Buying a home is a big step, so before you take the leap make sure to protect yourself. Steps such as disclosures, purchase agreements and title insurance will help keep your investment and your home safe. In South Carolina, certain laws outline what buyers and sellers must do. Become familiar with the process before you begin looking for a home.

An Agent Can Help

Most people want help from a trained professional when buying a home. An agent can assist in a number of ways, from tracking down possible properties to aiding in negotiations. The South Carolina Division of Labor and Professional Licensing offers a searchable data base that will help you find an agent.

Disclosures

South Carolina law requires that sellers make buyers aware of anything wrong with the property. Sellers also must either explain any problems they flag or provide buyers with reports from experts. For example, if the disclosure form states there's something wrong with the roof, the owner must give details about the roof's condition.

In general, the seller must provide information about water supplies, septic or sewage systems, structural soundness, and heating and cooling systems. Reviewing a sample disclosure form will give you some idea of what other information must be disclosed. All documents, the disclosure form as well as any supplemental reports, must be turned over to the potential buyer before a sales agreement is signed.

Spell Out Your Agreement

Once you find a home you like, outline details such as cost, payment plan and crucial dates in a purchase agreement. Review a sample agreement to become familiar with the information you'll need for your purchase agreement.

Inspections

A professional inspection helps you make a truly informed decision about the home. It protects buyers by revealing any problems, including some the seller might not have known about. Typical inspections look at structure, mechanical systems and more. The American Society of Home Inspectors offers tips on finding a professional.

Conduct a Title Search

A title search ensures that the seller can sell the property with a clear legal title. Though buyers can conduct a title search, the process is painstaking; professional help from a title company or attorney is invaluable. Lenders require title insurance that protects them if problems crops up, but the policy only covers them. Buying a separate policy for the amount of your loan protects you as well.

Short Sales and Foreclosures

Buyers often find bargains in foreclosed homes or ones whose owners are on the brink. Foreclosed properties in South Carolina are auctioned "as is," without a warranty, at the courthouse. If the property sells for less than its value, the original owner might have to pay off the balance of the loan.

In a short sale, the mortgage holder lets owners sell the house for less than they owe on the loan. The buyer and seller can't have close business or family ties.

Legal Advice from a Real Estate Lawyer

For legal advice regarding your upcoming purcahse, be sure to contact a South Carolina real estate lawyer.

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