Residential Real Estate Purchases

INTRODUCTION

          The law offices of Pun & Associates provide legal representation to individuals or entities that are looking to purchase residential real estate.  In this context, residential real estate means a property that is classified by the municipal building department to be occupied by one to three families.  Potential buyers of residential real estate may be looking to purchase property as a primary residence, a seasonal home or, in the case of a two or three family residence, as a primary residence and an income generating property to assist in defraying the monthly costs of owning the property.  Potential buyers may also wish to purchase residential real estate strictly as an investment property where the buyer or buyers do not plan to reside at the property to be purchased and may be looking to own the property for either a long or short term.  Potential short term owners typically look to sell the property at a profit within a year of acquiring the property.

          The law offices of Pun & Associates takes pride in providing quality legal services and representation to individuals or entities who are looking to purchase residential real estate, whether as a primary residence or as an investment property in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.  The New York and New Jersey metropolitan area shall comprise of all five boroughs of New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties in Long Island, Rockland and Westchester counties in New York State, along with all New Jersey counties.

          If you are a first-time buyer of residential real estate or if you have already purchased real estate and you have pinpointed a residential property to purchase, Pun & Associates will represent you in the purchasing process.  Our dedicated staff and experienced attorneys will help make the purchasing process as streamlined and as stress-free as possible.  You should know that, in the event you will need financing to purchase the property, it is reasonable to expect the closing of your property to take 2-3 months after the signing of the contract of sale.

          As buying residential real estate is a complex transaction, it is always advisable that you obtain the representation of an attorney to safeguard your rights and clarify your responsibilities during the purchase of residential real estate.  We, at Pun & Associates, will be with you every step of the way from the signing of the contract through to the closing of the property.  

PRIOR TO SIGNING THE CONTRACT OF SALE

          In your search for the right residential property to purchase you have probably done online research, looked through newspapers and magazines, or enlisted the assistance of a real estate broker’s office, such as Century 21, Re/Max or a locally based brokerage.  You will have found a property or a few properties that you are interested in potentially buying.  You will have made known to the owners of properties that you are interested in buying what your best offer to purchase is with the hopes that at least one owner accepts your offer to purchase.  In time, you will find out that one owner accepted your offered purchase price.  It is possible that more than one owner accepted your offered purchase price.  In that case, you will choose the property that you like best, that fits your and your family’s needs and is in a neighborhood that you and your family will feel the most comfortable in.

          Once you have pinpointed a property and you have an owner willing to sell to you at the purchase price you offered, you should enlist the services of a real estate attorney.  If the seller or seller’s real estate broker gives you a contract of sale for you to sign, do not sign it until you have had an attorney review the contract for you to make sure it is a fair and equitable contract.  At this particular time, you must also be aware that time is of the essence to obtain a fully signed contract.  It is very possible that the seller may have multiple offers to sell from multiple prospective buyers and is looking to sell for the best price the seller can get.  In such a situation, the seller agreed to your purchase price but is not required to sell you the property at that price as long as there is not a signed contract between you and the seller.  The seller could eventually accept a better offer to purchase from someone else and sign a contract with that buyer and leaving you with no property to purchase and restarting the search for a new property.

          This is not to say that you should rush to sign a contract, but that before you sign a contract, you should have an attorney review the contract terms and conditions with you so that you know exactly what you are purchasing.  In addition, you should obtain a home inspection of the property prior to signing the contract of sale because most contracts specify that the sale of the property is being sold on an “As Is” basis.  This means that the property is being sold in its current condition without the seller being responsible for any repairs that may be needed on or inside the property.  The inspection report will disclose the defects, if any, to the property.  The experienced attorneys at Pun & Associates will advise you as to which defects should be addressed by the seller, either by repairing the defect(s) or providing a fair monetary credit for future repair.  Such terms for repair or credit will be added to the contract of sale.    

THE CONTRACT SIGNING

          During the modification of the contract of sale, there may be multiple changes to the contract proposed by your attorney and seller’s attorney.  The experienced attorneys at Pun & Associates will provide you with the guidance that you need and will make whatever changes are necessary to the contract to protect your rights and interests.  Our attorneys will not have you sign the contract until we are certain that the terms and conditions are fair to you.  The office of Pun & Associates will then send the contract of sale to the seller’s attorney’s office for the seller’s signature.

          Once the contract of sale and its modifications, if any, are signed by you and the seller, there is a binding contract between you and the seller.  You will have to pay the down payment, typically 10% of the purchase price.  The down payment will be sent by your attorney to the seller’s attorney to be held in the seller’s attorney’s escrow account.

          If you are not using your own money to pay for the entire purchase price, then you will need to obtain a mortgage loan.  The amount of time typically given to buyers to obtain a mortgage commitment from an institutional lender after the contract of sale is finalized is forty-five (45) days.  The law offices of Pun & Associates will periodically communicate with you to see how you are progressing with your mortgage search.  If, after dealing with a bank or several banks, you believe you will need more time than the time given in the contract to get a mortgage commitment, you should immediately inform your attorney.  Your attorney will then attempt to have the seller’s attorney agree to an extension of time.

          Assuming you have obtained your mortgage commitment, your attorney will then order what is called a title insurance commitment with a title insurance company.  The title commitment, gives the attorney all the necessary information to determine whether the seller owns the property without any issues or conditions that may cause the seller to not be in position to grant to you complete ownership of the property.  If any title issues are present, the law offices of Pun & Associates will work hard and communicate thoroughly with the title company to make sure any and all title issues are resolved prior to the closing.

         Please note that there are costs involved in obtaining a mortgage commitment and a title commitment.  Please refer to our section entitled “Purchase Closing Costs” for an understanding as to the amount of costs you should figure to pay in relation to your purchase of residential real estate.     

CLEARING TITLE AND PREPARING FOR CLOSING

          Prior to closing, any issues pertaining to seller’s title as disclosed on the title report must first be cleared.  This will constitute a large portion of the time between contract signing and closing.  Once your attorney has determined that title is clear, you are now progressing well towards the purchase of your residential property.  As part of obtaining a title commitment, your attorney will help you order a land survey of the property you are going to purchase.  Obtaining a survey when you purchase a property is essential in that the survey will provide you a view of your property’s dimensions and whether your property encroaches on neighboring property or if any neighboring property encroaches upon your property.  Any encroachments of twelve inches or less are usually considered minor enough to not be of any concern.

          As the days go by, you will wait for your mortgage lender to inform you whether the loan is ready for closing.  During such time, your attorney should be periodically calling or emailing your lender’s representative to inquire of the status of your mortgage loan.  During such time, your lender may ask you to provide more documents to it so that they can go forward with their procedures to make a final determination on whether the loan may go forward to closing.  It is important to note that, while you may have a mortgage commitment, you will have to fulfill your lender’s document requests prior to the scheduling of your loan for closing.  If you do not provide the documentation that your lender requires, your loan file will be closed out and cancelled by the lender and you will likely not be able to complete the purchase of the property.  Your down payment to the seller may also be in jeopardy.  Your lender may require copies of past years tax returns and W-9’s or 1099’s.  Your lender may require several months of bank account statements.  Your lender may also require a current letter from your employer that confirms your employment and your pay level.  Those are some of the types of documents lenders request from prospective borrowers.

          Eventually, assuming that you have satisfied the lender’s requirements, you should receive your lender’s approval to close.  Your attorney should have received the same notification that the mortgage is ready to close.   At that time, your attorney will contact the seller’s attorney and the lender to coordinate a closing date and time.  Once a date and time is agreed upon, you should schedule a walkthrough of the property with the seller and real estate agents present, at least 24 hours before the closing date.  A walkthrough is what the word implies.  It is an informal observation of the property to see if the physical condition of the property is acceptable and to see if the plumbing, electrical and heating/cooling systems are all functional.  You should bring with you a camera or camera phone to take pictures of anything that appears to not be in an acceptable condition.  In the event there are issues with the condition of the property and/or any system within the property, you are to advise your attorney as soon as possible so that your attorney may discuss and negotiate with the seller’s attorney as to what should be done at closing to address the issues.  Usually a credit is given to the buyer in an amount of the reasonably expected cost of repair or replacement of the issues.

CLOSING DAY

          Assuming that the issues found in the walkthrough have been sufficiently addressed to your liking, the closing will happen within the next two days.  At least three days prior to closing, your attorney and the seller’s attorney will communicate to determine financial adjustments for the closing and whether either you or seller or both, are entitled to any credits for taxes, water or sewage charges paid to date.

          When the adjustments are finalized, your attorney will have already obtained from your lender, the net proceeds available for your loan.  The net proceeds shall be the amount of your loan less any bank fees and prepaid interest and any bank attorney’s fees that you will be responsible for.  In almost all New York closings a bank attorney representing the lender shall be present to provide the mortgage documents for signature and to ensure that the lender’s closing requirements are met.

          Your attorney shall take the net proceeds and subtract that number from the amount of money that is due to the seller, taking into account any and all adjustments.  The number that results from this equation will be the amount of money that you are to bring to closing.  Your attorney will instruct you as to the amounts and payee of each check you are to bring to the closing.  The attorney will instruct you as to which checks are to be official bank checks and which can be checks drawn from your personal checking account.  Moreover, you should bring your personal checkbook with you to closing as minor further adjustments or minor title bill adjustments may be disclosed at the closing table.

          It is now closing day and you are about to consummate, what is perhaps your most important purchase in your life up to now.  Assuming that all of the lender’s requirements are met, all issues regarding the property have been resolved, Title Company has given to you and the bank title insurance, then the checks that you brought to closing and any additional checks, if any, made at the closing table may be given to the proper recipients.  At that time, the seller will give you a deed that gives you ownership of the property you desired.  Congratulations, you are now a homeowner! 

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