A first-time home buyer is a person who is purchasing a residential home, without a history of any other home purchases. This would be the very first time in their lives they are purchasing a house or other residence. A first-time home buying situation is unique due to the fact that the buyer has no prior experience in home purchase laws or guidelines, and are generally younger people.
It is imperative that first-time home buyers are aware of the many rights that they have as consumers. Being informed can reduce instances of fraud, as well as bad deals or hasty investments. An example of this would be how they should understand that the full disclosure of defects with the house is oftentimes not physically possible. And, many jurisdictions do not require the full disclosure of defects. Generally speaking, it is the buyer’s responsibility to do their research and hire an appraiser to determine the home’s value.
There are various benefits for first-time home buyers. State programs, tax breaks, and federal funded loans are available to first-time home buyers in an attempt to persuade more people to buy a home, at least once in their lifetime. The benefits that a first time buyer may receive will vary from state to state. However, an example of just of the some programs that generally assist first time buyers include:
- Down payment assistance, such as loans and/or grants;
- Loans backed by the federal government;
- Various tax deductions at the federal and state levels;
- Assistance with closing costs; and
- First time home buyer educational resources provided by various mortgage institutions.
What Are Some Tips For First Time Home Buyers?
As previously mentioned, there are some ways in which first-time home buyers can protect themselves legally. The following is a list of helpful tips that a first time home buyer should consider:
- Beware of Fraud: The goal of most mortgage fraud schemes is to defraud first-time home buyers who have good credit, and are willing to take out a loan. The best way to avoid being defrauded is to only work with qualified mortgage experts and real estate brokers;
- Have Your Contract Reviewed: Every home purchase transaction should be completed through a written sales contract. This will clarify the terms of the purchase, and can reduce the likelihood of legal disputes later on. If you are a first time home buyer, you may want to hire an attorney to have your contract both drafted and reviewed for accuracy and fairness;
- Obtain an Appraisal: Some states maintain lax requirements in terms of the disclosure of property flaws. You should consider hiring a professional who conducts home appraisals, in order to get a good estimate of the home’s value. Doing so is especially recommended if the home is not a new build;
- Consider Your State’s Marriage Laws: Again, different states may have different laws regarding the division of real property in instances of legal separation or divorce. As first time joint purchasers of property this is something to think about and prepare for; and
- Hire an Attorney: You may require the assistance of a lawyer during the negotiation and wrap-up stages of the buying process. These phases in particular may be difficult to navigate, and an attorney can ensure that it goes smoothly and according to your state’s laws.
Some other general tips that may assist you in the first time home buying process include:
- Ensure that you are indeed ready to commit to a loan, as you will need to be prepared to make monthly payments for the duration of your repayment agreement;
- Do not skip the preapproval process, when possible;
- Maintain a good credit score;
- Save enough money for a considerable downpayment, or apply for a downpayment assistance program;
- Understand all of your loan options before signing on;
- Factor in closing costs, as well as other costs, when determining your actual budget;
- Have a clear idea of what you are looking for; and
What Are Some Legal Issues for First-Time Home Buyers to Consider? How Are Home Purchase Legal Issues Resolved?
There are a wide variety of legal issues that first-time home buyers should consider. Although most new buyers focus on issues such as pricing and the value of the home, they should also consider other aspects of the transaction. Some examples of this would be:
- Hidden costs that may be associated with purchasing a new home, as opposed to purchasing an older home;
- Potential defects with the home;
- Contract issues between the buyer and seller;
- Mortgage disputes;
- Mortgage fraud;
- Title defects, such as a cloud on the title;
- Joint ownership of the home, especially for married couples; and
- Valuation and appraisal of the home.
Another example of related legal issues would be how there may be issues with zoning laws if the party wishes to purchase additions, or make structural changes to the home.
Some home purchase issues can be resolved through additional efforts, such as hiring an appraiser to determine the value of the home prior to closing on the purchase. Other legal issues may require legal action to resolve. Common remedies would be similar to those available in breach of contract cases, such as a damages award. An example of this would be if there is a defect with the home’s title. The seller and the buyer may need to file a legal proceeding in order to have the defect or dispute effectively resolved.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer as a First-Time Home Buyer?
Although it may seem obvious, first time home buyers are not as knowledgeable about the home buying process, and what benefits they may be entitled to as a first time home buyer. This means that more often than not first time home buyers will not be able to successfully navigate the many local and federal incentive programs that are available to assist with their home buying purchase.
Additionally, first time home buyers are susceptible to being taken advantage of by more experienced home sellers. However, when a first time home buyer hires a lawyer for buying a house, that purchaser will be significantly less susceptible to being taken advantage of. An attorney will essentially act as both an instructor to the home buyers, helping them apply and take advantage of various incentives, as well as a safety blanket, ensuring that the home buyers are not taken advantage of through fraudulent selling tactics.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a First-Time Home Purchase?
If you are a first-time home buyer, you should absolutely consult with a real estate attorney in your area. Hiring a lawyer for buying a house is recommended, as a local and experienced real estate attorney will be best suited to understanding and explaining your state’s laws regarding the matter.
Additionally, an attorney may make you aware of programs and other benefits for a first-time home purchase that you may not have known about, which will help to offset any first time home buyer lawyer fees.
Your attorney can also help you draft and/or review any contracts and purchase agreements, as well as address any legal issues you may run into. Finally, an attorney will protect your various legal rights as a first time home buyer, and will represent you in court as needed.