Entering the Pennsylvania Home Buyer's Market

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Few purchases in life are more exciting—or stressful—than the purchase of a home. While there are general guidelines that can benefit all home buyers, each state has its own rules as well. Those entering the real estate market in Pennsylvania should keep these points in mind.

Should You Have Your Own Real Estate Agent?

Home buyers generally do best to have their own real estate agents. If you find a property you like and don't have an agent, the seller's agent may offer to represent both parties, but this generally is not advised. The seller's agent is contractually bound to forward the seller's best interests, not yours. To find a buyer's agent, a good resource is a professional organization such as the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®.

What Must a Seller Disclose About a Property?

Sellers must disclose certain known defects the property may have so buyers can make informed decisions about whether to make an offer. The Seller's Property Disclosure Statement approved and recommended by the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® includes sections for occupancy, structural features, termites or other pests, basements and crawl spaces, additions and alterations, water supply, sewage, and more.

What Is a Purchasing Agreement?

The purchasing agreement outlines all of the details of the sale. It is a legally binding contract. In addition to information about the property, price, seller, buyer, and transaction details, it also includes a provision for the buyer to have the property inspected before the sale is final.

Why Do You Need a Home Inspection?

A licensed home inspector is trained to do a visual appraisal of a property to look for problems that might have been overlooked in the seller's disclosure. If any are found, the next step is usually to negotiate how to address them.

What Is a Title Search?

Sometimes lingering issues attached to a title prevents the property from transferring from one party to another. Your attorney or title company will do a search of public records for liens and other items that could be problematic to closing the sale. Title insurance protects you against future losses due to issues that the title search might overlook.

Are You Buying Foreclosure Property?

Notice must be given to the prior owner at least 30 days before a foreclosure property can be sold. The sale must also be advertised weekly for three weeks in a local newspaper. Sales are done by auction, and the sheriff completes the transfer. Some states allow a redemption period after the sale, during which the prior owner can make good on the debt and reclaim the property, but Pennsylvania isn't one of them.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Residential real estate laws vary across state lines. If you're in the market for a home in Pennsylvania, consult with a local residential real estate attorney who can answer any legal questions you may have and will guide you through the homebuying process.

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