Johnson, Duffie, Swewart & Weidner - Law
Always a Step Ahead



By Dick Stewart

Whether you're using a realtor or selling the home yourself, the stakes are high. Here are a few tips that will help you.

1. Get an independent appraisal. You need to know what your home is worth before putting it on the market. For a few hundred dollars, you can have an independent appraisal done of your home that will let you know what your home is worth. Even if you plan to use a realtor, you should have an independent appraisal done before you meet with the realtor. Having an independent appraisal on hand will help you evaluate the approach and judgment of prospective agents.

2. Take care in filling out the Seller's Property Disclosure. State law requires home sellers to fill out a property disclosure form and give it to prospective purchasers. If you fail to give a purchaser a disclosure form, you don't have a binding contract. You need to make sure that the disclosure form is properly filled out and that any defects or conditions in the property are fully disclosed. The proper completion of the form will help to protect you from liability later on.

3. Have an attorney review all contracts. Whether you are signing a listing contract with a realtor or a sales contract with a purchaser, make sure that you have an attorney review the contract before you sign it. Pre-printed forms can be filled with legal landmines.

4. Get a sufficient deposit. Make sure that the deposit is enough to cover expenses that you would incur in taking the property off the market for a period of time if the buyer were to default in performance. You want to make sure the buyer has an incentive to go to settlement and cannot walk away from a deal without penalty.

5. Review any pre-qualifications carefully. If you get a sufficient deposit, you don't have to worry as much about the buyer's ability to obtain a mortgage. If you aren't successful in getting a sufficient deposit or you are worried about the ability of the buyer to obtain a mortgage, a pre-qualification from a lender is important. Many of the pre-qualifications, however, are not worth the paper they are printed on. It pays to review the language carefully in order to evaluate whether the purchaser is going to be successful in obtaining a mortgage.

6. Furnish condominium or planned unit documents at the time contract is signed. If you are part of an association that pays dues for the upkeep of a development, you must furnish copies of the declaration and a re-sale certificate to a purchaser at the time a contract is entered into. Otherwise, you don't have a binding agreement. The buyer can back out at any time before a buyer receives the required documents.

7. Offer a home warranty. When you walk away from the settlement table, you don't want to be bothered if the furnace breaks down or the air conditioning compressor goes out a week after settlement. For approximately $400.00, you can get a warranty that will pay for repairs to major systems within the first year of ownership. This is a great selling tool because it reassures a buyer that the buyer will not have unforeseen major expenses and it also protects the seller from claims from the buyer.

8. Watch out for the transaction fee.  Many Brokers charge what is called a transaction fee ranging from $165 to $400. This is a fee for processing the paperwork.  Negotiate this out up front.  You should not pay for the Broker's overhead.

9. Call us. We will be happy to guide you through the home selling process. Our experienced real estate attorneys will help you at every step of the way. You won't have to worry about being blindsided.