Q: What should I know about New Jersey laws before I purchase a home?
Buying a house in NJ for the first time is a major life milestone. When you buy your first home, it is exciting and can give you a sense of accomplishment. Since purchasing a home is likely one of the largest financial transactions that you have made, it may make sense for you to get a lawyer to buy a house.
An attorney may provide guidance on what to know about NJ laws when buying a house so that you might avoid making costly mistakes. Here are a few laws that can help you to understand what to expect.
NJ Attorney Review Period
New Jersey is one of the attorney review states, which means that a real estate attorney helps to complete the transaction. Once an offer is made and accepted, the attorney review period will begin.
The attorney review period is a 72-hour time period during which the lawyers for the buyers and sellers will review and negotiate the sales contracts.
During this time period, either you or the seller can propose changes to the contract terms.
If you are unable to come to an agreement, you can walk away from the sale without facing a penalty during this 72-hour time period.
Payment Of Deposits
Once the contract is signed and agreed, you will then make a good-faith deposit payable to the seller’s lawyer or broker. The remainder of your earnest money must be paid by the time that is specified in your contract.
Inspections And Disclosures
New Jersey law does not specify that sellers have to make certain disclosures. However, courts have established some obligations in an effort to protect buyers. In New Jersey, sellers are obligated to disclose hidden defects that are material and that the sellers know about.
For example, if a seller knows that the roof leaks during heavy rain, the seller should inform you of this. If a seller makes false statements about the condition of the property, the seller may later be sued.
It is important for you to complete several inspections of the home that you are considering. When your transaction is large, it is not a good idea to simply take the seller’s word at face value.
Your mortgage lender is likely to require a general inspection of the home. You might also want to ask for other inspections, including the following:
- Termite inspection
- Asbestos inspection
- Radon inspection
- Lead paint inspection
The additional inspections that you might request will depend on the age of the home and its location.
You may also need to obtain several certifications from the seller under New Jersey law. These include the following:
- Well certification for homes with buried wells
- Buried oil tank certification
- Certificate of occupancy
- Septic tank certification
- Flood search
If any of the inspections reveal issues, your attorney can assist you with negotiating for repairs or a corresponding reduction in the price.
The mortgage process proceeds at the same time as the other parts of the transaction process. You start by submitting your mortgage application to your lender.
Your lender will give you a good faith estimate of the closing costs within three days. You will then need to send in your financial disclosures. If you are approved, you will receive a loan commitment letter.
The lender will then order an appraisal. If your appraisal is less than the purchase price, the lender may decline your mortgage or require that the purchase price is adjusted down. Finally, you will need to purchase homeowner’s insurance.
The Closing Process
Before the closing, your lawyer to buy a house will conduct a title search. This is to make sure that the title does not have any encumbrances.
If the title is clear, your closing will be scheduled. Your attorney will then prepare the paperwork to change the title of the home to your name as well as title insurance. The final cash amount will be calculated.
Before the closing, you will be able to do a final walkthrough. At the closing, you will sign all of the paperwork, and your attorney will then record your deed and the transaction on your behalf.
Buying a house in NJ for the first time can be exhilarating. To avoid potentially costly issues, you might benefit by consulting with a real estate lawyer.
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