Question: I'm having a new home built. Should I pay for an independent inspector to inspect my home before I agree that everything is satisfactory?

Answer: Not just one inspection, three if possible.

First, when the foundation has been poured but no further work has been completed.

Second, when the walls are up but not finished so that electrical and plumbing connections can be seen.

Third, just prior to closing as a final walk-through to assure that all promised work has been completed or is listed by the builder on the "punch list" of items to be completed. Make sure your list of unfinished items and the builder's punch list are identical.

Question: Our new neighbors have started a band. It's irritating to us and we worry that they will cause local home values to fall. What can we do?

Answer: If you believe that noise is a problem, contact the city housing office to see if there's a noise abatement code. If yes, the city can measure the noise and, if in violation, issue a citation. Alternatively, maybe just sit down with the neighbors and explain the issue.

Question: I recently made an offer on a house and both myself and the seller agreed on the price as well as some contingencies before closing. My lender had the house appraised with a value that is equivalent to my loan. However, the square footage of the house is 100 sq. feet less than what I am paying for. The agreed price of the house was $63 per sq. foot. This is about $6,000 difference. The house is in good shape but I felt like I should be paying for the actual square footage and not the advertised one. Also, the local tax assessor's office shows the wrong square footage and not the actual one. Can I get my earnest money back if I decide to back down?

Answer: Please read your sale agreement. Typically it says you are buying a given property with a particular legal description. I bet there is no mention of square footage.

Real estate sale agreements routinely do not list the square footage of "improvements" such as a house or detached garage because there is considerable debate regarding what to measure. For instance, do you measure wall to wall? What about mid-wall to mid-wall for townhouses? Do you count unfinished basements? How about exterior dimensions? Etc.

You bought a house that you like and a lender is willing to make a loan. The appraisal considers the recent sale of like properties and it values the property at what you paid. There's something to say that you have a fair price.

As well, suppose the "actual" square footage represented a higher price. Would you volunteer to pay more to the seller?

Question: My husband and I are about to be first-time home buyers -- maybe. Our home was supposed to close but the seller has delayed settlement. The property is rented, we got a home inspection, and except for the water heater, which is near its demise, everything checked out fine.

The reason for the early settlement was so the owner could avoid foreclosure. Now the owner has brought his mortgage current. What if closing is delayed further -- we've already given up our apartment as of the end of this month?

Answer: You have a contract to purchase a home. Closing was to be held on a certain date. Closing has been delayed.

You say the seller was behind on his mortgage payments and has now brought them current. Does this mean the foreclosure action has been stopped? It is possible to make mortgage payments and still be foreclosed if the mortgage contract has been violated.

If the closing has been delayed, did you give permission? What clause in the sale agreement allows a unilateral delay? Are you entitled to damages arising from the postponement? What if the owner no longer wants to sell? By any chance, was the property already foreclosed by a court? If yes, what does the court say about all of this?

Lastly, the property is rented. A lease in the usual case must be honored by new owners. Is the property now unoccupied? If not, what rights, if any, do the tenants have to remain on the property? By any chance, is the home in a community with rent control? Etc.

Contact an attorney in the state where the property is located and explain the situation. If the property does not sell and settle according to the sale agreement, ask about remedies.

You do not mention the use of a real estate broker in this transaction. A broker representing your interests is a virtual necessity for a first-time purchaser, someone with experience who can raise questions and resolve problems before a purchase agreement is created.

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