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Home Buying Basics in South Carolina

By Marcia Stewart, Co-Author of Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home and Every Landlord's Legal Guide

Because buying a house is such an important purchase, it’s crucial that you take the time to determine what you can afford, the ideal neighborhood, and what features you need or want in a home. You should also be aware of the relevant law when it comes to issues such as disclosures, purchase contracts, and other legal matters.

With proper preparation, careful choice of a real estate agent, and prudent use of other qualified professionals, buying a home in South Carolina can be a positive experience.

Advantages of Working With a Real Estate Agent in South Carolina

One of the first steps in buying a house, condo, townhouse, or other home in South Carolina is to find a real estate agent to help with the purchase. Some of the benefits of using a real estate agent include the following:

  • knowledge of the community and different neighborhoods, average home prices, and market conditions
  • ability to match homes to your needs and budget
  • help preparing a strong offer and handling other paperwork
  • managing deadlines, and
  • negotiating the final deal.

Your agent should be able to guide you every step of the way, from drafting your written offer and negotiating with the seller on price and other key terms to coordinating the escrow process and house closing. Your real estate agent should also help you locate other professionals to assist you in the homebuying process, such as mortgage brokers and home inspectors.

And the good news is that working with a real estate agent won’t cost you anything. The seller usually pays the entire real estate commission (typically 5% to 6% of the house sale price, split between the seller’s agent and yours).

Personal referrals from other home buyers are usually the best way to select a real estate agent. You can find licensed South Carolina real estate agents at the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Other useful resources include real estate websites such as Zillow and Trulia which have customer reviews of real estate agents.

Be sure you choose an agent who has experience representing buyers, good references, and qualifications to meet your housebuying needs in terms of your ideal location, type of property, and budget.

Seller Disclosure Requirements in South Carolina

State law in South Carolina (South Carolina Code Section 27-50-40) requires that sellers provide buyers a disclosure form, which includes details on the property, including:

  • defects in the property, from the foundation to the roof
  • the heating source and water supply
  • conditions such as termites
  • nuisances, such as noise
  • lawsuits that could affect title to the property, and
  • built-in systems and fixtures, such as a hot tub or sump pump.

Disclosures must be on a Residential Property Condition Disclosure Statement form established by the South Carolina Real Estate Commission.

Seller disclosures are important for you as a buyer, since just looking at a property may not be enough to tell you what problems its owner encountered with it while living there.

In addition to state-required disclosures, sellers of houses built before 1978 must comply with federal Title X disclosures regarding lead-based paint and hazards. See the lead disclosure section of the EPA’s website, for details.

For more details on seller disclosures, see Considerations Before Selling a House in South Carolina.

Home Inspections in South Carolina

Buyers should not rely solely on the seller's disclosures, however, but should hire an independent home inspector to verify the information from the seller's disclosure. Many buyers make their offer contingent upon a satisfactory inspection report to be sure no material defects exist and to identify problems such as pests, drainage issues that could lead to mold, or a malfunctioning heating system.

See What You Need to Know About Home Inspections When Buying a House for more details.

Real Estate Purchase Agreements in South Carolina

A purchase agreement is a legal document that contains the material terms and conditions of your real estate transaction. It must be in writing and signed by the parties (buyers and sellers) to the contract, and include an offer to sell or purchase, an acceptance of the offer, the sale price, and an adequate description of the property.

Title Issues in South Carolina

A buyer should always obtain a title search from a title company before purchasing a home. The title company searches public records and other sources for any liens, easements (such as the utility company’s right to access part of the property), or other encumbrances or title restrictions that may affect the property. If the title search locates problems, the buyer should require the seller to correct those problems as a condition to closing.

You should also consider purchasing a title insurance policy to protect the title to the property against adverse claims by third parties, or any clouds on the title missed by the title search. Mortgage companies usually require buyers to purchase a title insurance policy in connection with obtaining a mortgage.

For more details on title insurance, escrow, and closing, see Sandy Gadow’s website, Buying, Selling, and Closing Simplified, which includes a state-by-state guide to closing practices.

Working With a Lawyer in South Carolina

Unlike many states, South Carolina requires sellers to involve a lawyer in the house-selling transaction. The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that an attorney must oversee real estate closings. For details on these cases, see State v. Buyers Service Co., 357 S.E.2d 15 (S.C. 1986); In re Lester, 578 S.E.2d 7 (S.C. 2003); In re Pstrak, 591 S.E.2d 623 (S.C. 2003).

Check out Nolo’s Lawyer Directory, to find an experienced real estate attorney in South Carolina.

More Information on Buying a House

The Buying a House section on Nolo.com includes a variety of useful articles on all aspects of the house buying process, including advice on getting a mortgage, figuring out what price, contingencies, and other terms to offer, arranging home inspections, and closing the deal.

For detailed information on every phase of buying a home, from figuring out your needs and what you can afford to doing the final walkthrough and attending the closing, see Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, by Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart.

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