Legalese

le∙gal∙ese  |lee-gal-eez|
noun, informal

the formal and technical language of legal
documents that is often hard to understand.

 What you need to know about Buying:
1. Make sure that you have the right legal team on your side. How do you do this? By asking around! Speak to your real estate agent and friends/co-workers that have purchased a property in the area you are interested in within the recent past who have had a positive experience. And do subscribe to the old adage that you get what you pay for. Saving a couple hundred dollars on legal services is bound to catch up with you either during the transaction when you are unable to get the answers you need when you need them, or after the transaction when you need to get your hands on documentation and are unable to reach the attorney and/or legal staff since they are too busy working on active files. Go with the attorney who gives you the best gut feeling during your initial conversation with them. Remember, we are talking about the most important and emotional purchase of your life, your home. This is one of the only times that price should be no object.

2. Have your real estate agent put as much detailed information into your Contract as possible. Be sure to review the items that you consider to be included or excluded from the sale with your real estate agent, and have those items written into the Contract upon your agent presenting your offer to the Seller. Be sure that the additional deposit monies amount included in the Contract is an amount that you actually have available, as Sellers often accept deals based on their attractiveness. A deal is a deal. The more information that needs to be changed during the attorney review process, the more tenuous the deal becomes. Try to be as upfront as possible.

3. When it comes to the home inspection, ask your real estate agent his/her recommendation for a thorough home inspector who writes a clear, concise home inspection report. Also, be prepared to attend your home inspection. There are things that the home inspector may mention to you during the home inspection that may not be included in your report. You may need to go back to your home inspector to ask for the report to be revised in order for these missing items to be included in your report. The only way for you to be aware of these items is if you are present at the home inspection. Remember, the home inspection provision of the Contract exists for the purpose of making sure that the major systems of the home and structural integrity of the property are in “proper working order.” The home inspection contingency does not exist for nitpicking cosmetic items that may not be your style, imperfections that are par for the course, or minor items such as loose toilets that can be fixed as simply as getting a wrench out. Unless you are buying new construction or gut rehabilitation, your property was previously lived in and will have minor cosmetic items that need to be tended to, but this is why your property was not priced at new construction square footage prices. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

4. After you have decided on a lender and completed your loan application, you will be provided with a Good Faith Estimate (GFE). Do not lose sight of the key word “estimate”! Many of the software programs used in compiling the numbers for the GFE use national averages. The best example of the national average rule is title insurance. The title insurance amount that appears on your GFE will undoubtedly be significantly less than the actual title bill at the time of your closing. By significant, we mean as much as a thousand less. Feel free to ask us to review your GFE provided to you by your mortgage company in order that you can have a better understanding of the monies that you will be required to bring to your closing.

5. Make sure that your rate lock does not expire prior to, on or directly after your closing date. As a general rule of thumb, your rate should not expire for up to four weeks after your estimated closing date. Since this is not always possible, try not to go any shorter than two weeks after your estimated closing date. If your rate lock expires prior to your closing occurring, you will have to pay additional money to extend your rate. In extreme cases, the option to extend your rate will not even be available to you.

6. Understand that the closing date agreed to in your Contract is truly an estimated date. Do not make moving arrangements, set up contractors or schedule deliveries at your new address based upon the estimated closing date. Be sure to mention to us during our initial consultation if you have living arrangements that do not allow for your closing to take place after the date agreed to in the Contract. Otherwise, be sure that you have alternate living arrangements available to you on a temporary basis around the closing date that appears on the Contract. Typically, you will not know the exact date and time that your closing will take place until a week prior to your closing. This is because many different parts of the puzzle have to fit together in order to close. The Seller’s attorney must be available, the Seller must be moved out of the property by the time you close, and your lender will have to deliver both a closing package and closing funds to our office.

7. As close to your closing as possible, usually the morning of your closing, you will need to perform your final walk-thru inspection of the property. Again, none of your inspections should be interpreted as an opportunity to nitpick your property into perfection. The purpose of your final walk-thru inspection is to determine that the property is in the same condition as it was at the time of your home inspection. And, if repairs were agreed to by the Seller, the walk-thru inspection is the time to see to it that these repairs were completed as agreed. Call us immediately if there are any red flags at this final walk-thru inspection (i.e. you see no sign of the Seller being prepared to move out, there are gaping holes in the walls, the roof is leaking water into the property, the air-conditioning or heating system is not cooling or heating properly). That way, we can alert the Seller’s attorney to these items prior to you sitting down at the closing table with your Seller, possibly avoiding a contentious situation.

8. Your final closing figure will need to be provided in the form of a certified or official bank check made payable to our firm’s attorney trust account. The final closing figure is usually not available until the morning of your closing. If you are lucky, the bank will provide us with your closing, and we may be able to provide you with your final closing package and figures the day prior to your closing. In any event, you should have a good idea by now as to the amount of money that will be required from you on your closing day between your GFE and our review of your actual closing costs as compared to the GFE. Do not be opposed to obtaining a certified/official bank check in an estimated amount, as any overage will be reimbursed to you at the closing table. Going with an estimated amount could potentially save you time and aggravation from waiting around for the bank figures to be finalized.

Costs Associated with Buying
1) Title Insurance is required by your lender in order to close. Title insurance fees are state-mandated and based upon your purchase price.
2) Legal fees – contact us for a quote.
3) Recording Fees – Your original documents will be recorded at the County Register’s Office of the County you are purchasing in after your closing. The County charges per page for the recording of your documents, and your recording fees will vary according to the length of your documents.
4) Condominium fees – If you are purchasing a condominium, several fees may apply to your closing:

a) Working capital contribution – similar to a membership fee – can be as much as 3 months of maintenance and is non-refundable;
b) Move In Fee – some associations charge a move in fee of as much as $500;
c) First month’s maintenance – Depending on the time of the month that you close, you may be required to pay your first month’s maintenance payment at your closing;
d) Administrative fee – If your condominium association employs a management company, you will be required to pay administrative fees to the management company at the time of your closing, usually not exceeding $300;

5) Survey/Survey Certificate – If you are purchasing a home, your bank will require a Survey, which is priced based upon the size of the property you are purchasing. If you are purchasing a condominium, your bank will require a survey certificate, which typically costs no more than $400.

6) Mortgage costs – Every lender varies as to the fees charged in connection with your loan. The easiest way to have your closing costs estimated as accurately as possible, it so provide our office with a copy of your Good Faith Estimate received from your lender.

What you need to know about selling
1. If you were not represented by our firm when you purchased your property, be sure to request a copy of your recorded Deed and Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance from your previous attorney in order to avoid any title insurance surprises. Open title issues can delay your closing and cause escrows to be required if those title issues are not resolved prior to your closing.

2. If you are selling your house in order to buy another property, speak with your mortgage company to determine if you will need to sell your house in order to purchase a new one. If you mortgage company determines that you will need to sell your house prior to buying, make sure to mention this to us in order that we can attempt to make your purchase contingent upon the sale of your home.

3. Prior to accepting an offer, make sure that you have come up with a list of items that are included or excluded from the sale of your property (i.e. window blinds, air conditioning units, window treatments, fixtures) in order that these items can be included in the Contract when written up by your real estate agent or our firm. Having these items clearly laid out from the get-go allows for the attorney review process to be finalized more quickly and for there to be less chance of a walk-thru issue due to “missing items” when your Buyer performs their final walk-thru inspection of the property.

4. If you are selling a condominium or a property that has a homeowner’s association, your Buyer will be entitled to review and approve the condominium or homeowner’s association documents. Have a copy of your Master Deed, By-Laws and current financials for the condominium or homeowner’s association available so that your Buyer can review these documents early on in the transaction. Since your Buyer will be able to cancel the Contract based upon the review of these documents, the sooner the documents are provided to your Buyer, the sooner you know that you have a firm deal.

5. The home inspection provision of the Contract proves to be equally as tedious as when buying a home. Do not take the items raised by your Buyer personally. Draw your proverbial line in the sand and separate the items raised by your Buyer into two categories: 1) items that you absolutely will not address and 2) items that you will address or use as negotiation tools. If your Buyer is asking for a credit, ask yourself: Is this deal worth terminating upon giving up whatever amount of money the Buyer has requested as a credit?

6. If your estimated closing date is around the time that your mortgage payment(s) is due, either make your payment extra early that month or do not make your payment for your closing month. The idea here is to be certain that your mortgage payoff statement reflects an accurate amount. Any cross-over in payment will result in waiting for a refund from your mortgage company after closing. Remember, there is a 15 day grace period for your mortgage payment, so as long as your closing will occur within this time frame, you will not receive a late on your credit report.

7. You do not have to physically attend the closing as a Seller. Typically, we will prepare your closing documents for your signature prior to the closing. In order to attend the closing on your behalf, we will prepare a Power of Attorney specific to the sale of your home. There is a minimal fee associated with this Power of Attorney, but the fee associated with the Power of Attorney far outweighs the alternative of remaining on call, traveling out of the area to the Buyer’s attorney’s office, and waiting for funds to be available on the day of your closing.

8. Under no circumstances should you attempt to have your sale and purchase occur on the same day. Attempting two transactions on one day is essentially setting yourself up for failure and unnecessary aggravation. For these reasons, ask us about including a Use & Occupancy Agreement (an agreement which allows for you to remain at the property for a specified period of time after the closing has occurred at a pre-determined per diem rate, which is based upon the Buyer’s mortgage interest, taxes and insurance) provision in the Rider during attorney review.

9. If you are moving out of state or are selling a property in New Jersey but are not a New Jersey resident, be prepared to have 2% of the sales price withheld by the State of New Jersey Division of Taxation until the following tax year. THIS IS NOT A TAX, but it will be required for ALL non-residents period. For more detailed information on the 2% withholding, it is best to contact your accountant.

You will be required to provide your Buyer with appropriate municipal permits/certificates at or prior to closing. Usually, your real estate agent will assist in obtaining these municipal permits/certificates on your behalf. If you are not selling your property through a real estate agent, be sure to ask your attorney what is required by your municipality in order to close. In any event, the original permits/certificates will need to be delivered to your attorney’s office prior to your closing together with a set of keys (included a mail box key, if applicable) and garage door opener(s).

Costs Associated with Selling:
When selling any property in New Jersey, you will be required to pay a Realty Transfer Tax to the County where your property is located equal to approximately 1% of your sales price.
If you are using a real estate agent for the sale of your home, you will be responsible to pay the real estate commissions at the time of your closing.
The Buyer’s attorney will charge a fee for the cancellation of each of the mortgages that you have taken out against the property (approximately $100 per mortgage) and an overnight fee (approximately $25 per Mortgage) to overnight your mortgage payoff to your lender.

If you are not a New Jersey resident, you are required to pay a 2% withholding, which will be collected at the time of your closing. This is not a tax and will be refunded to you after your closing by way of your accountant filing the necessary documentation with the State of New Jersey Division of Taxation.

Estate Planning
Estate planning goes hand-in-hand with owning property. Estate planning allows for you to be certain that your needs and the needs of your family are addressed. Our firm handles the preparation of all pertinent estate planning documents as well as probating wills upon an individual’s passing.

Wills are prepared to handle the distribution of your property and assets when you die. A will can be changed at any time to incorporate any changes that you might like to make, or that your attorney sees fit.

Trusts can be used to limit the taxes owed for the person who passed away, or to make sure that assets left to a minor are kept safe and properly distributed to that minor.
A living will, also known as a health care proxy, is a document that specifies your wishes in the event of serious illness or a catastrophic event. The living will appoints the person who will make sure that your wishes are carried out in the event of unfortunate events.

A power of attorney can be used to handle your affairs if you are ill and unable to take care of your daily responsibilities.

Landlord/Tenant Law
Landlord/Tenant law is an extremely specialized area of law. Whenever entering into any residential or commercial lease, you can encounter many pitfalls. We specialize in understanding the complexities that arise between the Landlord and the Tenant. If you are looking to enter into a Lease as a Landlord or as a Tenant, the time to see us is now. We can help structure the Lease to best protect you. If you are already in a Lease and a dispute has arisen, contact us immediately so that we can best instruct you on what you will need to do to protect your rights.

Land Use Matter
If a city and/or town will not allow you to build or make changes to your property, you will need to appeal the Zoning laws. Our objective is to examine applicable Zoning laws as a team with your architect and planner to gain approvals for projects ranging from minor subdivision to complex site plan and subdivision applications necessary for complex land and condominium approvals.

Municipal Court
The most common municipal court matter that we handle is a traffic ticket or moving violation. Getting tickets in New Jersey is serious and must be addressed because an excessive amount of tickets can cause a suspension of your license. In addition, your insurance rates may skyrocket as a result of these tickets. In most cases we can limit your fines and insurance assessments as well as any jail time that may be required under the violation. Our experience and track record has limited the consequences of tickets.

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