If you’ve ever bought a house, you know that it’s a complex process managed by innumerable laws and regulations. At Bavagnoli & Bavagnoli, we have been specializing in real estate law for over 25 years and have decades of experience when it comes to issues you might face when buying or selling a home. Below, I’ll describe some of the most common obstacles that can lead to legal troubles, and some of the reasons you may want to reach out to a real estate lawyer serving Passaic County.
1. Contract Errors
All real estate transactions are accompanied by a mountain of paperwork. If you’ve been renting for most of your life and are buying your first home, the dozen page lease agreement is nothing compared to the paperwork you’ll encounter when buying a home.
Because of the large amounts of paperwork, most real estate agents will use boilerplate forms throughout the purchase process. While these forms are faster to prepare, the speed at which they can be completed can also lead to errors. Whether you are the buyer or the seller, make sure things like your full name, tax status, income, and other details are accurate.
Errors in contracts and documents are generally easy to fix, but it is essential that you catch them. That means you must be vigilant and carefully read each document you sign, even if the paperwork is extensive. If an error is missed, it can hold up the entire home buying process and potentially harm your likelihood of being approved for a loan, successfully closing on your dream home, or being able to sell your existing home.
Also keep in mind that if you are the seller, after you receive your initial contract offer you are allowed a three-day review period. At this point, you may want to hire a Passaic County real estate attorney to look over the contract and ensure that it’s free of errors and legally binding.
2. Failure to Disclose
One of the first documents a buyer will see in the process of buying a home is the disclosure. The disclosure will detail anything that is wrong with the house, and is given to the buyer before they make their initial offer.
What is listed in the disclosure could very well might affect how much you’re willing to pay for the house or whether you want to buy it at all. If you can’t afford a new roof or electrical wiring, but the disclosure says the home is in need of these things, you clearly want to know this before making an offer.
Aa the seller, you are legally obligated to disclose all problems with the home that you are aware of; if you’re in doubt about whether to disclose it, put it on the disclosure agreement. If a new homebuyer discovers a problem with the home, even after they have bought it, they may have the legal right to cancel the transaction. Being honest upfront will not only save you legal trouble down the road, but earning the buyer’s trust will make the transaction go more smoothly.
3. Real Estate Agents Out for Themselves
A real estate transaction doesn’t just involve the buyer and seller; buying or selling a house involves a team of specialists, including the lender, underwriter, home inspector, and—perhaps most importantly—the real estate agent.
Real estate agents have a robust code of ethics designed to keep your interests central, whether you’re buying or selling. However, real estate agents are paid on commission, and typically only get paid if they make the sale, so you’ll want to be sure they’re not just pushing a sale for their own financial motivations.
One of the most common lawsuits we see in court is what is known as breach of duty. Real estate agents are legally mandated to act in the best interest of the client. Any breach of this duty, whether it is unintentional or intentional, can be grounds for a lawsuit. Whether you are the buyer or the seller, if you feel that your real estate agent is not acting in your best interest, it is important to bring it up to avoid future legal problems.
Another common reason lawsuits are filed against real estate agents is negligence, or failing to exercise due care toward clients that a reasonable person would extend. If a buyer claims that their agent should have known something but didn’t, and failed to act appropriately, a lawsuit could be on the table. For example, if an agent fails to notice a sure sign of a crumbling foundation, doesn’t disclose it, and the buyer learns about it after the sale, they can sue.
One way to avoid this scenario is by doing your research before working with a real estate agent, such as asking friends and family to recommend an agent they’ve worked with.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Do you always need a lawyer to resolve issues during a real estate transaction? Not necessarily, but it depends on the situation. Many of these problems are routine and won’t require legal expertise to resolve, but every case is different, and if you find that you cannot resolve an issue on your own, it may be time to talk with an attorney.
If you run into one of the more intricate or contentious issues that comes up when buying or selling a home, a real estate attorney in Passaic County may be able to help. At Bavagnoli & Bavagnoli, we understand real estate is complex, and we’re prepared to work with you on any issues in the buying or selling process. Buying or selling a home is a huge undertaking, and we will stand by you every step of the way.
Get in touch for a free consultation at (973) 785-9522.