Real Estate FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

1. At what point in the process should you hire an attorney?

You should retain a real estate attorney at the beginning of the process; once you decide to make a real estate purchase. Real estate lawyers charge a flat fee for a transaction. It costs the same if you hire a lawyer the day before the closing or the day you start your house search. Once you retain a lawyer, you can call on him or her throughout the process.

2. How important is a building inspection report?

A building inspection report is critical for buyers of single and multifamily houses. Buyers of co-op apartments and condos generally do not need to do an inspection. The responsibility of the major systems falls on the co-op or on the condo association.

3. Do you do a home inspection before or after signing a contract?

The building inspections will reveal latent or hidden defects in the home. The condition of the house must be determined prior to signing the contracts. Once the buyer signs the contract, he/she agrees to be bound by the terms of the contract, unless otherwise stated.

4. What property is a better investment, a condo or a co-op?

Both condos and co-ops have unique features that create value. The most important feature is to find a home that is affordable and comfortable and located in an area that you like.

5. How long does it take to close after signing the contracts?

The time-frame between signing a contract and closing is 60-90 days. If you are purchasing a co-op, board approval may add 2-4 weeks to the process. If you are buying for cash, without a mortgage, the process will be shorter.

6. Should a buyer sign a binder? If so, how long is it valid?

Some brokers or sellers will request the buyer sign a binder to show good faith. A binder does not commit either the buyer or the seller legally. However, when a seller signs a binder, he/she will generally take the unit off the market for a week or so.

7. When is a 3% or 5% down payment acceptable?

The customary down payment is 10 % of the purchase price. If the buyer is seeking an FHA, or SONYMAE government insured loan, the seller will generally accept a lower down payment.

8. Under what circumstances can a buyer (or seller) get out of a contract?

A buyer can terminate a contract of sale if he/she is unable to obtain mortgage financing or board approval (if the unit is a co-op), provided the contract contains these escape provisions:

Buyer may terminate the contract if seller can not tender good title and or clear title, free of all judgments and liens, provided the contact contains these escape provisions. Either party may terminate the contract if the faulting party cannot close by the closing date of the contract or within a reasonable time thereafter.

9. Should a buyer do a termite and/or radon test?

Termite and radon test are advisable if there is a likelihood of contamination or infestation; especially if property is located in a high risk area.

10 What is the expected up front fees that a bank charges for a mortgage?

Bank and closing fees can vary. But a rule of thumb is: closing costs are about 6% of the purchase price. Co-op closing costs will be lower.

Specializing in the Legal Aspects of Purchasing or Leasing Residential and Commercial Real Estate in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.