Buying a House? Read the Small Print

Your New Home signAnyone who has ever bought a house knows that the paperwork involved can be a bit overwhelming. (Seriously, who doesn’t silently groan when handed a pile of dense legalese?)

Purchase and Sale contracts, mortgage terms, title searches, survey details, HUD statements, mortgage loan notes and closing documents – all are complicated and can be difficult to understand.

But being an informed consumer is critically important when purchasing real estate.

Buying a home is one of the most significant financial decisions most people make. And just because the person handing you the papers to sign gives you an overview of what’s involved doesn’t mean you have all the facts you need to make a good decision.

Be a Well Informed Home Buyer

The recent housing crisis certainly showed how badly this can play out for consumers. And a recent example in the news here in Palm Beach County involved the fact that a developer severed the mineral rights to the land under the homes it was selling. The homeowners involved were seemingly unaware of that at the time, but apparently it was in the fine print of the documents they signed.

So what do you do if you aren’t a lawyer, title expert or just hate to read the fine print?

Ask Questions

Start with asking as many questions as you need to in order to feel you’re well informed. And stick with those questions until you are comfortable with the answers.

For example:

  • What happens to your deposit money if you miss a contract deadline?
  • Under what circumstances can you cancel the purchase?
  • What do the terms “As Is Sale” really mean for you?
  • What happens if you need to change the closing date?
  • If it’s a Short Sale and it is dragging on endlessly, can you get your deposit back?
  • What fees are being charged by your mortgage lender & who is paying them?
  • If your mortgage approval expires because closing is delayed, what can you do?
  • Who is responsible for clearing liens on a foreclosure property when you buy it?

Get the Advice You Need

Spending more money when purchasing a house isn’t usually appealing, but hiring a real estate attorney or other suitable professional to watch out for your interests can be a really smart move.

Real estate agents, mortgage brokers, bankers and title company staff are not there to give you legal advice about your particular circumstances. In fact, unless someone is an attorney they generally are prohibited by law from giving you “legal” advice. Their primary role is to handle the transaction and assist with negotiating and closing your purchase.

So avoid unintended financial and legal consequences by taking whatever steps you deem necessary to make sure your interests are protected. It’s your money and your new home – get the answers you need from the professionals involved so the purchase goes smoothly and suits your needs.