As a home purchase can be a big step, you'll want to make sure your investment is protected. There are a number of simple things you can do—disclosures, purchase agreements and title insurance—that will increase your peace of mind.

West Virginia laws also outline what buyers and sellers must do. Familiarizing yourself with the process will pay off as you begin your home search.

Help From a Real Estate Agent

Many people turn to trained professionals when buying a home. A broker can help in a number of ways, from finding homes that might interest you, to tracking down financing possibilities and low-cost loan programs, to keeping paperwork together. The West Virginia Association of Realtors offers a searchable database that will help you find an agent from among its members.

Disclosure Information

The seller has an obligation to let the buyer know about anything wrong with the property that might not be readily noticed. Sellers who neglect to inform buyers can be sued later for the cost of repairs or, in extreme cases, punitive damages. Buyers should go over the disclosure carefully and ask the seller about any concerns. Any needed repairs can be negotiated.

Negotiating Purchase Agreements

Once you find a home, use a purchase agreement to outline details such as which side is responsible for any repairs, purchase price and crucial dates. Once it's written, the purchase agreement sets guidelines and timeframes for the rest of the process.

Finding an Inspector

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

Title Searches

Title searches make sure the seller legally owns the property and can sell it. Though it's possible with enough time and patience to conduct your own search, most people hire a lawyer or title company.

Your lender will require title insurance to protect itself if problems crops up, but that policy covers only the lender. You'll need to buy a separate policy if you want to make sure you're protected.

Dealing with Short Sales and Foreclosures

Buyers often find bargains in foreclosed homes or ones whose owners are on the brink of foreclosure.

Foreclosed properties in West Virginia are sold "as is" to the highest bidder at a public auction.

In a short sale, the owners gets the lender's permission to sell the house for less than they owe on the loan. The buyer and seller can't have close business or family ties. Sometimes, but not always, the lender will make the seller pay off the difference in the loan and the sales price.

Contact a West Virginia Attorney

State-specific residential real estate laws are complicated, and each transaction is unique. Consult with a West Virginia real estate attorney for legal advice specific to your pending transaction.

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