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Philadelphia real estate lawyer buying first house in Pennsylvania tips

Are you thinking about purchasing your first home? This can and should be a very exciting time in your life. However, there are many potential pitfalls and complicated legal issues that will inevitably arise during the process. Enlisting the assistance of a qualified real estate broker and/or attorney is vital to making your first home purchase run smoothly.

The Timeline: Before you dive into this process, it is a good idea to have a general feel for the timeline of events that will take place. The list below outlines the major steps, which your real estate broker and/or attorney can help walk you through.  

1.     Build your savings (assume that you will typically be required to make a 20% down payment though in some situations it can be as low as 5%)

2.     Obtain pre-approval for a loan from lender (shop around for best rates)

3.     Hire professionals (a real estate broker and/or attorney)

4.     Hunt for houses (it is a good idea to know what type of house and location you are looking for, to make the process as efficient as possible)

5.     Submit offer, counteroffer, and negotiation process

6.     Sign the Agreement of Sale

7.     Inspections, appraisal, loan underwriting, loan approval, closing cost estimates

8.     Closing

The Contract:

When purchasing your home, one of the most important documents that you will review and sign is the Agreement of Sale (AOS) contract. This contract will formalize the agreement between you and the seller. In sum, you agree to buy and the seller agrees to sell their property to you under the terms and conditions spelled out in the contract. A real estate attorney will assist you during this process by ensuring the AOS is drafted in terms favorable to you, calling to your attention any especially important provisions, and reviewing the contract line-by-line before you sign it. Note that only lawyers (and not real estate agents) can draft and edit contracts, so there is a substantial benefit to hiring an attorney as your real estate agent.

The Mortgage:

To finance your purchase, you generally will need to obtain a mortgage. A mortgage is a loan you obtain from your bank or mortgage lender to finance your home purchase over a period of time—typically 15 to 30 years. The two basic parts of a mortgage are the principal (the amount that you borrow) and interest (the rate at which you pay to borrow the principal amount). Understanding your obligations under your mortgage is important because, if you fail to pay your mortgage, your lender will have the right to foreclose on your home. Having a real estate attorney with you throughout the process can help guide you to the type of mortgage that is best for you, and will ensure that you understand everything that you are agreeing to.

The Title:

The property title is a document that you will receive at closing showing that you are the legal owner of the property you have purchased. During the home-buying process it is important to ensure that there are no other liens or claims to the property. Issues can arise with other mortgages, unpaid taxes, and other debts from previous owners. You can work with your real estate agent and title company to confirm that you have clean title to the property prior to closing.

The Closing Disclosure:

As a final note, in October of 2015 the Closing Disclosure (CD) and the Loan Estimate replaced the HUD-1 and the Good Faith Estimate as the required documents to fill out at closing. As a first-time homebuyer, this change likely won’t have a huge impact on you, since you won’t have gone through the old closing procedures. Generally, these documents will detail your loan terms and closing costs. The CD must be prepared at least three business days before the closing. This is good for you since you will have more time to review all of your terms and compare them to documents and estimates you have previously received. Your real estate attorney will help you make sure that everything is good to go for closing.


Now that you have learned the basics, you are one step closer to being ready to purchase your first home. Contact our offices to learn more about how we can help you through this process at 215-717-2200Jason Rabinovich is both a licensed attorney and real estate broker in Pennsylvania and other states.

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