Buying your first home can be both an exciting and stressful experience. While home ownership is, to many, the height of financial success, the process of purchasing a home has many traps for the unwary.
As a lawyer involved in real estate litigation, my cases generally come to me when things go wrong. Here, I want to share some legal tips for buying your first home that can help avoid these pitfalls and make the experience as easy as possible.
Review Your Finances With a Financial Expert Prior to Purchasing a Home
A large portion of my practice consists of foreclosure defense. While I have helped many, many homeowners save their homes from foreclosure, I always maintain that the best way to beat foreclosure is to avoid it in the first place. With this in mind, a potential home buyer should always speak with a financial expert prior to making an offer on a home. An expert can help you identify a home that meets your budget and offer advice for covering the many expenses that come with home ownership. Buying your first home is an enormous financial investment, one that a financial expert can be a great help with.
Get Everything in Writing
Enforcing any oral promise is tough to do, for the simple reason that it is tough to prove one’s word against someone else’s. In real estate, oral promises are even more problematic due to the statute of frauds, a legal requirement that most contracts for real estate be in writing. Without such a writing, it can be difficult (and many times, impossible) to enforce an oral promise. Make sure that all matters concerning the purchase of your first home are in writing.
Give Careful Consideration to the Demands of Becoming a Landlord
When looking to purchase a home, many potential buyers are tempted to purchase homes that include a rental unit, to offset the expenses of home ownership. Rental property can be an excellent investment, but you need to give careful consideration to the demands of becoming a landlord prior to purchasing such property.
Massachusetts has many, many requirements for landlords, and the penalties for not following these laws can be disastrous. Moreover, as a landlord, you’ll be responsible for maintaining the property and addressing the problems that will come up over time. Be prepared for these responsibilities before making this commitment.
Be Wary of Buying a Home With a Non-Married Partner
For a married couple, the process of addressing “who gets the home” during a divorce is difficult enough on its own. For home owners who are not married, the process can be even more complicated. If the non-married home owners split up, and are unable to agree on what to do with the home, a partition case may become necessary: a legal proceeding where the court determines who gets what, which can be long and expensive.
With this in mind, be careful about making the commitment of purchasing a home with someone who is not your “permanent” significant other. If the relationship goes south, the process of dealing with the home can be a real hassle to resolve.
Hire a Lawyer for the Real Estate Closing
When closing on a home, hire a lawyer. Buying your first home can be a complicated process, and having an experienced attorney on your side can make the process much easier. It may be tempting to try and do this on your own, but resist this temptation! A real estate attorney will review the necessary paperwork for your purchase and ensure that nothing is missing or incorrect. The small fee for this legal service will go a long way in avoiding problems down the road.
Here’s hoping the purchase of your first home is a stress free and rewarding experience. In the event that a legal problem does arise, contact me for a consultation. The benefits of having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference in getting you the help you need.