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The Basics of Selling a Home

Whether you are looking to move out of your starter home or are ready to downsize, your home is a large financial asset which often holds great sentimentality and the process of selling it will be made easier if you engage a reputable attorney to protect your rights. Our firm has years of experience in real estate transactions and we would be pleased to represent you to help you with this transaction. Here is a breakdown of the process as well as some useful tips:

BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR HOUSE ON THE MARKET

You may decide to take care of some repairs, paint and declutter the home before listing it to make the house more attractive.

Work on obtaining town approvals for any additions or alterations that have been made to the home which require a Certificate of Occupancy or Certificate of Compliance.

Do you have an underground oil tank at the property? If so, you should consider having a reputable company remove it and replace it with an above-ground oil tank as many potential buyers will be put off if there is an underground tank and the possibility of leaks at the premises which could be very costly. You wouldn’t want this issue to ruin a strong offer to buy your home or to cause unwanted delays in the closing.

PUT YOUR HOUSE ON THE MARKET

We encourage you to work with a real estate agent who will help you set a fair and competitive selling price for your home, prepare an effective marketing campaign and negotiate the sale. Before signing a listing agreement, consult an attorney.

Assemble relevant documents for your attorney, including your deed, title policy and the existing survey, if available.

BEFORE SIGNING A CONTRACT

Other than certain specific instances, such as newly built homes and condos or cooperatives, state law in New York requires that sellers provide buyers a lengthy disclosure form which includes details of the condition of the property, including any known material defects in the electrical, plumbing, and other house systems and conditions such as rodent damage, mold or asbestos. In lieu of giving such a disclosure, you may instead give a credit to the buyer at closing in the sum of $500. In the metropolitan New York area, it is common practice to give the credit to the buyer rather than risk potential litigation should there be any misstatement on the form or failure to disclose a material defect at the property.

In addition to state disclosure rules, if your house was built before 1978, you must comply with federal disclosures regarding lead-based paint and hazards.

After there is an accepted offer on the house, a prospective buyer will want to have the premises inspected. If any issues arise after buyer does the inspection, you may want to negotiate any repairs or credits to address the issues if the buyer is not otherwise willing to proceed.

Put together information and paperwork for your attorney to facilitate contract preparation:

– Furnish details regarding any mortgage, credit line or home equity loan, such as a recent statement with lender’s name, phone number and your loan number. Note that a credit line or home equity loan will need to be frozen in advance of closing in order to be able to get a payoff letter in a timely manner for closing.

– If available, furnish copies of your deed, the existing survey and your title policy for the premises.

– Advise if you will be removing anything attached to the property (such as appliances, light fixtures, window treatments) as those items must be excluded from the Contract.

– Advise if there are any town approvals needed for improvements that have been made to the property.

– If the premises is a Condominium or Co-op unit, furnish the prospectus/Offering Plan with By-Laws and any amendments as well as financials for the buyer’s review. Provide contact information for the management company and, if it is a co-op unit, provide a copy of the stock and lease.

– Advise of your legal name and whether you have you been known by any other names for the past 10 years.

ENTER INTO A CONTRACT

Promptly after you have negotiated with a prospective buyer and have accepted an offer to purchase, your attorney will prepare a contract and will negotiate any changes with the buyer’s attorney to protect your interests. Once a contract is fully executed and the downpayment has been deposited in escrow, the buyer will work on obtaining a mortgage and your attorney will review the title report ordered by the buyers’ attorney to see if there are any issues that must be resolved before closing. These may include liens or violations against the property that must be addressed.

CLOSING

Once any and all contract contingencies, such as the buyer obtaining a mortgage commitment, are met, your attorney will work on scheduling a mutually agreeable closing date. Once scheduled, you should contact movers to finalize moving arrangements and notify the post office of your forwarding address. Make arrangements to have all your belongings out of the house and the premises broom clean and vacant before the final walk through inspection.

Your attorney will arrange for paying off outstanding mortgages and will prepare all of the closing documents, including the deed and transfer tax returns.

Your attorney will also calculate the proceeds owed to you by the buyer, confirming the proper calculation of adjustments with the buyer’s attorney for taxes, fuel oil, propane, water and common charges, if applicable. If there is a fuel tank at the premises, you will need to obtain a reading from your oil provider indicating the total value of fuel in the tank within a few days of closing. If there is municipal water, you will need to provide a final bill to be paid at closing.

In addition, your attorney will calculate the closing costs that you owe including broker fees, title charges for recording mortgage satisfactions and for applicable transfer taxes, and your attorney’s fees. It is the responsibility of the Seller to pay the New York State transfer tax in the sum of 0.4% of the selling price. New York City and the municipalities of Yonkers, Mount Vernon and Peekskill in Westchester County are among a few municipalities in NY state that also impose an additional transfer tax on the seller.

At the closing, the deed and all final transfer documents and funds will be exchanged between seller and buyer and you will deliver the keys and any garage door openers to the buyer.

Upon completion of the closing, you should cancel insurance and utilities, if you have not already coordinated the transfer of the utilities with the buyer.

Please contact Anne Aicher at aaicher@hollislaidlaw.com or (914) 666-5600 for any additional guidance on these issues.

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