- Of Counsel
There are certain issues sellers of residential real estate should address prior to listing, or while showing their homes to potential buyers, that will help make the eventual sale process a more efficient and pleasant experience for all. Sellers may wish to consider the following:
A buyer will routinely ask a seller to provide copies of all permits and approvals required by law for alterations and improvements to the property. If work was done without the proper permits, obtaining the permits and approvals before entering into a contract will prevent this from becoming an issue during negotiations.
If the municipality where the property is located requires a certificate of occupancy upon resale, it is ordinarily the seller who obtains the municipal inspection and certificate. By repairing any obvious code violations, a seller will save time when it comes to the municipal inspection.
If there are any known adverse environmental conditions impacting the property, having the same remediated in advance will make the home more marketable and avoid protracted inspection negotiations. Adverse environmental conditions include radon levels exceeding acceptable limits, lead paint, underground storage tanks, asbestos and mold. If such conditions have previously been addressed, have documentation readily available to share with buyer.
Once a contract is finalized, buyer will obtain inspections of the property. Determining the condition of the major systems and features of the home in advance will make seller aware of issues that may be raised by a buyer and help seller to plan accordingly. Such items include heating and cooling systems, electrical, plumbing, septic, well, swimming pool, and roof.
By gathering existing warranties on appliances and major systems, and any transferrable service warranties in advance, sellers will have this information readily available to share with buyer.
Sellers of residential real estate are required to provide buyer with a certificate issued by the municipality that these items are in working order. Seller will save time and eliminate the need for re-inspections if seller confirms the specific requirements for placement and type of detectors with the municipal inspector, and checks that all are functioning properly before arranging inspections.
Once a contract is finalized, buyer will request that you provide copies of your deed, title policy and survey.
Sellers should gather documents that might affect title such as death certificates, powers of attorney, and divorce settlement agreements. Any judgments against you or your property must be resolved prior to closing. Mortgages and home equity loans will be paid off at closing, and seller will have to provide payoff statements on these liens, as well as stop any draws on home equity lines of credit. Sellers should gather lender contact information and account numbers on all mortgages, home equity loans, and lines of credit and provide these to their attorney before closing. Sellers should also be prepared to resolve any encroachment and boundary issues involving the property.
Buyer will likely request an opportunity to review any applicable association governing documents upon conclusion of attorney review.
Making it known in your listing which items you wish to exclude, if any, will avoid misunderstandings. Such items may include light fixtures, ceiling fans, wall sconces, window treatments and hardware, and certain appliances.
There are many experienced real estate professionals out there who will do an excellent job of marketing your property. Realtors offer valuable advice on marketing strategies, insight into current market conditions and pricing in your area, and guidance when it comes to evaluating offers and contract terms. By speaking with a few different agents prior to listing, you will be assured to find the best match for your needs and goals as a home seller.
Home staging professionals are a wonderful resource for sellers looking to showcase their homes in the best possible light. They offer recommendations designed to prepare your home for successful showings such as furniture placement, use of color and space, lighting, traffic flow, and elimination of clutter.
Once a contract is signed by seller and buyer, the parties have three days to have the contract reviewed by an attorney. This three day time frame is the attorney review period. During attorney review, your attorney will review the contract, discuss recommended modifications to the contract and any special concerns you may want to address, and disapprove of the contract in its present form subject to changes. If the contract is not reviewed and disapproved in writing within this time period, the contract becomes binding as written. Having legal representation from the start of your real estate transaction ensures that your interests are protected. Your attorney will negotiate contract and inspection issues on your behalf, make you aware of laws and regulations affecting your sale, address any title issues, keep you informed of deadlines, and facilitate your closing of title.
Trishka Waterbury Cecil, Of Counsel with the Firm, has completed her annual Year-End Law Review for 2020 (a/k/a the “Big Book”) which is now available for members on the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys (NJILGA) website: https://www.njilga.org/. At a webinar presented on November 19, 2020 at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities Virtual Conference, Trishka (NJILGA Past President) and Steve Goodell (Treasurer), highlighted and discussed selected local government cases from the past year and entertained questions and comments from attendees.
Sharon Dragan, a Director with the Firm, has recently been elected to serve as Secretary for the NJ Institute of Local Government Attorneys in 2021. For more information about the NJILGA, see
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