Buying a house is a big step and a big dream for many people. Before you take the leap, make sure you know how to protect yourself. Simples steps such as purchase agreements, disclosures and inspections will help keep your investment and your home safe. Ohio law outlines what both buyers and sellers must do in a real estate transaction.

How an Agent Can Help

While some people can handle every aspect of home buying on their own, others are more comfortable using the help of a professional. A trained broker can help you figure out how much you can afford, aid in negotiations, and track paperwork. The Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licenses offers a searchable data base of licensed brokers if you think you'd be more comfortable using one.

What Sellers Have to Disclose

Sellers have to make sure buyers are aware of anything that might be wrong with the property. In fact, it's illegal to hide major issues, such as problems with water supply. Review a sample disclosure form to get an idea of what information you should expect from the seller. The form should be provided to buyers before a purchase agreement is signed.

Spell it Out

After you find a home, outline details such as cost, down payment, important dates and more in a purchase agreement. Look over a sample agreement to get an idea of the key points you'll need to include if you live in Ohio.

Inspection Protection

An inspection protects buyers by revealing any problems with the home, some of which the seller might not even be aware of. Typical inspections review areas such as structural soundness and mechanical systems.The American Society of Home Inspectors offers advice on hiring a professional inspector.

Title Search

A title search makes sure that the seller owns the property and has a legal right to sell it. Although buyers can conduct their own searches, it's a tricky process. Help from a real estate attorney or title company can be invaluable.

Lenders typically require that buyers purchase title insurance to protect them if a problem pops up, but these policies protect only them. Buyers can purchase policies of their own for the amount of the loan so they're protected as well.

Foreclosures or Short Sales

Buyers often find bargains in foreclosed homes, or in homes whose owners are on the brink. Foreclosed properties in Ohio are auctioned "as is," without warranties. Sales usually take place at the courthouse. The property must be appraised, and it can't be sold for less than two thirds of its value.

With a short sale, the mortgage holder lets a struggling owner sell the home for less than what's owed on the loan. The buyer and seller can't have a close family relationship or business ties.

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