- Of Counsel
Once a contract is signed by buyer and seller, the parties have three days to have the contract reviewed by an attorney. This three-day time frame is the attorney review (AR) 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 purchase, review your mortgage loan documents, obtain title searches and address any title issues, keep you informed of deadlines, and facilitate closing of your mortgage loan and title to your new home.
An experienced real estate professional is a valuable resource for a buyer. Finding a realtor who knows the areas you are considering and is committed to helping you find a home that meets your needs and expectations is a key decision for any buyer. Realtors provide background about communities, including information about schools, taxes and local zoning issues. They also narrow down the search for homes in your price range with your desired features, assist with the offer process and negotiations, and offer data on local market conditions and comparable sales.
A pre-approval letter can be issued to a potential buyer before the buyer starts searching for a home. This letter shows sellers that the buyer is serious and qualified. A buyer is not obligated to obtain a mortgage from the lender that issues the letter. It simply gives buyer an idea of the amount of mortgage financing for which the buyer is qualified.
Once there is a binding contract, a buyer has a certain amount of time within which to obtain a mortgage commitment (this is not the pre-approval). Having paperwork in order makes the mortgage application and commitment process go more smoothly. When you begin your search for a new home, shop around for interest rates, speak with different lenders about closing costs, and organize paperwork such as tax returns, pay stubs, and bank and investment account statements. When a buyer applies for a mortgage, the lender will provide a good faith estimate of closing costs so that buyer may budget accordingly.
It is customary for buyers to make a good faith deposit of approximately $1,000 at the time the contract is signed and an additional deposit within a week or so after the end of attorney review.
While your attorney will likely suggest modifications to the contract during the attorney review period, knowing the terms that are negotiable and any that might be deal-breakers at the time you make an offer will avoid future misunderstandings. For example, consider your preferred closing date, deposit amount, mortgage amount, fixtures and appliances included and excluded from the sale, and any special contingencies you may require such as a house sale contingency. Which terms are sticking points for you? Which terms are you willing and able to negotiate?
While sellers of residential real estate in New Jersey are not legally required to complete the Disclosure, a seller has a duty to disclose known defects and may be liable for misrepresentations. Most sellers will not object to providing it, and having the Disclosure is helpful to buyers and their home inspectors.
Even if a Seller’s Disclosure Statement is provided, buyer should ask for information and representations from seller about issues impacting the structural and environmental safety and integrity of the property. Such issues include the existence of underground storage tanks, radon, mold, asbestos, lead paint, EIFS siding, water infiltration and damage, and wood-boring insects. A buyer will want to know if seller is aware of any past remediation of any of these issues and ask for documentation of the same. Buyer will also want to know whether seller obtained required permits and approvals for alterations and improvements to the property and request copies of these documents. There may also be existing warranties on appliances and major systems as well as transferrable service warranties.
Once out of AR, buyer has a limited time period within which to obtain inspections of the property and ask seller to address any issues. Typical inspections include structural, mechanical, radon, pest, lead paint (if the house was built prior to 1978), well, and septic. Sometimes further inspections are necessary, such as for mold, asbestos and underground storage tanks. If the municipality where the property is located requires a certificate of occupancy upon resale, the seller ordinarily obtains the municipal inspection and is responsible for addressing any code violations. All sellers must obtain municipal certifications for smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.
When considering a property, inquire about any issues impacting title such as encroachments, easements, and restrictions. Once a contract is finalized, buyer’s attorney will order title searches which will reveal any issues with the title, but asking about any known title issues in advance may eliminate surprises.
If the home is governed by an association, Buyer should request an opportunity to review all governing documents, as well as information about association dues and assessments.
Sharon A. Dragan has been named Director and Shareholder with Mason, Griffin & Pierson. Sharon received a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law where she served as Bureau Editor for the Seton Hall Legislative Bureau and is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She practices in the areas of local government law, zoning and land use law, real estate law, and estate law. Sharon is Attorney for the Township of Readington, Attorney for Alexandria Township, Attorney for Delaware Township and Attorney for Special Open Space Counsel of West Amwell Township. In her continued service to the legal profession, Sharon served on the District XIII Ethics Committee for several years, the committee that acts as the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in discharging the Court's constitutional responsibility to supervise and discipline New Jersey attorneys. Sharon is a Trustee of the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, a professional organization with the purpose of promoting education and professionalism among local government attorneys. She is a member of the Hunterdon County, New Jersey State and Pennsylvania State Bar Associations.
Mason, Griffin & Pierson continues its support of youth basketball programs in the community. For more information on the Dillon Youth Basketball League go to the Princeton Recreation Department at www.leaguelineup.com
For information on the Montgomery Basketball Association go to www.montgomerybasketball.com
In May of this year, New Jersey joined the growing number of states to enact paid sick leave laws. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act is currently in effect and below you will find certain information that is important for all New Jersey employers to understand.
Who Does it Affect?
The Act applies to New Jersey employers of all sizes, including businesses that are based elsewhere but have employees located in New Jersey. While several New Jersey municipalities already had paid sick leave ordinances, this new state law preempts them, meaning they no longer apply and employers throughout the state are now subject to one consistent set of requirements.
The Act does not apply to a few narrow categories of employees: (1) construction industry employees working under collective bargaining agreements; (2) per diem health care employees; or (3) public employees who are already provided with sick leave with full pay pursuant to any other state law, rule, or regulation.
Mason, Griffin & Pierson is pleased to sponsor Montgomery Township Education Foundation. The Foundation's fundraiser takes place on the evening of February 23 at Cherry Valley Country Club in Skillman, New Jersey. The Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization set up to support strategic programs for the benefit of the Montgomery Township public school children.
For more information go to one.bidpal.net/mtefcomedynight