What questions should I ask when looking at homes?
Many of your questions should focus on potential problems and maintenance issues. Does anything need to be replaced? What things require ongoing maintenance (e.g., paint, roof, HVAC, appliances, carpet)? Also ask about the house and neighborhood, focusing on quality of life issues. Be sure the seller's or real estate agent's answers are clear and complete. Ask questions until you understand all of the information they've given. Making a list of questions ahead of time will help you organize your thoughts and arrange all of the information you receive. The HUD Home Scorecard can help you develop your question list.
What is a purchase offer?
A purchase offer or agreement contains all the details of the offer to purchase a piece of property. An agreement is binding only once the document has been agreed to and signed by the buyer and seller. Often in the purchase of real estate, there are a number of offers and counter offers until an agreement is reached.
Items and conditions that are often included in the purchase offer include:
Description, legal and common, of the property
Features and fixtures which are to remain
Home inspection results
Final inspection and move-in condition
Penalties for breaking the offer
Response time to accept the offer
Obtaining clear title to the property
Clean inspection report
What good is title insurance?
A title search and the issuance of title insurance means the ownership of the property can be cleanly conveyed to the new owners. During the search, the history of the property is researched verifying that all previous claims or liens have been satisfied, allowing a clear title to be issued. If any claim is overlooked, the title insurance protects the owner from the claim. Remember that if it’s not in writing on a real estate deal, it’s not enforceable.
Why is a deed required?
A deed transfers ownership of property from one owner to the next. Deeds are recorded in the county where the property is owned.
There are three types of deeds:
Full covenant and warranty deed – which guarantees no other person owns or has claims against the property
Bargain and sale deed – used in some states but does not guarantee that the property is free and clear of any claims
Quit claim deed – transfers interest in a piece of property from one owner to the next. A quit claim deed provides no guarantee from other interests or claims
In some states, a deed of trust is used instead of a mortgage. If there is a mortgage on the property, the deed references the lender. The name of the owner is put on the deed only when the loan is paid off.
Should we consider buying a home in foreclosure?
Purchasing a home in foreclosure often appears to be a good value, but factors outside of the price need to be considered:
The purchase of a foreclosure often is a "cash only" sale
Can you view the actual condition of the home inside and out before placing a bid? The home may be in need of extensive repairs driving up the actual cost of the home.
Are there liens for taxes or mechanics liens that the winning bidder will be responsible for?
Is there a redemption period for the previous owners? If so, how long do they have the ability to buy the house back before you can move in?