Buying a home can be a big step toward financial and physical security. To make sure your investment and your home stay safe, there are a number of steps, such as disclosures, purchase agreements and title insurance — you must take. Tennessee laws also outline what buyers and sellers must do. Taking time to become familiar with the process will pay off as you begin your home search.

Assisstance from a Real Estate Agent

Most people turn to trained professionals for help buying a home. A real estate agent can assist in a number of ways, from tracking down houses you might be interested in to aiding in negotiations. The Tennessee Department of Commerce offers a searchable data base that will help you find an agent.

Proper Disclosures

In most situations, state law requires that sellers make buyers aware of anything wrong with the property, such as problems with the floors or foundation. In fact, it's illegal to hide a problem serious enough that it would cause a buyer to think twice about purchasing the home.

The Realty Association provides a sample form as part of its guide to disclosure and inspections. The brochure offers an overview of what information you can expect. Tennessee law allows buyers to waive disclosure, though doing so usually isn't in a buyer's best interests.

Outlining Details in a Purchase Agreement

Once you find a home, outline details such as financing plans and whether the sale includes furniture or fixtures in a purchase agreement. Review a sample agreement to become familiar with the document.

The Value of a Home Inspection

An inspection reveals any problems with the home, including some the seller might not have known about. Inspections typically look at structure, mechanical systems and more. The American Society of Home Inspectors offers tips on hiring an inspector.

A Title Search is Required

A title search is required to see if there are any other legal claims to the property such as encroachments or liens. Though buyers can conduct their own title searches, the process can be painstaking and time consuming. Help from a lawyer or title company can be invaluable.

Your lender will require title insurance to protect it if problems crop up later, but that policy only covers the lender. If you want to make sure you're protected, buy a separate policy.

Handling Short Sales and Foreclosures

Buyers often find bargains in foreclosed homes or ones whose owners are on the brink. Foreclosed properties in Tennessee are auctioned "as is" at the courthouse. The highest bid wins, though the sheriff can set a minimum price of at least half the property's fair market value. Under state law, the original owner has up to two years to pay off the loan and take back the property, though that right usually is waived in the sales agreement.

In a short sale, the owners obtain the lender's permission to sell the house for less than they owe on the loan. The buyer and seller can't share close business or family ties.

Why You Should Contact a Lawyer

State real estate laws are complicated, and every home buying situation is unique. For legal advice specific to your upcoming transaction, you should speak with a Tennessee real estate attorney or law firm.

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