The Pros and Cons of Starting a Family Business in NJ

Our families are who we spend our lives with. We celebrate holidays, birthdays, and important milestones together. So much of our everyday lives are spent surrounded by family—but what about our work lives? Starting a business with a family member or joining the family business is a big decision. There are some major incentives and equally compelling challenges to running a family business. Before you take the big plunge, here are some pros and cons to help you make a confident business decision.

Pro: Invested Stakeholders

Having a personal investment in the business is a great motivator for job performance. Your family will have the same level of investment in the success of the business as you do. They will be much more likely to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure a successful future for the business. Finding willing workers for holidays, extended hours, or weekends shouldn’t be too difficult when the people you are counting on are all in the family.

Con: Family Leaders Face Unique Challenges

Leaders may be reluctant to make necessary business decisions if they could negatively impact fellow family members. Firing or demoting an underperforming employee can be  much harder if it is your brother or cousin. Likewise, leadership succession can cause serious conflict amongst family members if clear guidelines have not been established.

Pro: The Ultimate Coworkers

You know your family better than anyone else. You’ve likely perfected the best way to communicate with individual family members, allowing for an easy and honest exchange of ideas. This can make for a super efficient team of skilled communicators, maximizing on collaboration. You’ll also have the added bonus of coworkers you can count on to genuinely care about you and the business.

Con: Workplace Conflicts Become Family Drama

When you work with your family, small workplace issues can boil over to full on family feuds. A disagreement at work can turn into a serious rift between family members. It is not uncommon for these disagreements to extend to court litigation, which can permanently damage relationships between parents and children, siblings, and other relatives.

Pro: A Relaxed Work Environment

There’s no need to put on airs when you are working with your family members. Small talk, intimidating meetings with superiors, and one-upmanship take the backseat to a relaxed environment of mutual support and shared goals. Your family members are also much more likely to be empathetic during setbacks, allowing for increased flexibility in expectations of business performance.

Con: Things Can Get Too Relaxed

When you work with your family it’s easy for things to get too comfortable. This relaxed environment can reduce the drive for excellence and compromise workplace professionalism. Business growth can slow down over time if you and your family lose focus on doing what is best for the business on a daily basis.

Pro: Strong Market Appeal

Family owned businesses tend to brand themselves with hard work, tradition, and wholesome mom n’ pop shop appeal. Consumers often view family businesses as stable and trustworthy, leading to strong market appeal. Likewise, potential investors may see family-owned businesses as a safe investment.

Con: Clinging to Tradition Can Stifle Progress

Holding on to family traditions can promote closed-mindedness, resistance to change, and a lack of creative thinking. Family-owned businesses can be closed off to innovation and miss out on expanding their business as a result. Without outside help to shake things up, the stagnancy of ideas can kill a family business.

Pro: Less Fuss With Hiring

If you are in a hurry to get your business on its feet, going through the process of vetting and hiring potential employees can be a cumbersome barrier. With family members investing in and working for your business, you won’t have to conduct interviews, background checks, or follow-up on qualifications if you are working with your family. You know what your family members bring to the table and how to best utilize those skills.

Con: Non-Family Workers Feel Out of the Loop

With a strong group of family decision makers in the business, it might be harder for outsiders and non-family member employees to feel comfortable voicing their ideas. Family businesses can also have little or no system of meritocracy in place, only promoting family members regardless of job performance. This can lead to unqualified family members landing leadership positions in the business over otherwise well-equipped employees. Without a healthy system of promotion based on merit, potentially talented employees will have little motivation to excel.

Ultimately, the decision to go into business with your family is a very personal one. Family businesses are highly variable in their potential for success and depend mostly on the interpersonal relationships of individual family members. You know yourself and your family best. Sitting down for an open and honest conversation with your family about your potential business is a great first step to success.

Financing a Home as a Single Parent: What are my Options?

home ownership

Being a single parent isn’t easy. There are many unique financial challenges single moms and dads face as a one income household. For many single parents, buying a home can truly seem like an impossibility. But don’t give up on your dream of homeownership just yet. There are plenty of loan and assistance programs single parents can take advantage of, you just need to know where to look. In New Jersey, there are many state and federal assistance programs for home buyers with specific circumstances. While none of these categories explicitly list “single parents,” they can be a great benefit for those looking to buy a home with one income.

HUD 

One of the best places for single parents to start their home search is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Contacting your local New Jersey HUD office can give you access to resources that will help you find housing options as well as demystify the home-buying process. A HUD housing counselor can fill you in on local home buying programs you might not be aware of or help you obtain a loan. Some single parents may also qualify for subsidies and extra assistance that will help you afford decent housing (depending on your income and employment).

FHA

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are popular for many first time home-buyers, including singles on their own as well as single parents. FHA loans are government insured and easier to qualify for than other similar loans. There are many benefits associated with FHA loans that make them appealing to single parents, including a 3.5% down payment, lower credit score minimums, and low monthly mortgage insurance rates. FHA loans are also flexible about how a first-time homebuyer is defined. If you are recently divorced or become a displaced homemaker, you can qualify as a first-time homebuyer as long as the only residence you’ve ever owned was with a former spouse.

VA

Veteran Affairs (VA) loans are also an excellent resource for single parents. If you are a single service member, a veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran, you could be eligible for VA loan programs. There are a number of benefits for qualified buyers, including waived down payments and mortgage insurance, low-interest rates, and on-going support throughout home ownership. If you are facing foreclosure, the VA can step in to help you keep your home or find a new residence. In the event of a work-related disability, there may be additional Veteran’s benefits you can take advantage of.

USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a few different programs for low- and moderate-income home buyers in rural areas. Even if you aren’t sure that you live in a “rural” area, the USDA’s programs are still worth looking into. Many of the regions where programs are offered are located just outside major cities. USDA loan programs offer low interest rates and zero down payment options. Qualified borrowers can get 100% financing and the mortgage insurance premium is one of the lowest offered in any program. USDA loans do have an income maximum, but most single parents do not meet this maximum.

Private Lenders

Some private lenders will offer loan programs for single income borrowers. These custom loan programs can cater terms to your specific needs to help ensure that loan applicants get pre-approved for a mortgage. These custom loan programs can include help with your credit score or assistance with your down payment, among other things. While not all lenders will offer these kinds of programs for single parents, it is worth looking into as you begin your home search.

 

As a single parent, you aren’t limited to these programs. Your county, city, or even township might offer their own programs to help the single parent home buyer. Don’t lose hope in your dreams of owning a home. If you would like help getting started or with the application process, Veitengruber Law is more than happy to help you get on the path to home ownership!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Multiplier Effect: What it Means for You in 2020

multiplier effect

In 2020, as you consider where and how to spend your hard-earned paychecks, there’s one economic force we at Veitengruber Law would ask you to consider: The Multiplier Effect.

Why exactly is it that money must be spent locally to benefit the community? In short, it boils down to the multiplier effect, which states that each dollar spent has an impact that is greater than the original sum.

For example, if you were to visit a New Jersey locally-owned hardware store to purchase a new door for your home rather than choosing to order from a big-box chain, the money you spent will allow that store owner to earn profits and pay a local employee, who will likewise spend money in the community, hopefully at another local shop, thus multiplying the positive impact of the original amount spent.

In this way, each dollar spent locally has the potential to send positive economic reverberations throughout the region, and will continue to do so as long as the majority of cash earned continues to circulate locally.

When we think about cities and towns in NJ that have gone from thriving and vibrant to economic wastelands, it is evident that these communities lack local investment. Without local businesses and investors reinvesting their wealth, the very infrastructure supporting the community fractures and collapses.

In order to avoid such conditions, businesses and investors alike must commit to the local communities that support them. By the same token, consumers can maximize the impact of every dollar spent by finding local businesses to support.

What will the multiplier effect mean for you as a New Jersey resident in 2020? Should you cancel your Prime account and forego the convenience you gain as a modern citizen of a global economy? Of course not. There are, however, ways you can spend locally without having to restructure your life.

First, if you’re in the fortunate position to have the capital to purchase an investment property in the new year, consider looking nearer to home rather than just shopping for the best bang for your buck. Not only will doing so encourage additional investments – people can’t invest money they don’t have, after all – but it will also improve the New Jersey landscape by ensuring property development continues to happen right here where we live.

Furthermore, every dollar spent in New Jersey is not only just earned and re-spent, but it is also taxed! Consider that cash spent locally can be taxed repeatedly – nearly indefinitely – until someone in that cycle breaks the chain by spending the money elsewhere. Tax dollars are absolutely essential to the establishment and maintenance of vital community services: schools, libraries, parks, and public transportation are just a few of the most beloved public services, none of which will survive without a steady stream of local spending.

What if you’re a first-time home buyer rather than a big-shot investor? Are the dollars you spend really going to have a significant impact, or does massive impact only accompany huge property investments? The answer couldn’t be clearer.

In the calendar year 2019, if we only consider NJ buyers who purchased new homes, they will have splashed out more than two billion dollars. When the National Association of Home Builders crunched the numbers, they calculated that the multiplier effect of such an astronomical sum would account for the creation of nearly four million local jobs, over $180 million toward wages and income of those workers, and $225 million in revenue for local tax funds.

Furthermore, this two billion will still be positively impacting the community after 12 months! Clearly, if we want our incomes to sustain, nurture, and grow the very towns in which we live, we have to commit to spending, investing, and hiring locally whenever possible.

If this article has sparked you to action, and 2020 will be your first year focusing on keeping your money circulating here at home in NJ, we couldn’t be more delighted. Here are easy-to-use resources to get you started:

 

 

You’re Ready to Move in New Jersey – But is Your Dream Home Move-in Ready?

When you’re buying a house, unless you’re into flipping investments or you crave big DIY and home renovation projects, you probably just want to unpack all your boxes and start enjoying your new “home sweet home.” But before asking your real estate agent to show you “move-in ready” properties, you should be aware of what that phrase actually means.

It turns out that, like beauty, “move-in ready” is in the eye of the beholder. To you, it might mean everything not only works, but it also matches your style, right down to the door knobs and paint colors. To a lawyer using Black’s Law Dictionary, though, it simply means that the municipality has approved the property as a place approved for people to live – the plumbing and electricity are up to code, the windows and doors lock, and no pesky pests are creeping around within. And yet, to the seller, it could mean the kitchen was recently remodeled – but there’s only one tiny bathroom, and the living room still sports ‘70s orange shag carpeting in passably good condition.

So rather than get tangled in terminology, here are five things to keep in mind when you’re doing a walk-through on that “move-in ready” property.

  1. Start at the Bottom: Flooring
    You may have opinions on whether you prefer carpet or hardwood, but regardless of what is on the floor, make sure it’s a solid base for your new home. That means no peeling tiles, no ripped or odorous carpeting, and no ominous creaks. And here’s an insider tip – bring a marble to place on the floors along your tour. If it rolls a lot, the floors may be uneven, indicating potential issues with settling or even the actual foundation.
  2. Plumb the Depths: Kitchens and Bathrooms
    Though a stainless-steel refrigerator, granite countertops, and a double vanity may be high on your “must-have” wish list, what makes a house move-in ready is ovens and dishwashers that work and toilets that flush. Make sure the faucets don’t leak and the water pressure is good. Ask about the capacity and age of the water heater and any pumps to be sure they can handle your family’s needs. (Most water heaters should last eight to 12 years.) Poke around the cabinets to see – and smell – that there’s no water damage or mold hidden among the pipes, and that nothing is rusted. Taste the water – if you move in, you’re going to be drinking it for a long time!
  3. Don’t Be Shocked: Electric
    Check the wiring to be sure your hot property isn’t a fire hazard. Confirm with the seller’s agent that everything associated with the electrical current is indeed current and meets the local codes. There should be no archaic knob-and-tube wiring in the walls, the breaker box should be powerful enough to handle the load, and the outlets and switches should all work without any issues.
  4. Take Comfort: Heating and Cooling
    Pause during your house tour, and just breathe. Are you too warm? Too cold? Or, like Baby Bear, do you feel “just right?” Ensure that there’s proper insulation in the attic and around the heating ducts and water pipes. Find out how old the furnace and HVAC systems are, too; their average lifespan is about 15 years.
    Make sure the windows open and close easily, and whenever possible, look for double-paned windows for the double benefit of protection from both temperature and noise.
  1. Think Outside the House: Roofing and Siding
    Don’t go through the roof – figuratively or literally. Find out how old the roof is; a roof typically lasts about 20 to 30 years depending on what it’s made of and what climate it has faced. Do at least a visual check for leaks, loose or missing shingles, or areas where the structure might be sinking a bit. Similarly, examine the siding and window frames for discoloration or warping that could indicate not simply water damage, but also underlying mold and other costly concerns.

 

You should always engage the services of an experienced home inspector to thoroughly examine these and other elements of the property to be sure your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare. And whether your house hunt takes you to New Jersey’s friendly southwestern suburbs, its gorgeous northern mountains, the bustling outskirts of New York City, or those sunny beaches down the shore, Veitengruber Law can help with title searches, title insurance, and due diligence to help you turn that “move-in ready” house tour into a “we’re really moving!” experience.

 

When is it a Good Idea to Buy a Foreclosed Property in NJ?

NJ foreclosure

Since the housing market collapse of 2008, New Jersey has had the dubious distinction of leading the nation in foreclosures. For a variety of reasons (divorce, loss of income, disability, etc) people in NJ are still struggling to make their mortgage payments and stay in their homes over a decade later. Navigating the foreclosure market is wrought with pitfalls and potholes. However, contrary to popular belief that buying a foreclosure property is always bad news, there are actually a few occasions where investing in a foreclosed home can be a manageable and economical option.

 

1. You know the neighborhood.

Things happen to a house that sits vacant. Without heat and air conditioning running, a house gets exposed to moisture and rot. Without people around to fix things as they break, leaks spring up, wires fray, appliances rust. Animals bore holes in siding and chew through electrical wires. Criminals may break in and steal copper pipes and appliances, or use the property for drugs. Squatters make themselves at home and don’t clean up after themselves. These are some of the things you can expect when buying a foreclosure. But you can stem some of that tide by knowing the property and its owners.

A house in a good neighborhood is watched more carefully than a house in a neighborhood with a high crime rate. Check the local crime reports and see what the town history is. Are there police patrols in the streets that would deter criminal activity?

Neighbors would also have a vested interest in keeping up the foreclosed property for their own property values. They may occasionally mow the lawn to prevent overgrowth, weeds, and ticks. If an abandoned swimming pool was attracting mosquitoes and wildlife, they would report it to the town. Invested neighbors will do some of the work of keeping up a property for you.

 

2. You plan to tear down the house.

If the land is valuable and you plan to tear down the house anyway, buying a foreclosed property can be a great deal. You don’t have to worry about hidden repair costs if you’re ripping everything out and starting fresh. Land in New Jersey is at a premium, so if there’s acreage involved, a foreclosure may be your best option.

 

3. It’s not your primary home.

The foreclosure process can take years, and even toward the end can fall through. The legal system has protections in place to try to get the homeowner to remain in their home. They have various recourses to take up until the last day, and even then may try to regain their house. If you are trying to purchase a foreclosure as your primary residence you could be tied up for a long time without a home. It’s best to look at foreclosures when you have time to plan. Second homes or investment properties are usually a better fit.

 

4. You’re experienced in investment properties.

If you’re looking to be the next HGTV house-flipping star, it’s a bad idea to start with foreclosures. Build up a solid background of investment properties bought with traditional mortgages first. You’ll become experienced in uncovering structure issues, but usually not on the scale of what you can find in a foreclosure. As you earn stable profits, you’ll be able to afford the risk of a foreclosed property. At that point, even if you make a bad investment, it won’t bankrupt you.

 

5. You get to a property early in the process.

There’s a good chance you won’t be able to perform a home inspection if the foreclosure is being sold at auction. Without a home inspection, you will be going into the purchase totally blind. You may be able to bypass an auction altogether if you get to the homeowner during the pre-foreclosure period. The buyer may be receptive to a reasonable offer and you’ll be able to perform home inspections to uncover any potential problems.

 

6. You have an experienced real estate attorney.

An experienced attorney like George Veitengruber can help you determine if a foreclosure property is the right investment for you. Veitengruber Law can perform a title search on the property and discover if there are any outstanding liens. When you purchase a home at auction you are inheriting property liens, so you want to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

If you’ve decided that a foreclosure is a good investment for you, Veitengruber Law can also help you prepare for the auction as well as attend the auction with you. All the paperwork needs to be ready in advance including your deposit, which is nonrefundable in NJ. If you are ready to accept the risk, a foreclosed property could be your way to a big reward.

How NJ Title Insurance Protects You from Hidden Ownership Hazards

When purchasing real estate in New Jersey, it is imperative that buyers take care to familiarize themselves with the lengthy checklist of steps that must be completed throughout the process of purchasing a home. Neglecting to do so can result in delays, missed deadlines, or additional fees.

One of these important tasks is purchasing title insurance. However, if buyers encounter this fee as an unexpected add-on, they may resent it, or even wonder if title insurance is necessary at all. Of course, title insurance is necessary because it provides a financial shield against a slew of potential pitfalls, even title-related issues that could crop up down the road.

Questions related to title insurance often include:

Before the closing date, there is going to be a title search. What does that mean?

The party listed on a home’s title is the rightful owner of the property. When your NJ real estate attorney or the title insurance company performs a title search on a property before the sale, they are attempting to find anything in the home’s history that could become problematic when it’s time to transfer the title.

This is a preliminary examination, but it is quite thorough. Records commonly examined include divorce agreements, judgments, liens, tax records, trusts, wills, and yes, deeds. If there is an obstacle that is fairly minor (remaining liens, clerical errors, or missing signatures), it can often be quickly remedied. In such cases, a sale can usually proceed unencumbered.

The initial title search was clear. Do I still need title insurance?

Even when a title search is initially clear, it is nearly impossible for even the most thorough of title searches to fully eliminate the potential for future conflict. A contesting claim can be filed for a number of reasons, including clerical errors, newly-discovered family connections, and estate planning mistakes. Unfortunately, such a claim could crop up at any point – even years after you’ve closed on the home.

Additionally, all reputable lenders will require you to secure title insurance before they will even consider your mortgage request, and NJ real estate attorneys simply won’t represent you if you are unable to secure it. No attorney wants to take on a client who has left themselves so vulnerable to unpredictable future events.

Title insurance can sound superfluous at first, but clearly, it is an absolutely essential cog in the machinery of actions that represent responsible, successful home ownership.

What does title insurance cover?

A standard owner’s title insurance policy normally protects you financially in the event of any of the following:

  • Displacement by a contesting claimant
  • Forgery and fraud with regard to prior documentation
  • Clerical or typographical errors
  • Mistakes on records or in methods of record-keeping
  • Outstanding liens or legal judgments
  • Restrictive covenants, i.e. easements that have been undocumented

If something goes wrong with the title years from now, how can title insurance help?

Your policy will be your safety net, even if a long-buried issue crops up down the line and presents a valid obstruction to your ownership.

Now, a long-lost party can still take a claim to the courts; if they happen to win ownership of the property, your policy will pay off the remaining balance on your mortgage. If you have also taken out a homeowner’s insurance policy, that will be activated as well, so that some – or perhaps all – of the money you’ve invested (i.e. down payments and mortgage payments) can be recovered.

What is the total cost of title insurance?

The lender’s policy will cost a one-time initial cost of roughly $1,000. An owner’s policy costs less than $100. Even if you never file a claim against your policy, though, this is still money well spent.

Why? Because on the (admittedly small) chance that a missed claim does crop up and catches you without title insurance, you stand to lose a large sum of money as well as the home you’ve fallen in love with.

Who should I speak to about purchasing title insurance?

Your escrow or closing agent will pursue title insurance for you once your purchasing agreement for your new property has been completed. Feel free to reach out to us at Veitengruber Law if you have questions about title insurance, title searches, or any other aspect of the New Jersey real estate process!

 

Filing Your NJ 2019 Taxes: Go it Alone or Use a CPA?

Everyone knows April 15th is tax day. For months you’ll see the ads everywhere for tax filing services. If you’re reasonably good with numbers you may be wondering if you can handle filing your taxes yourself or if you should use an accountant. There are a lot of factors to consider so it’s best to know all of the options before you file.

 

When should you go it alone?

Filing taxes yourself is best when you’re taxes are fairly simple. If you are filing singly and taking the standard deduction your tax preparation will be fairly straightforward. However if you have dependents, student loan interest, a mortgage, or own a business you will want to itemize in order to get the maximum benefit. That can get complicated quickly. Certain itemizations can raise red flags for an IRS audit. In that case you will have been penny wise and pound foolish. You’ll have to hire a CPA to represent you in an audit in addition to back taxes and fees you’ll have to pay.

 

Not all accountants are created equal.

Anyone who studied accounting can call themselves an accountant. Your college roommate who took a few accounting courses is an accountant. Your cousin’s wife who read Accounting for Dummies is an accountant. Does that mean you should put your tax preparation in their hands?

 

You may think that going to an office like Jackson Hewitt or H&R Block means that you’re putting your taxes in the hands of professionals. The term ‘professionals’ is misleading. Their websites don’t even call their employees accountants or professionals, they call them ‘tax pros.’ Workers filing your taxes are trained on how to use accounting software, that’s it. Hiring one of these companies is hardly a step up from filing yourself using TurboTax.

 

An Enrolled Agent, or EA, is an accountant who has been certified by the IRS. To become an EA, several requirements must be met:

  • Must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which must be renewed annually
  • Must achieve passing scores on all three parts of the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) within two years
  • Apply for enrollment
  • Payment of enrollment fee
  • Pass a background check
  • Pass a suitability check of past tax filings
  • Renew EA certification every three years
  • Obtain continuing education after certification

An EA does not have to have a college education. When choosing an accountant to file your taxes, an EA will probably be more affordable than a CPA. An EA is also capable of legally representing you in the event of an audit.

 

A Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with 150 total semester hours. Of these, 24 must be in accounting and 24 in business. In order to be licensed in New Jersey, a candidate must pass the CPA exam and provide evidence of at least one year of experience working for a CPA. During that term, 25% of your time must be spent auditing and accounting and the remaining 75% on tax services. Maintaining a CPA license requires 120 hours of continuing professional education to be completed every three years including a New Jersey Law and Ethics course.

 

A CPA is the most well-educated and experienced person you can have handling your taxes. If you need help finding an NJCPA, Veitengruber Law has close relationships with CPAs with impeccable reputations. George can recommend a CPA that will handle your taxes with accuracy and honesty beyond reproach.

 

Who should use a CPA?

Anyone not taking the standard deduction should have their taxes prepared by a professional. When itemizing your taxes, a CPA can help you find deductions you might have missed, express concerns about possible red flags, and let you know about upcoming tax law changes for the new year that you can prepare for.

 

In the event of an audit, you’ll want a CPA on your side. They will have experience navigating an audit and won’t be intimidated by the IRS officials. They may even have worked with the IRS agent before on other cases and know what to expect.

 

While most tax returns could benefit from the eye of a CPA, these are some categories of filings that definitely should be itemized:

  • Buying or owning a home
  • Owning a rental property
  • Moving and moving expenses
  • Moving to a new state and filing 2 sets of taxes
  • Medical expenses and medically related travel
  • Owning a business
  • Working from home in a home office
  • Paying student loan interest

 

It’s best not to leave your tax returns to chance. Hiring a CPA for your filing is the best way to ensure you get the maximum benefit on your return.

Can a NJ Seller be Sued for Undisclosed Defects in the Home?

caveat emptor

When selling your home in New Jersey, “Caveat Emptor” (Buyer Beware) is the main tenet applied. The seller also has an obligation under common law to properly represent the property. If the seller fails to honestly represent the home for sale, they open themselves up to the probability of legal actions. Because we know this is an area of NJ real estate law that can easily be misinterpreted, Veitengruber Law always works hard to ensure that our clients understand their responsibility as a New Jersey real estate buyer or seller.

New Jersey courts have ruled in favor of misled buyers.

While the law is not specific, the courts have heard numerous lawsuits and ruled in favor of buyers when they have been blatantly misled by the seller. In New Jersey there is an “implied warranty of habitability.” This means that the seller is expected to disclose anything that can affect habitability of the home, and includes things like: drainage problems, hidden mold, roof leaks, poorly insulated walls and windows. Was the house ever tested for Radon? Hiding these types of things from potential buyers could bring about a lawsuit after the sale.

NJ real estate contract review is crucial!

There are good reasons to use both a real estate agent and a NJ real estate law firm like us when buying a house. Even the most basic real estate contract includes a laundry list of items that any buyer would expect to be included or corrected before they agree to purchase a property. All improvements and construction should be valid and up to code. This will ensure a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) can be obtained from the local municipality. You cannot move into a house without a Certificate of Occupancy.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Buyers should be sure that qualifying for a CO is written into their real estate contract, and every contract should be thoroughly reviewed by a real estate attorney. At Veitengruber Law, we work closely with many home inspectors to ensure that a full property inspection is completed before our clients sign any paperwork.

Undocumented improvements can lead to problems

Sometimes homeowners make improvements without securing the proper permits and inspections. This potentially means that if the situation comes to light before, during, or after the sale of the home, the municipality can levy fines and charge back taxes. Who is financially responsible for these fees depends  upon when the situation is discovered.

A house with a bad reputation?

There is no official requirement to disclose things such as a tragic event that occurred in the home, like a crime, murder, or death of natural causes. While sellers don’t have to offer up this information, they do have to respond truthfully if asked if an event of this nature has occurred in the home or on the property. If a seller blatantly misrepresents what has taken place in the home, the buyer can sue for relief.

As the buyer, you are spending a great deal of your money for the house of your dreams. You will likely spend many years living in the home, and you may even raise a family there. BECAUSE there are no solid laws requiring the seller to disclose the home’s “past,” it’s important that you do your due diligence. Research all available information and secure your situation with the expert representation of Veitengruber Law.