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The single most valuable item that most Americans buy is their home. Ironically, it is also one of the least understood transactions.
A real estate contract is not binding unless it is in writing and signed by the seller and buyer. Before signing a contract, learn as much as possible about the house, the surrounding community, and the local municipalities. A buyer should have the house inspected by a licensed engineer and exterminator. In Nassau County, a buyer should be aware of problems such as underground oil tanks, lead paint in homes built before 1978, and asbestos. Pursuant to law, a seller must either provide the buyer with a completed questionnaire describing the condition of various aspects of the house or give the seller a $500 credit.
Once the buyer and seller sign a real estate contract, the buyer should retain a title company to conduct a search on the property. The title company makes sure the ownership of the property is legitimate and insures the transfer from the seller to the buyer. A common problem in residential sales in Nassau County is whether a seller has a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) or Certificate of Completion (CC) for the house as it presently exists. If the seller does not have a CO or CC for any additions to the house, such as a deck, dormer, finished basement, etc., the seller may have to hire an expediter to make the house legal. More information may be found at www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Clerk/ClerkInfo/FAQ.html.
The buyer may also have to obtain financing through a bank or mortgage company. With an application, the buyer usually submits tax returns, bank statements, and financial records for the bank to determine whether it should lend money to the buyer. Pursuant to New York State and Federal law, the bank may not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin. More information may be found at www.hud.gov.
Closing simply refers to the meeting at which the seller presents the deed and good title to the house and the buyer gives the seller the money pursuant to the contract. Just before closing, the buyer should visit the home to inspect the premises in order to ascertain if the house is in the condition agreed to in the contract of sale.
Depending on the terms of the contract, at the closing the buyer and seller generally would adjust for taxes and fuel. The seller generally pays a transfer tax and the purchaser may pay a mansion tax if the purchase price of the house is over $1 million. More information may be found at www.tax.ny.gov/bus/transfer/rptidx.htm.
The information provided by the Nassau County Bar Association is not meant to serve as specific legal advice for a particular situation or as a substitute for consultation with a lawyer. If you require the services of a lawyer, you may call the Nassau County Lawyer Referral Service at (516) 747-4832, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.nassaubar.org.