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Georgetown Real Estate Law Blog

Zoning laws limit land use

Before purchasing a piece of property with a specific purpose in mind, it is important to first understand its zoning category. In Delaware, zoning designations limit land use as well as the type of structures that can be built on a piece of property. To prevent misunderstandings regarding planned land use, it may help to familiarize oneself with the various types of zoning designations.

Residential zoning can allow for a variety of categories and structures, including single family homes, apartments, suburban homesteads, trailer parks and more. Zoning laws usually dictate which types of pets residents can keep as well. Most residential zones prohibit farm or exotic animals. Other zoning laws might limit the total number of animals residents may keep.

Is it legal to reject an offer to buy my home?

There are many factors that go into a homeowner's decisions to accept or refuse an offer to buy. However, some sellers in Delaware might be worried that they have to accept the first offer they receive, even if the amount falls short of what they are hoping for. While it is true that rejecting an offer because of a buyer's race or other protected status is illegal, there are many legitimate reasons one might reject an offer.

While homes are often safe locations in which families and loved ones can create memories, they are also significant financial investments. For the average homeowner, it does not make much sense to accept an offer that does not reflect the value of his or her house. Rejecting an offer because the amount was too low is completely reasonable.

Common residential real estate mistakes to avoid

A new homeowner's worst fear might be discovering something seriously wrong soon after buying a house. This could be a physical defect with the property or financial issues related to the mortgage and budget. However, home buyers in Delaware can potentially avoid this type of situation by watching out for common mistakes in the residential real estate process..

Home inspections are a crucial part of the home buying process. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for someone who has found what he or she believes to be a dream home to simply ignore an unfavorable report. This can be a costly mistake, especially if the property is in need of sizable repairs because of things like cracked foundations or poor plumbing. Shelling out for expensive repairs soon after closing is usually not ideal.

Possible investment risks in real estate transactions

Whether considering purchasing a home, new vehicle or investment property, every investment that involves a significant amount of money comes with a certain amount of risk. This does not mean that people should ignore risks since there is no way of avoiding them, nor should they refuse to make a decision until the perceived risk is close to zero. Instead, when considering whether to move forward with investment real estate transactions, investors should weigh the benefits and risks against one another. Consider these three areas of potential real estate risk.

The economic cycle consists of four components: growth, peak, recession and recovery. The market risk for a property refers to where it is in the economic cycle. One cannot simply evaluate the market risk for a property in Delaware based on the national economic cycle. It is not uncommon for different property types in localized areas to exist in different parts of the cycle.

Land use -- why you need an easement contract

Whether for personal or commercial use, owning a piece of land is a significant investment. Few -- if any -- property owners in Delaware anticipate having to let others use their properties for unintended purposes. You may have been surprised or even worried when someone sought the right to use your piece of property. Easements are actually not as uncommon as you might think, but getting the details of land use right is essential.

There are many different reasons why someone might ask for an easement. For example, if a utility company wants to install infrastructure for power or gas on your property, it will seek an easement to do so. Or your private driveway might be the best or only way for your neighbor to access his or her property.

Your options for fighting zoning changes

Cities and towns can change pretty drastically over time. Where there were once homes there might be a new shopping center or public park. While these can sometimes be welcome changes, they often pose a problem for property owners in Delaware. This is because these and other changes are not generally not possible without zoning changes.

When a zoning change affects a property owner's land, he or she has several options for addressing the problem. The first is to get an exception to the new zoning regulations, either through nonconforming use or a variance. An owner can continue to use his or her property in a manner inconsistent with zoning if he or she secures nonconforming use. It is even possible to get a nonconforming use if a structure is in construction, so long as the owner has already expended significant time and money on the project.

Real estate transactions: Single family homes as investments

The real estate market in many areas has taken a beating in the last couple months. Some Delaware investors might have realized that people who are sequestered in condos and apartments get tired of looking at four walls. With that in mind, single-family purchases as investments are becoming among the most popular real estate transactions. More people are appreciating having a yard and a garden to putter around in when staying at home, and more renters are looking at leasing single-family homes.

The unemployment rate around the country hit 15% in May, and the demand for rentals is increasing. Renters are realizing how nice it is to have a yard with neighbors who aren't in their faces, and so many are searching for homes, rather than apartments, to rent. Millennials are aging, with the eldest being in their 40s, and they are transitioning from singles living the urban lifestyle to marrying, having families and looking to rent single-family homes in the burbs. 

When might earnest money not be refundable?

Ready to buy a home in Delaware? Those who are need to be prepared to put down earnest money to get the house taken off the market in order for it to be appraised and inspected before the sale goes through. Just be careful when agreeing to pay earnest money, as it may not be refundable if one decides not to buy the property.

Earnest money is, in short, a deposit on a home. It is good faith money used to show a seller that one is serious about purchasing the property. Ultimately, it will be put toward the buyer's down payment and/or closing costs.

Disclosures matter when selling residential real estate

Selling a home can be a very stressful experience. When needing or wanting to sell a home as quickly as possible, one might be tempted to leave potential buyers in the dark about any problems with the property. In Delaware, disclosures matter when selling residential real estate. Those who fail to be honest could end up hurting the sale or finding themselves in some legal trouble after the deal goes through.

Documenting problems on a disclosure form is not a difficult thing to do. Some home sellers are just unaware of what issues they are required to share with potential buyers. Most disclosures have to do with housing defects such as foundation issues, HVAC problems and plumbing issues. Potential health hazards must also be disclosed, such as mold problems -- which can also create structural issues, lead in the home or known radon leaks. There is more, but in short, sellers are to report any known property defects -- the keyword here being known.

Avoid these mistakes when shopping for residential real estate

Buying a home for the first time is an exciting experience. Of course, it can also be difficult to navigate the world of residential real estate, which is why many people choose to work with real estate agents. However, it is still important that potential homebuyers in Delaware avoid certain mistakes.

One mistake that some prospective homebuyers make is not fully understanding their financial situations. Individuals will need to have good credit in order to obtain the loan necessary to purchase a home, and they will also need funds saved up to make the downpayment. Though some individuals may qualify for zero percent down through certain loans, it may not be wise to count on obtaining that specific outcome as many people do not qualify.