Buying or selling a house can be a stressful and vulnerable time for every party involved in the closing. To make sure that the process goes smoothly, make sure that you are familiar with your rights and obligations as a buyer and as a seller ahead of time!
As a buyer, you are entitled to the following elements:
- You have the right to house-hunt without facing discrimination thanks to the Fair Housing Act which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings and other housing-related activities on the basis of race, sex, disability, color, religion, familial status, or national origin.
- You have the right to know about any potential health hazards linked to the property, including waste management, water supply, insulation, hazardous materials (such as lead paint). Disclosure agreements vary state by state: you can find which forms are requested from the buyers here.
- You have the right to made aware of the financial history of the property, including property taxes and any encumbrance on the title (such as liens, easements, or any other issues)
- You have the right to access any information that will help you get a fair deal on the property. This includes an objective appraisal, and market price analysis and comparison
- You have the right to have access to all the information regarding closing, including a copy of the purchase and sale agreement, a walk-through of the property before closing and access to the settlement statement at closing
As a seller, you are also protected by real estate laws and have the right to the following elements:
- You have the right to advertise the property for sale in a public listing or another similar forum, with the help of a real estate agent or not
- You have the right to set a price for your property that you deem reasonable, backed by truthful and accurate information
- You have the right to request a home inspection prior to closing
- You have the right to protect yourself by requiring that a deposit or a certain amount of the purchase price be placed in escrow before closing, and may request verification of financing or a mortgage loan before the sale is finalized
- Finally, you have the right to accept or refuse an offer, for example, if you find it to be too low, if you are worried about the potential buyer’s financing abilities, or simply if you changed your mind about selling the house in the first place. However, per the Fair Housing Act, you cannot refuse to sell your property to a specific buyer based on his or her race, color, sex, familial status, or national origin.
Shall any legal issues arise during the closing process from either the buyer or the seller, the best course of action would be to hire a real estate lawyer. He or she will be able not only to help you know your rights but also to provide legal representation and council if the dispute was to lead to a lawsuit or any other legal proceeding.