Legal Aspects of Selling and Buying a Home You Should Be Aware Of

Even so, you’ll probably want to use a specialist real estate attorney to ensure that everything proceeds legally: after all, you don’t want to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars, only to learn that you don’t legally own your new home at all.

It’s still helpful to have a good grasp of key legal aspects of selling and buying, so you understand what your attorney is doing.

If you want to avoid using an attorney at all, you’ll need to make sure you have crucial documentation in place.

Legal Responsibilities as a Seller

As a seller, it’s important that you:

#1: Disclose Any Known Problems (Even Minor Ones) With the House

Your buyers will probably only tour the house a handful of times before buying, and even a survey may not pick up every issue. It’s important to disclose problems (e.g. leaks, any pests, issues with the plumbing, building code violations, etc) at an early stage in the process.

If you don’t disclose problems, you could open yourself up to a lawsuit from your buyers. Different states have different guidance on exactly what should be disclosed, so look up what’s required in your state … and if in doubt, err on the side of disclosing everything.

#2: Ensure You Can Close on the Agreed Date

You and the buyer should have a contract (even if it’s one agreed between yourselves rather than via your attorneys) that details an agreed-on date when you will close the deal.

If you aren’t able to meet this deadline, it’s a breach of contract, and your buyer could potentially claim for damages – e.g. if they had to rent a different house for two weeks while you finally moved out.

Use an Attorney if It’s Required by Your Stage

A number of states require you to use a real estate attorney for at least some parts of the selling process – you can find a list of these here. Note this doesn’t mean you need to use a real estate agent, and you may still be able to carry out some of the process yourself.

Legal Responsibilities as a Buyer

When you’re buying a property, you need to:

Pay a Deposit Upon Agreeing an Offer/Contract

This will normally be put into a trust account by your real estate agent (realtor), or held by an escrow company.

While it’s not a legal requirement that you must provide a deposit in order to buy a house, it’s very likely to be a requirement of the contract you’re signing. This means you need to make sure you have the funds in place in time.

Ensure You Can Close on the Agreed Date

Your seller isn’t going to be happy if they pack everything up ready to move to their new home … only to find that you don’t have the finance in place to close the deal. In most cases, the seller needs that money so that they can pay it to their seller and move.

It’s crucial to arrange your mortgage (or any other financing you’re using) well ahead of time, to avoid any last-minute disruption. Otherwise, the seller could sue you for damages.

Use an Attorney if It’s Required by Your Stage

Again, your state may require you to use an attorney when buying a house. If that’s the case, make sure you get one in place. As the buyer, you’ll probably want to consider getting your attorney to help with issues like ensuring that any necessary disclosures from your seller have taken place.

Ultimately, the simplest way to sell your home and buy a new one is to rely on the expertise of a real estate agent and a real estate attorney. Moving house is stressful enough, without adding lots of legal headaches into things!

If your sale is likely to be straightforward, though, and you’re keen to save some cash, you can make do without a real estate agent. In most states, you can also dispense with an attorney (though you may want to consult one for peace of mind). Just make sure you’re aware of the legal issues outlined above.

About Author: Stewart is a full-time content creator working with LegalZoom. In his free time, he enjoys playing football and reading books.