Troubleshooting tips for buying or selling a home

A lot can go right -- or wrong -- when buying or selling a home. Read on for tips on approaching residential real estate transactions.

For many, buying a new house is a substantial life event, and not one to be entered into lightly. There are many factors to be considered.

For example, the location impacts lifestyle factors such as daily work commutes and public school selection. Mortgage financing terms dictate individual budgeting. Of course, the emotional impact is perhaps the biggest contribution for many homebuyers. A home provides the backdrop against which an individual’s life will unfold, intertwining those emotional associations with a physical space. It’s no surprise that many experience a sense of anticipation when buying a new home, or feelings of loss when selling a home.

Considering the emotions at stake, the importance of thoroughly investigating all aspects of a residential real estate transaction cannot be overemphasized. One wrong move might expose a prospective homebuyer to legal or financial liability and unnecessary heartache, as in a recent example that made national news.

A building permit granted, then revoked

The story involves an architect who wanted to build a dream house for himself and his wife. Cognizant that the empty lot was in a historic district, the architect obtained a building permit and other construction approvals. Everything seemed to be going smoothly -- the house had passed its building inspections and was nearly complete -- when a neighbor filed a series of appeal to the local municipal land use and zoning authority.

The neighbor claimed that the architect’s new house was too modern and disruptive to the architectural styles of the other houses in the historic neighborhood. In response, the architect observed the lack of uniformity in the neighborhood’s house designs, including bungalows, Greek Revivals, Queen Annes and even shotguns. Inexplicably, the neighbor’s efforts were successful and the municipal board revoked the architect’s building permit. Fortunately, the architect has not yet exhausted his appeals, and a happy outcome may yet be possible.

Reading the fine print in real estate transactions

Unfortunately, this story may hit close to home for many readers. Properties like a townhouse or condo unit often have restrictions imposed by homeowner associations, and discovering the fine print in real estate documents may lead to a nasty surprise. There may also be land use and zoning restrictions imposed by the local municipality, as in the case of a historic district. From discovering substantial defects to hidden title encumbrances or undisclosed property easements, a prospective buyer may also have anxiety about whether a seller has been forthright in his or her disclosures required by law.

In Minnesota, municipal governments typically have zoning laws that regulate certain aspects of the location, construction, alteration and/or use of structures within city limits. From building permits to rezoning requests, variances or easements, an attorney that focuses on real estate transactions and is familiar with local ordinances can provide a prospective buyer with peace of mind through the process of buying or selling a residential property.

Keywords: real estate transaction, mortgage, buying a home, selling a home, residential real estate, commercial real estate