For a variety of reasons, some homeowners choose to forego the assistance of a professional real estate agent when it comes to selling their home. While there are many significant benefits to having a knowledgeable realtor assist in the sale of a home, e.g., help in determining the proper listing price, evaluation of competing offers, assistance with inspections, certificates of occupancy and issues which arise prior to closing, some homeowners choose to handle these matters themselves. If so, the homeowner should be cautioned to be aware of the following responsibilities:

Offers to Purchase: If the potential buyer is represented by a realtor, then generally the offer to purchase will be presented in the form of a proposed contract. If the buyer is not represented by a realtor, then the seller will want the buyer to present the basic terms of their proposal which should include the sales price, amount of deposits, amount of mortgage, closing date, inspections sought and any other pertinent requirements of the buyer. A contract can then be prepared to include these terms. The seller should not sign any document until reviewed by their attorney to avoid inadvertently signing a binding contract. A simple offer to purchase may become a binding contract if all necessary elements of the sales transaction are included, the offer is accepted and something of value is received by the seller.

Real Estate Commissions: Even though the homeowner has chosen to sell their home on their own, they still may be responsible for payment of a commission. If a realtor brings a potential buyer to see the home and the buyer then decides to purchase the home, the real estate agent will have earned a commission and the selling homeowner will be responsible for that agent’s real estate commission. The selling homeowner should discuss with any agent who brings a potential buyer to their attention what their fee would be before showing the home to the prospective buyer – usually it will be 3%, one-half of a standard 6% realtor’s commission. Even if a buyer approaches the selling homeowner directly, the selling homeowner should inquire as to how the buyer came to learn that the home was for sale.

Access to Home for Inspections: The homeowner must also make arrangements for the buyer to have access to the home for a home inspections such as engineering, termite and radon inspections and any other inspections agreed to in the contract of sale.

Obtaining Required Certificates prior to closing: The State of N.J. requires certificates evidencing proper installation of smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher. In certain municipalities certificates of occupancy, septic system approvals, well water approvals and sump pump approvals are also required.

Terminating Utilities: A selling homeowner needs to arrange to terminate such utilities as electric, gas, telephone, and cable prior to closing.

However a homeowner chooses to sell their home, it is helpful to be aware of these responsibilities.

Barbara Strapp Nelson is a Shareholder in the Real Estate Group of Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Lawrenceville, 609-896-9060.

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