Expert Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Buying Your First Home and Beyond
Buying a home is an exciting, yet oftentimes stressful process filled with many new and unfamiliar experiences that spark many questions from homebuyers.
At New England Title and Escrow Services, we’ve overseen thousands of successful real estate transactions and guided many buyers through the process.
Here are some of common, and not so common, questions we’ve encountered that we thought were worthwhile sharing.
If you have a question not covered below, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
- Buying a home is expensive enough! Do I really need to hire an attorney for my real estate closing?
Having an experienced real estate attorney to represent your interests is a worthwhile investment. An experienced real estate attorney can help you avoid legal issues as well as address any unexpected problems that may arise. When you’re making one of the largest purchases in your lifetime, having an experienced and objective third party to help you through a complicated transaction is definitely worth the expense and may even save you money in the long run.
- What do I need to know about buying a home online, at an auction or in foreclosure?
Great bargains can be had by buying a home that’s up for auction or in foreclosure, which is why we’ve seen an increase in the popularity of online property auction sales. Popular among house flippers and bargain hunters, the average consumer should be aware that there are some serious and unfortunately common pitfalls that occur with many of these transactions. In far too many cases, while a property may be up for bid, it may not have a clean title and therefore be unmarketable. So before you jump into a seemingly lucrative opportunity do your homework, or better yet, enlist the assistance of an experienced real estate attorney and title examiner to protect your best interests.
- We just put an offer in on our first home and were surprised to learn that not all of the appliances are included in the sale. Our realtor explained that only fixtures are included. What are fixtures?
In real estate, a fixture is an item that is physically mounted or attached to the property or structure. For example, overhead lights are fixtures since they are mounted to the ceiling while floor lamps are not. Wall-mounted towel racks are fixtures while shower curtains are not. Generally, fixtures are included in the sale of a home and non-fixtures, or items that can easily be removed from the home are not. Since most appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers can be unplugged and easily removed from the home, they’re not considered fixtures. That being said, these terms are negotiable and can vary from transaction to transaction. Work with your realtor and/or attorney to negotiate the terms of your purchase and sale agreement to outline which fixtures and non-fixtures are included in your transaction from the very beginning to set expectations so there are no surprises at closing for either party.
- We’re buying our first home and couldn’t be more excited, but who are all these people calling us and asking for information?
Congratulations on pursuing the American Dream of homeownership! While exciting, it can also be an overwhelming process, especially for first time homebuyers. There are many different professionals involved in the purchase and sale of a home, everyone from lenders and realtors to attorneys and title examiners. Rest assured that everyone wants you to have a successful transaction and is there to help you through the process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions - a good service provider will be happy to answer them and help you feel comfortable with the process.
- I built a shed last summer and discovered, after the fact, that half of it is on my neighbor’s lot. We’re good friends so he told me not to worry about it, but should I?
Absolutely. Any agreements between property owners affecting discrepancies with property boundary lines should be documented in writing, ideally by an experienced real estate attorney. Putting your agreement in writing protects both parties by outlining the particulars of the agreement as well as documenting how the property will be handled in the event that one or both you sell your home.
- Help! I can’t find the original deed to my property. Do I need my original deed to sell my home?
Not necessarily. In most states, it’s the responsibility of the attorney representing the seller to research and draft a new deed based on the information retained by the state. This new document is what will be used when transferring ownership to the purchasers of your property.
- I’m selling my home in Massachusetts and see a line item on my closing documents called an Excise Tax. What is this and why am I required to pay it?
In some states, a special tax called an Excise Tax is charged to the seller of a property during its sale. Massachusetts is one of these states that imposes an Excise Tax on the transfer of real property with some communities charging an additional fee as well. Both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket charge an additional 2% of the sale price to fund their communities’ conservation and land preservation efforts. These fees should be considered when thinking about selling your home in these areas.
- We’re so excited! We just received notice from our bank that our mortgage has been paid in full. They sent us a Notice of Discharge. What is this and what should we do with it?
A Notice of Discharge documents that your mortgage has been paid in full and that the lender no longer holds a lien against your property. The lender is required to send notice of a mortgage discharge to you, the borrower, or to your local Registry of Deeds. It’s very important that if your bank sends the notice directly to you, that you bring it to your local Registry of Deeds to have it recorded. This will create a public record that the lien against your property has been paid in full so when the time comes to sell your home, it will be publicly documented that the lender no longer has any claim to your property.