Buying a house takes time and energy. You have to spend your days looking at different properties, deciding what features are most important to you and how much you can afford to spend. Each aspect can challenge the most level headed among us. If you are buying a house from a family member, some of those issues are solved---you know the property---but new issues are raised, mostly regarding price and repair issues. The issues may become so contentious that some people recommend treating the transaction as if it were with a stranger instead of family.
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Pay for a home inspection. The person selling the house may not know of anything wrong with the property, but it may still have issues. It is best to pay a professional to find out before you set the purchase terms.
Create an agreement in writing. This should include the price, repair issues and how they will be taken care of, furniture and fixtures that will remain in the house, the timeline for executing the sale and remedies for breach of contract. Any changes to the written contract should be initialled by both parties to indicate agreement. Having everything in writing prevents misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Send the contract to an escrow agent or lawyer and have them run a title check on the property to ensure that no additional liens have been filed against the property.
Get your financing in order. If the property is a gift or being sold to you under market value, consult with a tax adviser to understand how that will affect your taxes.
Arrange for insurance by calling a local insurance agent and asking him to insure the property in your name as of the date of close of escrow.
Switch the utilities, water, gas and electricity, to your name as of the date of close.
Show up to close escrow, sign the documents prepared by the escrow agent or lawyer and begin your move.
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