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Purchase and Sale Agreement Massachusetts Explanation

The following is a short summary of each paragraph of the Massachusetts Purchase and Sale Agreement ("P&S"). A standard sales agreement contract is typically more favorable to a seller than a home buyer. For either type of client, however, a real estate attorney should make many revisions and additions in order to protect the client.

Understanding Condo Conversions

Before understanding what a condo conversion is, you must understand from a legal perspective what a condominium is. A condominium allows an owner to divide a piece of property and sell separate buildings or portions of buildings such as individual units in a three family home. Simply stated, a condo conversion is the legal process of dividing among several parties the property rights of some type of larger structure originally owed by a single person or entity.

What is a Short Sale?

What is a short sale? It is a sale that occurs when an existing mortgage lender agrees to accept payment that is less than what is currently due under the promissory note the homeowner originally signed at the closing (thus falling "short" of the total amount the homeowner owes).

Buying a House or Condo in Massachusetts

For the buyer, if it hasn’t already, the thrilling reality of buying a home will definitely hit you at closing. Along with the excitement, the deed and the shiny new keys also comes a rather large stack of paperwork. For the buyer and seller, it’s important to understand the events leading up to the real estate closing. The most essential step for either party to take is hiring a real estate lawyer as early as possible.  Ideally, this should be done before an Offer to Purchase is submitted. Because a home is usually the single largest investment that anyone makes, for the most complete protection, you cannot cut corners by trying to represent yourself, relying on non-legal professionals or shop around for the lowest priced professionals you can find. If you do, you might simply end up with a lawsuit, instead of your dream home, and there is a high risk that you could end up spending far more money in the future, to correct problems that could have been easily avoided.

Ways to Own Real Estate

To properly prepare mortgage documents, the lender requires information from the borrower about how the borrower intends to take title to the real estate. The three most common ways that two or more persons may hold title to real estate in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are shown below:

  • Tenants in Common;
  • Joint Tenants; and
  • Tenants by the Entirety.

Do I need Owners Title Insurance?

Buying a home is usually the single largest investment that you can make and an Owners Title Insurance policy protects you against a total or partial loss of your home and land. For as long as you live there, for a only a one-time small fee. Before you understand Owners Title Insurance, you need to understand what a title means.

Understanding Real Estate Closings

A Real Estate Closing, involves transferring ownership of a house or a condominium from the seller to buyer. The real estate closing itself, is typically held at the office of the lender's attorney ("closing attorney") or the local Registry of Deeds. All the necessary paperwork is completed to finalize the transaction between the buyer and the seller, and all funds required for the transaction are collected in the form of a wire transfer or a certified check). In Massachusetts, once the necessary documents are prepared, signed and recorded at the Registry of Deeds, the title (i.e. ownership) is considered transferred to the new home owner (learn more about Buying and Selling a Home in Massachusetts).

Purchase and Sale Agreements Massachusetts

Once the buyer's Offer to Purchase has been accepted by the seller, a Massachusetts Purchase and Sale Agreement ("P&S") is negotiated and drafted by the buyer's attorney and the seller's attorney. This document is an incredibly technical, detailed, and complex document that must be tailored for each real estate transaction. It spells out the final agreement between the parties and generally supersedes the Offer to Purchase and any prior agreements between the parties. Like all real estate contracts, it must be in writing and adhere to specific statutory requirements to be valid. It is not a mere formality. Any mistakes can cost either the buyer or the seller thousands of dollars, result in the loss of the house or condo immediately or in the future, or result in years of litigation. It is critical for both parties to hire an expert real estate attorney to assist with preparing and reviewing this document.

Homestead Laws in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Homestead Act is explained in General Laws (MGL) Chapter 188. This act is designed to protect home ownership from execution and forced sale, as long as the owner or covered family member occupies or intends to occupy the property as his or her principal place of residence. The Massachusetts Homestead Act provides limited protection of the value of the home (up to $500,000), against unsecured creditor claims, upon recording a Declaration of Homestead. Without filing, there is $125,000 worth of automatic protection on a principal residence. 

Residential Seller Disclosure Laws

Many people mistakenly believe that if the seller of a home fails to alert the home buyer about known defects, the buyer will have the law on his or her side. In Massachusetts, however, the party selling a home will generally not be liable to the buyer for failing to disclose problems with the home itself, the property, or the various systems located thereon so long as that person is a private party and not a business professional (e.g. Mom & Dad vs a Property Developer). In order for the seller to be liable to the buyer, the seller must be obligated to disclose this information, which only arises in very limited circumstances, as defined by Massachusetts law. Absent this obligation, the buyer could be left without a legal remedy if a problem occurs. Because disclosure requirements are very subtle and specific, a real estate attorney is needed to protect the seller from unnecessary liability and the buyer from failing to ask the right questions.

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