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Legalizing Improvements
Have you made any additions or improvements which require a

certificate of occupancy, without getting one? It is not uncommon to

find that, especially in older homes, either the present or a previous

owner has made improvements without obtaining the necessary

permits and certificates of occupancy. You may learn that an outdoor

deck, finished basement, screened-in porch, or bathroom has been

constructed without the appropriate legalization. Even if your

prospective purchaser does not insist on legalizing such improvements,

it is frequently the case that a bank attorney, representing your

buyer’s mortgage lender, will insist that these improvements be

legalized with a certificate of occupancy prior to closing. If that is the

case, it is best to start the process as soon as you think of selling your

home, if not before. Otherwise, you run the risk that, at the closing

table, the process will be halted by a bank attorney who is not satisfied

with the legal condition of the premises.

Property Condition Disclosure Statements

In the State of New York, a seller of a single family home must give a

Property Condition Disclosure Statement to the prospective purchaser

not later than with the proposed contract of sale. While there are

certain exceptions to this law, the purpose of the statute is for the

owner occupant who is selling his house to give what is more or less a report card to the purchaser to disclose the condition of the property and any defects of interest. It is still the obligation of the seller, with or without the Property Condition Disclosure Statement, to disclose material defects that would not be ascertainable with a normal inspection. In other words, if you have a latent or hidden defect in your house, which could not be discovered except by tearing a wall or a floor apart, and you know about it, you are obligated to disclose that to a prospective purchaser if it is sufficiently important to affect the purchaser’s decision about the purchase or the purchase price. That obligation is not related to the Property Condition Disclosure Statement.

If a seller decides that he does not want to provide a Property Condition Disclosure Statement, he has the option of giving the purchaser instead a credit of $500.00 at closing.

Your attorney will prepare the contract, including all of the essential terms of the sale. Once it is fully signed by all parties, your attorney will place the down payment in his or her escrow account until the transaction is completed.

Paying Off Your Mortgage

You will need to provide your attorney with all the relevant documentation to obtain a final statement from your lender, so that your mortgage can be paid in full at the closing. If you have a home equity line of credit, this line must be frozen prior to the closing. If you are selling a co-op, this process should be started as soon as you sign the contract, since it tends to take longer to coordinate.

Closing Day
Your contract closing date usually has been set in the contract as an “on or about” date. Do not call the movers yet. That “on or about” date usually indicates a target date only; either party is entitled to a reasonable adjournment, depending on the circumstances. Try to stay as flexible as possible, while keeping your attorney informed, so that he or she can confirm a closing date for you. After packing, cleaning, and passing the buyer’s final walk-through inspection, you and your attorney will attend the closing. You will sign, slide the keys across the table, and pick up your check – a job well done!

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