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5 Things to Know Before Buying a House

Buying a house is a big deal. Beyond the financial investment, there are quite a few legal implications, not to mention the emotional attachment to a new home. No one wants to end up on the other side of home ownership, wishing they had known something else before they got started.

Here are five things to know when buying a home, from incentives and inspections to insurance and the institutions that regulate home ownership.

1. Incentives and Impositions

In other words, taxes. Taxes can be both a helping hand and a hindrance when it comes to home ownership. Tax credits for first-time home buyers can help you get into a home (provided you're not filing a fraudulent claim), and there are several tax deductions available to home owners. There are many ways the IRS encourages home ownership, so you should know the facts about tax credits.

On the other hand, the purchase price isn't the only cost of a home. Owning property also means owing property taxes. Property taxes can vary significantly, depending on the value of your property and where you live. One of the biggest keys to understanding home buying and home ownership is understanding how property tax rates work.

2. Inspections

How do you know that the home of your dreams won't turn into a house of horrors after you buy it? Inspection. A comprehensive home inspection before you buy (including hiring the right home inspector) can save you from:

Conducting a proper home inspection is more than just kicking the tires on a used car, so make sure you don't skimp on the scrutiny.

3. Institutions

Just because you bought a house doesn't mean you can do whatever you want on your property. There may be a few governing institutions that will limit your freedom, beginning with your homeowners association. While not every house is subject to a homeowners association, HOAs can regulate everything from pets and landscaping to pink playhouses in the backyard.

HOAs have been known to go after homeowners for grass that's too brown and families that are too large, so be on the lookout for house rules in HOA agreements, as well as any city, county, or state ordinances that might affect the enjoyment of your home.

4. Insurance

There are two kinds of insurance you're going to need when buying a home: title insurance and homeowner's insurance. When you buy a home, you don't just get the land and the house on top -- you get title to own the property. That legal title can carry defects, like liens or easements. It's also possible that the seller doesn't have air, mineral, or utility rights to the property. In extreme cases, the seller may not own the property outright or at all.

A title search is designed to ferret out any issues with a title to property before the sale takes place. However, some issues or defects may get missed, or the extent of the issue may be misunderstood. A good title insurance policy can protect you from financial losses due to undetected errors in the title before the sale. So, if a previous owner failed to pay some taxes on a lien, you won't be on the hook.

Homeowner's insurance is a no-brainer -- you just went through this entire home buying process and spent so much money on your home, why wouldn't you insure it? A good homeowner's insurance policy can cover everything from theft and damage to injury liability. And while a basic policy may not cover every natural disaster, it may come in handy for certain holiday mishaps.

5. Ins and Outs

It may seem as easy as trading your life savings (and money you haven't yet saved) for the home of your dreams, but the nuts and bolts of buying a house can be complex. FindLaw provides in-depth information on the home buying process, with resources for deciding whether you're ready to buy a home and how to begin your home search to evaluating a home and how to make an offer.

Still not sure if you're ready to buy a home? We have a homebuyer's financial worksheet that can help you figure out how much you'll need to save and how much you can spend on a house. FindLaw also has third-party resources and publications from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency, and others.

(And if you've already bought a home and are having a bout of buyer's remorse, we can even tell you how to get out of buying a house.)

Should You Contact a Lawyer?

Buying a house isn't easy, both financially and legally, which is why you may need a lawyer. If you'd like legal assistance buying your new or next home, you can contact an experienced real estate attorney in your area.

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