you find problems later.
An inspection should look for:
- Termites and other pests
- Existence of Radon
- Moisture intrusion
- Electrical connection issues
- Gas leaks
- Foundation and structural integrity
- Heating and cooling system, electrical, plumbing, walls, drainage, basement and flooring
Finding a Home Inspector
New Jersey has state licensing requirements for residential home inspectors. They must enroll for 140 hours of classroom time and 40 hours of supervised field inspections. You can find licensed inspectors through the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.
Issues Regarding Legal Title
Title searches are conducted by title companies or attorneys who search for proof that any encumbrances against the property are satisfied. They look for the presence of easements, rights-of-way, tax liens, and covenants, conditions and restrictions that could affect title to the property. Title insurance is required by all lenders to ensure against any losses from defective titles and issues that were unknown at the time of sale. Insurance also protects the buyer against any encumbrances that may affect title.
Consult a Lawyer
For real estate legal advice, please contact a New Jersey real estate lawyer.