Developing a Residential Due Diligence Checklist in New York

Even for experienced buyers, purchasing a home in Westchester County, New York can be a daunting process. Most Contracts of Sale will state that the property is being sold “as is.”  This means that the onus is on the buyer to conduct its due diligence before signing the contract so that the buyer can make an informed decision.  Each property is different and there is no “one size fits all” due diligence checklist.  Listed below are some common items that apply to most residential deals.

1.  Title/Survey

The buyer may ask for a copy of the last deed, any covenants and restrictions and a survey to see if there are any potential title issues. If the property was conveyed into a trust, was it done properly?  Are there any items on the survey such as fences or walls that could give rise to an adverse possession claim?  Are there any easements or restrictions that would impact the buyer’s use of the property such as a shared driveway or use restriction?  An attorney will conduct a thorough title search but it may be helpful to look for any obvious red flags before spending time and money on other due diligence items.

2.  Environmental

Environmental issues in the residential context typically include mold, asbestos, lead-based paint, radon, well water and oil tanks. A concerned buyer can retain a qualified environmental professional to inspect the home and make specific recommendations regarding any necessary remediation.

3.  Municipal Search

Building records are open to the public and any buyer can request information regarding a property. A savvy buyer can request copies of Certificates of Occupancy, Certificates of Compliance, septic records, any open permits, open violations, etc.

4.  Engineering/Home Inspection

Most buyers hire a licensed home inspector to inspect the property for any structural deficiencies, code violations, and other defects.

5.  Taxes

Many municipalities now make tax information available on the internet. A buyer may want to check the current taxes, assessments, as well as any abatements and when they expire, etc.

6.  Utilities

A buyer may want to ask for utility bills to get a sense for the cost to maintain the property.

7.  School District

A buyer may want to check to see in which school district the property is located. The taxing jurisdiction and post office address may or may not coincide with the school district.

In sum, before signing a Contract of Sale with an “as is” clause, a savvy buyer will want to conduct some due diligence so that it can make an informed decision. Each property is different so a buyer should consult with its real estate agent and attorney to develop a due diligence scope of work that is appropriate for the particular property under consideration.

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The Law Offices of Keith R. Betensky, Esq.
The Empire Building
26 Village Green, Suite 4
P.O. Box 22
Bedford, New York 10506-0022
(914) 338-8050

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