In addition to having the contract reviewed by an attorney prior to signing, the following issues are important components of the home-buying process:
HOME INSPECTIONS AND CONDITION OF PROPERTY
You should have the property you are purchasing inspected by a licensed inspector or qualified contractor. Most residential contracts contain strict deadlines for inspections and repair requests. Make sure to comply with those deadlines and get all repair agreements in writing. You should do a final walk-through near the time of closing to ensure that any repairs or improvements agreed to by the seller have been done, that the major systems of the property are in working order, and that the property is in acceptable condition. For new construction you should meet with the builder shortly before closing to written develop a "punch list" of items the builder will address prior to or after closing. Consider purchasing a home warranty to cover repairs required after closing.
WELL, SEPTIC AND TERMITE INSPECTIONS
If the property you are purchasing is served by a well and/or septic system, you should have the well water tested for contamination by a certified laboratory and you should have the septic system inspected and tested by a licensed inspector or plumbing company. Septic inspections do not guaranty the system but only reflect its current working status. Underground conditions of the drain field can only be revealed by camera or by digging up the field, which is not normally included with a standard septic inspection. You should consult a septic professional if you have specific concerns. If you are purchasing land that is not served by municipal water or sewer utilities, you should have the property tested for the availability of well water and the capacity for a septic system (percolation testing). Finally, you should obtain a termite and wood destroying organism report. Any defects revealed by well, septic or termite inspections should be addressed prior to closing.
A new survey may not be required by your lender. However, you should consider getting a new survey to mark the location of buildings and identify boundary lines, easements, setbacks, wetlands, drainage areas, and other matters. Encroachments may be revealed by a survey. Surveys are also helpful if you build new structures on the property, such as a garage, shed or fence. If you do not get a new survey your title insurance may not only cover claims that could have been revealed by an accurate survey.
PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENTS, Condominiums and properties located in HOA neighborhoods
If you are purchasing is in a planned unit development (PUD) you should get a copy of all the covenants and restrictions applicable to the property. If the property is subject to a mandatory homeowners' association (HOA) you are entitled to a disclosure package that provides the by-laws, applicable covenants and restrictions, financial information for the HOA, a statement of the dues and other fees applicable to your property, and a statement showing that property is in compliance with or in violation of HOA rules and regulations. If you are purchasing a condominium you are entitled to receive a condominium disclosure package that contains the same components. If you close without receiving an HOA or condominium disclosure package you will waive important legal rights.