Let's Buy a House in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is home to lakes, fish boils and a rich diversity of cultures, making it a welcoming place to find a house. Before beginning your search for a Wisconsin house, be aware of the legal issues involved in a residential real estate transaction, such as disclosures, obtaining clear title, removing liens and encumbrances, and dealing with zoning issues, assessments, taxes and other legal matters.
The Resourcefulness of a Real Estate Agent
A professional real estate agent can be invaluable in helping you find the right home for you, as well as advising you and handling the vast paperwork involved in any house transaction.
Working with a real estate agent offers homebuyers a wealth of resources and benefits such as the following:
- Performing an in-depth analysis of the community
- Matching homes to your needs and goals
- Warning against unsound deals
- Seeing what loans you qualify for and what you can afford
- Knowledge of median home prices and market conditions
- Preparing a viable offer
- Negotiating a satisfactory transaction
One way to find a real estate agent for your desired area is to locate the major companies or get recommendations on independent agencies from friends, relatives or other professionals and see how many property listings are allocated to the agents. Find a full-time agent who has a flexible marketing plan and a track record of success.
Wisconsin statutes requires sellers to disclose certain things to you. Sellers are required deliver to buyers a Real Estate Condition Report prior to a written offer, which includes some of the following:
- Encroachments, easements and restrictive covenants
- Structural integrity
- Water issues
- Soil and drainage
- Environmental risks
- Hazardous or defective conditions
- Zoning, tax issues and special assessments
- Appliances, heating, plumbing and electrical systems
- Systems and fixtures
- Lead-based paint for homes built before 1978
A purchase agreement is a binding enforceable document to buy and sell a home that contains the material terms and conditions of your real estate transaction.
Purchasing agreements in Wisconsin must include the following:
- Purchase price
- Final agency acknowledgment
- Names and addresses of the parties
- Date and place of closing
- Duration of the offer
- Condition of the property
- Property limitations
- Financing and terms
Before closing on your home, you need to have an independent home inspection performed by a registered or licensed home inspector to be sure no material defects exist and to ensure that the house meets building safety codes. An inspection is not a code inspection or an appraisal, however. A failure to inspect could leave you with no legal remedy against the seller.
An inspection should be conducted to look for the following issues:
- Termites and other pests
- Existence of radon
- Exterior including driveway, decks, doors and walls
- Gas leaks
- Foundation and structural integrity
- Heating and cooling system, electrical, plumbing, walls, drainage, basement and flooring
Wisconsin requires home inspectors to be licensed. Requirements include 40 hours of course work, completion as a registered home inspector of 100 home inspections for compensation and successful completion of an examination by the Applied Measurement Professionals Inc. You can find licensed inspectors through the American Home Inspectors Directory or Inspector Database.
Getting Valid Legal Title
Title searches are conducted by title companies or attorneys that search for proof that encumbrances are satisfied and for the presence of easements, rights-of-way, tax liens and any CC&Rs, or covenants, conditions and restrictions that could affect title to the property.
Title insurance is required by all banks and lenders to guarantee to buyers that the seller is giving them good title and to protect them against any losses from defective titles that were unknown at the time of sale. It ensures there are no other claims against the property such as liens, building restrictions or other encumbrances.
Help from a Real Estate Lawyer
Wisconsin real estate laws are complicated, and each transaction has unique issues. This article only provides a brief introduction to this topic and is not intended to be inclusive. Consult a real estate lawyer for legal advice.