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By: Matthew H. Fry, Esquire

There can be a lot to think about when searching for and purchasing a new home.  Whether you are a first time buyer or have not been through the process for many years, the process is fairly uniform if you are buying residential real estate.  Below are common steps to move forward with a purchase of residential real estate, along with some ideas you may want to consider, including retaining an attorney to assist you with the transaction.

Things may be a little different in each state or area, so it is important to get in touch with a qualified real estate agent or attorney to learn how the process works in your area.

Make An Offer And Sign An Agreement Of Sale:

When you find a place you love and want to make it your future home, it’s time to present an offer in the form of a proposed Agreement of Sale to purchase real estate.  By signing this agreement, you are bound to move forward with the purchase of the property.  While typically your real estate agent will provide you with a uniform Agreement approved for use in your state, there is no hard and fast rule to use this contract.  In fact, for certain transactions, it may be beneficial to insert or remove certain terms and conditions in the agreement.  An attorney can handle this for you.

Most Agreements of Sale will be contingent on inspections, loan approval, appraisals or similar matters.  For example, if the inspections do not meet with your approval, or if the mortgage lender does not approve the transaction, you may be able to terminate the Agreement.

Review of Seller’s Disclosure:

The seller must provide the buyer with a disclosure with answers to questions about the condition of the property.   The seller must disclose to the buyer any issues or flaws with the property that would affect the value or habitability. Generally, sellers are required to answer a series of yes or no questions about the property. If there were water leaks or past repairs, violations from the municipality, the seller is required to disclose them. This provides additional information about the property you’re considering purchasing.


A home is probably the most important purchase of a lifetime, so it is important to take advantage of your right to a property inspection.

The typical inspections include a general property inspection and a termite inspection.  The inspector will check the home from the foundation to the roof, and investigate all major systems and components. You, as the buyer, can and should follow alongside the inspector to learn more about the property. You’ll want to know about the components (such as the heater or air conditioner) and have a plan in place for maintenance.  If the general inspection or termite inspection reveal other problems, specialists like an electrician, roofer, or structural engineer may be called.  This is your one chance to approve the property from top to bottom.  If issues arise, you can either terminate the Agreement, or attempt to re-negotiate.

The Appraisal:

Most buyers will pay a certain amount of money down toward the purchase price. The balance will come as a mortgage from the bank. The appraisal is the bank’s way of making sure the price in the Agreement of Sale is at least the value of the property.  The bank is primarily concerned with the value of the house to make sure the home’s value can cover the mortgage loan amount.  The bank sends out an appraiser, not affiliated with the bank and paid for by the buyer, to confirm that the contract price is in line with the neighborhood’s comparable sales. If it’s not, the bank can deny the loan or change the terms.

Loan approval:

In addition to the appraisal, the lender will also require your credit, debt and income history for approval. It’ll also want to approve the property’s title report and make sure there aren’t any liens recorded against the property that might affect its value. The bank can take up to a month to do its full review, which should result in a loan approval.

Final walk-through:

You will have the opportunity shortly before closing to have at least one or possibly two opportunities to walk through the property to make sure it’s in the condition it was when you last saw it. You want to be certain that the seller didn’t make modifications, leave behind any garbage or debris, or remove anything they agreed to leave in the home.  You also want to make sure that any repairs you negotiated with the seller were completed.

The Closing:

The closing may happen at an attorney’s office or with an escrow officer at a title company. In Pennsylvania, the buyers and sellers sign the closing documents together.

If you need a loan to purchase the property, plan on signing dozens of documents at closing. You’ll have to show up to the closing with a photo ID, as your signature will be notarized. Prior to the closing, your real estate agent, attorney or escrow officer should send over a closing statement to review. This will spell out your final closing numbers and what money you need to bring to closing. The funds can be wired in or paid with a cashier’s check on closing day. Be sure to ask for the statement early, so there aren’t any last-minute surprises.

This process can be overwhelming, and if you already are a homeowner, you may also be dealing with the sale of your own property.  If you need an attorney to review the agreement of sale and assist with the purchase or sale of real estate, the attorneys at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP can help.

Please contact Matthew H. Fry, Esquire at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP at 610-565-5700 or email him at [email protected]

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