first time home buyers
By Susan Meacham, paralegal. October 2014.

“We’re so excited – we just signed the contract for our first house……” We know how to help first time home buyers face the many unexpected situations that can arise on the journey from contract signing to moving day.

First Priority

The first priority is to make sure that your attorney gets a copy of the fully signed contract immediately so that the attorney review process can begin within the deadline. During this process, your attorney may seek to add language to the contract which would address a possible scenario that you might not have seen a need for. Remember, your attorney’s representation of you includes anticipating possible complication before or at closing, and proper document drafting during attorney review helps ensure that your rights can be easily determined and protected, if necessary, further along in the process.

Rural properties quite often have private wells, septic systems, and even a few cesspools, and we add language to ensure that septic repairs or replacements are performed not only to local code, but also to address the Hunterdon Highlands requirements. Underground oil storage tanks (“UST’s”) were still being installed into the 1960’s and 70’s, and we do run across properties where these UST’s are no longer used, but have never been properly removed or remediated. During Attorney Review, we modify the contract to ensure that our clients who purchase are protected if the Sellers cannot or will not have this removal or remediation completed with all necessary permitting and testing. Sometimes older homes also have abandoned cisterns or dry wells that must be remediated, and similar protections for our Buyers can be added during attorney review.

Obtaining Permits

One of the most difficult things for a Buyer to know is whether or not their Seller obtained permits for work done on the property. We always require that the Seller certify to and provide proof of repairs requiring permits. While you may think it doesn’t matter now, when you go to sell your property, your purchaser will likely require this information from you. And once you own your home, make sure you consult your municipality about whether or not permits are needed for any repairs, alterations or additions, and be sure to keep copies of all documentation for future use.

Before You Sign Your Contract

Make sure you really look at all community aspects before you sign your contract. Check the local municipality for pending improvements or proposed utility easements. Thoroughly research the surrounding schools, houses of worship, playgrounds, and libraries. Bring any information to your attorney’s attention right away, because attorney review is the time in which you may cancel for any reason or no reason.

Radon readings above the DEP standard limit are common in Hunterdon and Warren counties, due to the high concentrations of natural radon gas. Most new homes are built with remediation systems, and Sellers of older homes can usually have radon remediation systems installed prior to closing.

Finally, people occasionally question the value of title insurance, especially if they purchase a property with cash. The costs of a title search and owner’s title policy are monies well spent. Your title search will give you a full picture of the title history of your home, and title insurance covers you for any claims or legal fees from errors or omission, including unpaid real estate taxes or liens that were not satisfied against a previous owner.

We understand that your new home is unique, and our years of experience give us the tools to make sure your purchase goes smoothly. Please consider retaining Kilcommons Law to represent you in the sale or purchase of your home.

BE ADVISED that these comments are not legal opinions and are not to be relied upon as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact me to discuss the specifics of your dispute and agreement or contact your county bar association and ask for a referral.


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