A real estate contract is the key to your transaction

Buying a home is serious business. It involves a lot of money and a valued property. Hence, it’s important that legal safeguards are in place.

A purchase and sale agreement/contract provides these protections for both the buyer and seller. But these contracts can be complex. They can be hard to read and understand.

Your real estate agent and/or attorney can serve as guides. Yet it’s crucial that you understand what you’re committing to.

Learn how this contract works. Know what to look for and what your duties as the buyer are.

Be mindful of deadlines. Ask questions about anything you don’t get. Remember: it’s easy to sign your name. But it’s hard to break a contract.  

The purchase and sale contract

Once a buyer selects a home to purchase in Utah, the first paper given to the prospective buyer is the purchase and sale contract.

This paper is one of the most important steps in buying a home. This contract describes what you buy and determines how you buy.

Before signing a contract, read it carefully and discuss it with a lawyer.

If you want to sign the contract immediately because you are concerned that someone else might purchase the property, make your contract contingent upon your attorney’s review and approval within a certain time period.

As a buyer, you may want to make sure you have the right to choose the place of closing. It may save you money if you close at your attorney’s office.

Before You Sign A Contract, Make Sure You Know: Exactly what land, buildings, furnishings and fixtures are included in your offer or the contract.

Are the stove, refrigerator, lighting fixtures, etc. included?

Exactly what is expected of you concerning payment or financing?

Know when you can take possession.

Know whether or not there are any easements or other instruments or documents which might affect your title.

Know which costs you’re responsible for.

Typical closing costs include examination of title insurance, survey, termite inspection, construction inspection, intangible tax on the mortgage, loan closing cost, repair costs if any are necessary, broker fees and attorney fees.

Property Titles and Title Insurance When purchasing a home, you should require “marketable” title to your property.

Your lawyer, after proper investigation, can tell you whether the seller is able to convey such a title to you.

No one can advise you without a proper investigation.

Be sure to know whether you are being represented before you close

You should remember that is you are closing at a title insurance company, the title insurance company does not represent you.

It is merely acting as a closing agent. This may also be the case if you are closing at an attorney’s office.

Be sure to know whether you are being represented before you close.

Title Defects

Title defects have a way of lying dormant for years and perplexing a buyer long after he has paid for the land, and after the seller is dead or gone.

Your lawyer can examine the applicable title information to determine who owns land, defects in or claims against the ownership, and any action needed to secure good record title.

This is not a simple operation.

It requires interpreting numerous deeds, mortgages, wills, court decrees, and other instruments; considering the consequences of the timing of transactions and events affecting the title and applying laws and court decisions to the various situations revealed by the applicable title information.

When you obtain a title to a piece of real property, you should obtain an owner’s policy of title insurance.

In such a policy, the title insurance company contracts with the insured person named in the policy to protect the title as insured against financial loss and the cost of defending the title in court.

Like any insurance policy, however, the coverage is no greater than is stated in the policy. Any policy can list matters substantially affecting title which are exceptions to the coverage and are not insured. A mortgagee or lender’s insurance policy only protects the holder of the mortgage and not you as the owner.

A lawyer representing your interest can advise you of the extent of protection given by your owner’s policy. Some lawyers include the policy’s cost in an overall cost for legal services. When lawyers do this and charge you a promulgated rate for the title insurance policy, then you are in effect receiving legal services and advice for the same cost as using a title insurance company to close your transaction.

Promulgated Rate

A promulgated rate is the minimum amount that any title insurance company or attorney’s office can charge for issuing a title insurance policy. The promulgated rate is based on the purchase price of the home or the amount of the loan.

As a buyer, it is particularly important that you have legal representation at your closing to ensure that you are obtaining clear marketable title to you property.

Have building costs been paid for if its a new build?

If the home you are buying is still under construction or has been completed recently, you must take special care to make sure that all building costs have been paid for.

The seller and you should know are you fully protected under the provisions of the Utah Mechanics and Materialmen’s Lien Law?

An attorney can advise you of your rights and responsibilities under this law. The failure to protect yourself against mechanic’s liens can result in the property being subject to liens even though the full contract price is paid.

Special care should also be taken when a house has been repaired recently or when building materials have recently been delivered.

As a careful buyer, you should insist that your lawyer be present at the closing, checking each detail.

Your lawyer will know which points are significant in making your purchase the trouble free ownership to which you are entitled.

Always hire the right lawyer

The one thing all experts agree on is that you need to hire the right sort of lawyer: an expert in real estate law.  lawyers “who are not well-versed in real estate may potentially blow a deal.”

Be careful about getting a referral from your real estate agent–the attorney’s interests should be independent of anyone who stands to make money from the transaction.

The attorney’s role is not to “negotiate the deal points.” Instead, the attorney should “review the proposed contract from a legal language perspective.”

“Attorneys don’t necessarily have better knowledge or understanding of how to make a real estate deal,” she says. “They do have a far better understanding of real estate law in any given jurisdiction and legal doctrines where one could get into trouble.

Ruesch and Reeve specialize in Real-Estate Law

Real Estate Law is a specialty at Ruesch and Reeve. Our experience allows quick responses to your questions, quality service, and prompt attention. We regularly assist clients in the following:

Purchase/Sales.

 Our services include the beginning of negotiations through the closing including drafting of agreements and documents and title issues.

We are even able to issue title insurance policies through Attorney’s Title Guaranty Fund.

Leasing.

 We represent both landlords and tenants in all commercial and residential aspects of leasing.

Development/Construction.

Our attorneys have experience in all aspects of land development including land use planning, government approvals, review and negotiation of construction contracts, and preparation of restrictive covenants. Our attorneys also assist clients in resolving construction project disputes, mechanics liens disputes, and defective work claims.

Real Estate Litigation. 

We litigate a variety of real estate matters including: easements, eviction, foreclosure, liens, real estate purchase contract disputes, title insurance claims, partition, quiet title, replevin

We are committed to providing cutting-edge legal services and creative legal planning. Call our office at (435) 635-7737 to speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your legal needs.