SELLING A HOME
CAN I SIGN THE CONTRACT PRIOR TO MY ATTORNEY REVIEWING IT?
Contracts for the purchase and sale of real estate which are presented through a licensed New Jersey realtor, are assigned an automatic three-day attorney review period by law, which permits you to sign in advance of your attorney's review of the contract. The contract should be presented to our office via email or facsimile immediately after signing to permit the review to be completed within the three-day period. Contracts between a purchaser and seller where there is no realtor involved should NEVER be signed until first reviewed and approved by counsel.
CAN I CONTINUE TO MARKET AND SHOW MY HOME WHILE WE ARE IN ATTORNEY REVIEW?
YES. Until the attorney review period is concluded and the contract is formally approved by your counsel, you can continue to market and show your home to prospective purchasers, but ONLY for purposes of obtaining back-up offers. Under no circumstances should a new contract with another party be signed until the prior contract has been formally terminated. If a more desirable offer is obtained during the attorney review period, you may instruct your counsel to terminate the initial contract prior to signing the newly offered contract
CAN I BE SURE THAT CLOSING WILL OCCUR ON THE DATE WRITTEN INTO THE CONTRACT?
NO, the date listed in your contract is an estimated target date for closing. This date can be extended by either the purchaser or seller without cause for up to 14 days to permit coordination of closings. When the closing date listed in the contract is preceded by the wording "time of the essence", this becomes a mandatory closing date and may not be extended without the opposing party's consent. However, true "time of the essence" closings are very rare.
WHEN DOES THE THREE-DAY ATTORNEY REVIEW BEGIN AND WHEN DOES IT END?
The three-day attorney review period starts when the "contract of sale" is fully executed and delivered to you or your attorney. Only business days are counted. If a contract is signed on the weekend, the first day of attorney review would be the next business day, generally a Monday, unless the Monday in question is a legal holiday. Attorney review can never begin or end on a weekend or holiday. Typically, attorney review is formally commenced by one of the attorneys submitting an "attorney review letter" to the other, detailing desired proposed modifications to the contract. Once a review letter is submitted during the review period, the review period remains open indefinitely until the parties have mutually agreed to approve the contract or any proposed changes, thereby concluding the review period.
During the attorney review period, either party may cancel the contract without penalty, for any reason whatsoever. Once the attorney review period is concluded, however, the contract is firm and binding on buyer and seller, subject to buyer's mortgage approval and satisfactory title search and home inspection results.
The buyers of your home may conduct several types of inspections at their own expense. The most common include 1) structural and mechanical systems; 2) termite and wood-destroying insect; and 3) radon and environmental. Buyers are usually permitted 10-14 days to conduct their inspections and provide us with a detailed list of any items which need to be repaired, replaced or otherwise addressed. Once the results of their inspections are in and they have advised us of any deficiencies, we will actively negotiate repairs of serious issues or problems. You are generally not required to correct minor or cosmetic items.
If your property has a septic system, most mortgage lenders require that the system be fully inspected and tested, as a failing or failed septic could cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair or replace.
If your property has a well, New Jersey law requires that the well and its water be fully inspected and tested. If the well is not properly operational, or the water contains contaminants that exceed the established governmental standards, you must repair or remediate the well.
If your property has a pool or spa, most buyers will usually also inspect those items as well, to insure they are operational and problem free.
The buyers are also entitled to conduct a pre-closing "walk through" inspection, which usually occurs the morning of the closing. The purpose of the inspection is for the buyer to confirm the home is still in the same basic condition it was at the time of the inspections, and that any agreed upon repairs have in fact been completed.
WHAT TYPES OF INSPECTIONS ARE AVAILABLE AND WHEN SHOULD THEY BE COMPLETED?
WHAT DO I NEED TO HAVE READY FOR THE DAY OF CLOSING?
As a service of convenience to our sale clients, we can typically arrange to have you come to our offices to sign all of your closing documents in advance of the closing, so that you need not attend the closing itself. We can take care of everything for you, so that you don't need to take time off from work or make other arrangements. We recommend that you provide us or your realtor at least one set of keys, garage door openers and the ORIGINAL Certificate of Occupancy/Smoke Detector Certification. Excess keys and appliance manuals may be kept at the house. If your home is a condominium, you should also provide us with your monthly association maintenance fee payment coupon, pool badges and public offering statement.
AM I REQUIRED TO OBTAIN A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY OR SMOKE DETECTOR CERTIFICATION?
All New Jersey municipalities mandate that each seller of residential property obtain an inspection to insure compliance with the state's smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher regulations. Certain municipalities also require the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, IN ADDITION, to be obtained by sellers prior to closing. Please inquire with your real estate professional or contact your zoning officer to confirm the exact requirements of your municipality. By law, your closing cannot proceed until you have obtained the required inspection certificates indicating compliance. Please tend to these items without delay. Most municipal inspectors only conduct inspections 1 or 2 days per week. Failure to obtain the necessary certificates will delay your closing. We also recommend that you personally test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and check their locations prior to the inspection date to avoid the need for a re-inspection.
IN WHAT CONDITION SHOULD MY HOME BE LEFT?
The contract requires that the home be left in "broom clean" condition, with all personal property and debris removed from the premises. It is recommended that the home be left in the same condition in which you would expect a new home to be left. We recommend that the home be thoroughly vacuumed, kitchen and baths are cleaned; appliances wiped down and all personal property removed. Garbage may not be left behind for future municipal pickup.
Unless you have a specific agreement with the buyer to the contrary, do not leave items such as partially used paint cans or other knick-knacks you think the buyer may "want" or find useful. Though you may genuinely feel you are being nice or helpful, our experience has been that most buyers either do not want these items or feel that you are leaving them your personal garbage for their disposal. As a result, this may cause a monetary escrow fund to be withheld from your closing monies, which will be released to you only upon your removal and disposal of these unwanted items. This will only serve to cause you consternation which is totally avoidable.
During winter months, all snow and ice should be removed from walkways and driveways. In the fall, all leaves should be removed from lawns and grassy areas. In the summer, grass should be newly mowed and properly maintained through the closing date.
SHOULD I MAKE MY MORTGAGE PAYMENT PRIOR TO CLOSING & HOW WILL MY MORTGAGE BE PAID OFF?
You are required to pay your realtor's commission and legal fees at time of closing. These fees will be deducted from your gross proceeds. In addition, all taxes, water and sewer payments will be pro-rated through the date of closing. You can expect the payoff amount of your existing mortgage and the recording charges to also be deducted from the closing proceeds. New Jersey also charges every seller a "Realty Transfer Fee", which is effectively a sales tax on the sale of real estate, which is paid by the seller. The fee is determined through a complex formula, based upon the selling price of your home. If you are 62 or older, the fee is reduced by 50%.