Buying Your Home – Frequently Asked Questions

Buying residential real estate can be both an exciting and stressful process. Our team can help with attorney review, inspection issues, financing and the closing.

The Contract

WHEN DO WE SCHEDULE THE CLOSING?

We schedule the closing once your lender issues a clear to close.  If you are purchasing with cash, we usually schedule one week in advance.

DO I GET TO PICK THE TIME OF CLOSING?

No.  You may suggest times that work best for you, but the closing needs to be scheduled based on a lot of people’s schedules including the buyers, the sellers, the buyer’s lawyer, the seller’s lawyer and the title company’s availability. If you are closing at the end of the month, it is even harder to get the time you desire as this is when title companies are the busiest.

HOW LONG WILL THE CLOSING TAKE?

Approximately two hours, but it can take longer depending on your lender.

WHERE WILL THE CLOSING BE?

The closing will take place at the title company closest to the property address.  The seller decides the title company they order from, but usually there is a title company within 15 minutes of the property address.

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING TO THE CLOSING?

  • You and your spouse if you are both taking title.
  • Money to close- either by wire or cashier’s check.
  • A photo ID.
  • Proof of homeowner’s insurance.

WHAT DO WE DO AT THE CLOSING?

Review all the lender’s documents and seller’s documents and sign everything.

HOW MUCH MONEY DO I NEED TO BRING?

How much money a buyer needs to bring to closing is often referred to as the “buyer’s bottom line.”  There are three ways you can get this bottom line and you should try them in the follow order:

  • Ask your lender. They will usually know the number before anyone else.
  • Call the title company that you are closing with and ask them for the bottom line.
  • Ask our office for assistance.

WHEN WILL I GET THE FINAL AMOUNT I NEED TO BRING TO CLOSING?

Usually 1-2 days prior to closing.

WHAT FORM DOES THE MONEY FOR CLOSING NEED TO BE?

If you are bringing less than $50,000 to close, you may bring a cashier’s check made payable to the title company you are closing at.  You may call the title company directly to get their exact name. If you are bringing more than $50,000 to close, you must wire the funds the day before closing.

WHERE CAN I GET THE WIRING INSTRUCTIONS?

You must call the title company to obtain their wiring instructions. Our office will not give out wiring instructions because of privacy concerns.

WHERE CAN I GET THE CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE TITLE COMPANY WE ARE CLOSING?

Usually, once the closing is scheduled, you will receive a closing confirmation from our office, which states the address and phone number of the title company.  If the confirmation did not contain this information you should google the name of the title company and location as most of their information is online.  If you still cannot find it, call our office we will find it for you.

WHAT IF I THINK THE SETTLEMENT STATEMENT OR THE CLOSING DISCLOSURE IS WRONG?

We will review the fees with you line by line at the closing, if, after we review all the fees, you still think it wrong, then let us know at the closing.

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The Inspection 

DO I NEED AN INSPECTION?

In Illinois, inspections are not required, but almost all purchasers have one performed.  When you purchase a home in Illinois, you are buying it “as is” and the inspection can reveal the major deficiencies in the home.

WHEN SHOULD I HAVE THE INSPECTION PERFORMED?

Immediately.  Ask your realtor or us for referrals to quality home inspectors in your area as soon as the seller signs the contract.  Ideally, you should have the inspection performed within three days of the seller signing the contract.

WILL THE SELLER FIX ALL THE ITEMS MY INSPECTOR NOTED ON THE INSPECTION SUMMARY REPORT?

No.  The standard contract in Illinois only allows buyers to ask the sellers to repair a very limited set of items.  This includes only the major components (i.e., electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc.) that are defective or non-operational at the time of the inspection.  The contract specifically states that just because an item is old or at the end of its useful life, does not mean it is defective, and therefore is not cannot be requested to be repaired or replaced per the contract. Often, non-lawyers will encourage buyers to ask for cosmetic or other non-covered repairs.  This can often result in excessive negotiation which will can increase your legal fees and costs and which has no legal basis in your contract. Remember that items of routine maintenance such as HVAC servicing or cleanings are NOT part of your inspection contingency.

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT IS DEFECTIVE OR NON-OPERATIONAL?

Your inspector should provide you with a summary report of the inspection, which will identify the major concerns or hazards of the home. If they did not- you should ask for them make a separate summary page.

WILL YOU SEND THE ENTIRE INSPECTION REPORT TO THE SELLERS?

Sometimes.  It depends on how many items you are asking the Seller to fix and where those items are addressed in the report.

WILL YOU OR MY REALTOR HELP ME FIGURE OUT WHAT TO ASK THE SELLER’S TO REPAIR?

Yes and no.  Realtors and lawyers have seen a lot of inspections before, but we are not licensed contractors and we cannot tell you if something is major or how much it may cost to repair.  However, we can help you understand what your contract allows you to ask for and what is specifically does not.

MY INSPECTOR NOTED SOMETHING SERIOUS DURING THE INSPECTION AND I WANT A PROFESSIONAL TO ASSESS IT BEFORE I DECIDE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THIS PURCHASE, CAN I DO THAT?

Yes, but you need to ask for permission to extend the five-day period and you need permission to have a contractor come to the seller’s house first. You should talk to us about this ASAP if you think this is necessary.

THE INSPECTOR TOLD ME ABOUT A PROBLEM WITH THE HOUSE BUT FORGOT TO PUT IT ON THE INSPECTION REPORT. CAN I STILL ASK FOR IT TO BE REPAIRED?

No.  You can only ask for those items that are on the inspection report- call your inspector and have them change the report immediately.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR HAVING THE SELLER MAKE THE REPAIRS?

Buyers have five business days from the date the seller signed the contract to do the following:

  • Have an inspection performed;
  • Review the inspection report;
  • Send us an email with a list of all the items you want the seller to repair or address based on that inspection report;
  • Have our office send the seller’s attorney a formal letter requesting repairs be made.

WHAT IF I DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO HAVE THE INSPECTION PERFORMED, GET THE REPORT, REVIEW IT AND SEND THE LIST TO YOU IN THE FIRST FIVE DAYS?

Let us know ASAP that you cannot meet this deadline and we will request an extension for you.  Note that most extensions are only a couple business days, so time is of the essence.

WHAT IF THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY ISSUES WITH THE HOME AND I DO NOT WANT TO BUY IT ANYMORE?

So long as you are still in the first five business days of the seller signing the contract, you may cancel the contract by notifying our office in sufficient time. Otherwise, a failure to reach agreement with the seller over repairs may enable a cancellation.

SHOULD I GET A RADON TEST?

That is completely your decision.  Your realtor can provide more information and literature about radon and the hazards it poses. You can also find a lot of information about radon online.

I HAD A RADON TEST PERFORMED AND THE RESULTS WON’T BE READY UNTIL FOR A FEW DAYS, SHOULD I STILL SEND YOU THE LIST OF ALL THE OTHER REPAIR ITEMS?

Yes.  Often times, we send the initial list of repair items to the seller and explain that we need an extension of the inspection time frame for the radon only.  It helps expedite the attorney review process to make sure you close on time.

I INITIALED THE PARAGRAPH OF THE CONTRACT THAT SAYS THE HOUSE IS “AS IS.” CAN I STILL HAVE THE SELLER REPAIR ITEMS I FOUND DURING THE INSPECTION?

No. You may still have an inspection performed, and you may cancel the contract in the first five business days if the inspection reveals major issues with the home, but you cannot ask the seller to repair any items or ask for a credit in lieu of repair.

HOW LONG DO THE SELLERS HAVE TO RESPOND TO OUR REPAIR REQUESTS?

There is no set time frame for them to respond but 2-3 business days is standard.  If both the buyers and sellers have not reached an agreement on the repair requests within ten business days of the seller signing the contract- then either party may cancel the contract and the buyer will get their earnest money back.

I WANT TO FORCE THE SELLER TO RESPOND QUICKLY, HOW CAN I DO THAT?

You cannot. The contract gives you five business days to send the inspection letter and the Seller five business days to respond.  If they do not respond, your only recourse is to terminate.

HOW DO WE KNOW THE SELLER MADE THE REPAIRS?

The sellers will provide receipts for the work performed unless otherwise noted.  You can also verify much of these repairs at the walk-through prior to closing.

CAN THE SELLER COUNTER-OFFER MY REPAIR REQUESTS?

Yes, and they often do.  We cannot predict what a seller will say or do, but most of them counter.

CAN THE SELLER CANCEL THE CONTRACT AFTER I REQUEST REPAIRS?

Yes and no.  The seller’s also have five business days to cancel the contract for any reason.  Beyond those five business days, if the buyers and sellers cannot resolve the inspection items within ten business days, then either the seller or buyer can cancel the deal.

IF THE DEAL FALLS THROUGH AS A RESULT OF THE INSPECTION ISSUES, WILL I GET MY EARNEST MONEY BACK?

Yes. Your realtor will help you get the money back after the cancellation notices are sent.

CAN I RECEIVE A CREDIT RATHER THAN HAVING THE SELLER FIX THE ITEM?

Yes, if the seller agrees to it.  In our attorney review letter, we can advise the seller that you are willing to accept a credit when you ask them for the repairs.

CAN I TELL THE SELLER WHOM THEY MUST HIRE TO MAKE THE REPAIR?

No, but you can specify that it be done by a licensed professional.

WHEN WILL I RECEIVE THE RECEIPTS FOR THE WORK PERFORMED?

Ideally, the buyer receives them a few days before the closing.  Practically, they are often not given until we get to the closing.

I WANT TO BE THERE WHEN THE CONTRACTOR DOES THE REPAIR TO THE HOME, IS THIS POSSIBLE?

No. Under no circumstances are buyers allowed to supervise work the seller does in the home.

CAN I COUNTER OFFER THE BUYER’S INSPECTION REQUESTS?

Yes. You may decline some or all of the items, but the buyer can cancel as a result of your response.

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The Loan 

HOW DO I KNOW WHICH LENDER TO CHOOSE?

It is important to shop around for the right lender. In addition to asking the lender about their fees and interest rates, you should assess the responsiveness of the lender. We always recommend going with the most responsive person you can find rather than the cheapest.  Slow and unresponsive lenders can wreak havoc on closings and delay your closing by weeks at a time. Generally, small banks and mortgage brokers provide greater levels of service than larger institutions but often charge higher interest rates.  Your realtor and our firm can make referrals to people we have worked with in the past and have liked.

WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO MAKE SURE I CLOSE ON TIME?

Every time your lender asks you for something, get it to them within 1-2 days and stay on top of them.  Email or call them periodically to ask how everything is going.

WHAT IS THE APPRAISAL AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Your lender requires the property to be appraised by an independent appraiser to determine its value.  Your lender should order this appraisal within two weeks of you signing the contract, so you should double check with them make sure it was ordered. The lender typically requires you to pay for the appraisal, and all lenders charge around the same amount for an appraisal. You do not and should not be there during the appraisal, but your realtor may decide to attend.

WHAT IF THE HOME APPRAISES FOR LESS THAN THE PURCHASE PRICE?

You may have the option of cancelling the contract or asking the seller to lower the price depending on the language of your contract.  The seller can but is not obligated to lower the price to the appraised amount.  In this case, the buyer can either pay cash for the difference between the appraised value and the contract price or cancel the contract.

WHAT IF THE HOME APPRAISES FOR MORE THAN THE PURCHASE PRICE?

Great! You do not need to pay more for the house, nor do you need to tell the sellers that the appraisal came back high.

WHAT IS THE MORTGAGE CONTINGENCY?

This is one of the most important portions of your contract.  It is what allows you to cancel the contract in the event that you do not get a loan by a certain date.

WHAT IS THE CLEAR TO CLOSE DATE?

This term is used by lenders and lawyers and refers to your lender’s unconditional promise to give you a loan for the amount they promised.  If you have received a clear to close by your mortgage contingency date, then you have satisfied your mortgage contingency.

WHAT IS THE MORTGAGE CONTINGENCY DATE?

This is the final date, as stated in your contract, for your lender to issue a clear to close.

WHAT IF I DO NOT HAVE A CLEAR TO CLOSE BY MY MORTGAGE CONTINGENCY DATE?

First, you need to put pressure on your lender to meet this date.  Failure to do so is often an indication that your lender will not be ready to close on time and will want an extension of the closing date.  Second, you need to notify our office ASAP, so we can request an extension from the seller on your behalf.

CAN I CHANGE MY LENDER IF I AM UNHAPPY WITH THEM?

Yes, but it may delay the closing depending on when you change, and the sellers can cancel or seek damages from you unless they agree to the extensions caused by the change in lenders.

WHAT IS THE CLOSING DISCLOSURE?

It is a breakdown of all the fees you are charged at the closing.

WHAT IS TRID?

TRID is a lending regulation that took effect in October 2015 and it mandates disclosure of closing fees to buyers at least six days in advance of closing.

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The Closing

WHEN DO WE SCHEDULE THE CLOSING?

We schedule the closing once your lender issues a clear to close.  If you are purchasing with cash, we usually schedule one week in advance.

DO I GET TO PICK THE TIME OF CLOSING?

No.  You may suggest times that work best for you, but the closing needs to be scheduled based on a lot of people’s schedules including the buyers, the sellers, the buyer’s lawyer, the seller’s lawyer and the title company’s availability. If you are closing at the end of the month, it is even harder to get the time you desire as this is when title companies are the busiest.

HOW LONG WILL THE CLOSING TAKE?

Approximately two hours, but it can take longer depending on your lender.

WHERE WILL THE CLOSING BE?

The closing will take place at the title company closest to the property address.  The seller decides the title company they order from, but usually there is a title company within 15 minutes of the property address.

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING TO THE CLOSING?

  • You and your spouse if you are both taking title.
  • Money to close- either by wire or cashier’s check.
  • A photo ID.
  • Proof of homeowner’s insurance.

WHAT DO WE DO AT THE CLOSING?

Review all the lender’s documents and seller’s documents and sign everything.

HOW MUCH MONEY DO I NEED TO BRING?

How much money a buyer needs to bring to closing is often referred to as the “buyer’s bottom line.”  There are three ways you can get this bottom line and you should try them in the follow order:

  • Ask your lender. They will usually know the number before anyone else.
  • Call the title company that you are closing with and ask them for the bottom line.
  • Ask our office for assistance.

WHEN WILL I GET THE FINAL AMOUNT I NEED TO BRING TO CLOSING?

Usually 1-2 days prior to closing.

WHAT FORM DOES THE MONEY FOR CLOSING NEED TO BE?

If you are bringing less than $50,000 to close, you may bring a cashier’s check made payable to the title company you are closing at.  You may call the title company directly to get their exact name. If you are bringing more than $50,000 to close, you must wire the funds the day before closing.

WHERE CAN I GET THE WIRING INSTRUCTIONS?

You must call the title company to obtain their wiring instructions. Our office will not give out wiring instructions because of privacy concerns.

WHERE CAN I GET THE CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE TITLE COMPANY WE ARE CLOSING?

Usually, once the closing is scheduled, you will receive a closing confirmation from our office, which states the address and phone number of the title company.  If the confirmation did not contain this information you should google the name of the title company and location as most of their information is online.  If you still cannot find it, call our office we will find it for you.

WHAT IF I THINK THE SETTLEMENT STATEMENT OR THE CLOSING DISCLOSURE IS WRONG?

We will review the fees with you line by line at the closing, if, after we review all the fees, you still think it wrong, then let us know at the closing.

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Miscellaneous FAQ’s

WHAT IS TITLE INSURANCE?

Title insurance protects the buyer and their lender from someone claiming they did not get good title to the property at closing. Sellers pay for an owner’s policy on the buyer’s behalf, and the buyer, if they have a lender, pays for their lender’s policy.

HOW MUCH IS MY TITLE INSURANCE?

The cost of title insurance is determined by the purchase price of the property.  Most title companies charge similar rates for services, but you will receive a detailed invoice showing exactly what your lender required you to pay for title insurance.

WHAT IS THE FINAL WALK-THROUGH AND WHEN DO I DO IT?

The final walk-through is usually the day of the closing or the day before the closing.  The buyers should set this up with their realtor.  It is the buyer’s opportunity to review the property prior to purchasing it.

WHAT CONDITION MUST THE PROPERTY BE IN AT THE TIME OF THE FINAL WALK-THROUGH?

The same condition it was in at the time you made the offer, with the exception of any agreed upon repairs and ordinary wear and tear.

WHAT IF THE HOME HAS BEEN DAMAGED BETWEEN THE TIME I MADE THE OFFER AND THE FINAL WALK-THROUGH? OR WHAT IF THE SELLER LEFT BEHIND A BUNCH OF ITEMS I DID NOT WANT?

Take pictures on your phone of everything that is different or unwanted.  It is possible to have the seller pay to repair these items at the closing or to haul away unwanted items.  Call your realtor about the issue first and then call our office.

WILL THE SELLER’S PROFESSIONALLY CLEAN THE HOME PRIOR TO CLOSING?

Usually not.  However, the home needs to be left in “broom clean” condition.  This means the floors are swept, but not immaculate. If you are worried about the cleanliness of the house when you purchase it, you should have a cleaning crew lined up for the day after closing.

WHAT IF THE SELLER WANTS TO STAY IN POSSESSION OF THE HOME AFTER THE CLOSING?

This is a legally very complex issue and you should call our office to discuss.

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