Before buying a home in Texas, you'll want to take the time to determine what you can afford, where your ideal neighborhood might be, what features you need or want in a house, and what legal and practical procedures you'll need to follow. With proper preparation, buying a home in Texas can be a great experience.
Working With a Real Estate Agent in Texas
A good agent should be familiar with local market conditions and prices so as to help you find a home that meets your budget and needs. Your agent will help you every step of the way, from drafting your written offer and negotiating with the seller on price and other key terms to coordinating the escrow process and closing.
Luckily, working with a real estate agent won’t cost you anything. The seller usually pays the entire real estate commission (typically 5% to 6% of the house sale price, split between the seller’s agent and yours).
Personal referrals are usually the best way to select a real estate agent. You can also search for licensed agents on the Texas Real Estate Commission’s website. Other useful resources include Zillow and Trulia, which have customer reviews of agents.
Be sure the agent you choose has plenty of experience and an excellent reputation and references.
What Texas Sellers Must Disclose to You About the Property
State law requires sellers of real estate to make a number of disclosures regarding the condition of the property, using the Texas Real Estate Commission's disclosure form. This is important for you, since just looking at a property may not be enough to tell you what problems its owner encountered with it while living there.
The form requires the seller to list various features and types of equipment contained in the home and to state whether any known defects exist. See Considerations Before Selling a House in Texas for details on seller disclosures.
Buyers should not rely solely on the seller's disclosure, however. The seller need divulge only what he or she knows, and that may not extend to hidden parts of the house. Plus, homeowners often become blind to home defects, having lived with them for so long. It's wise to hire an independent home inspector and make your purchase offer contingent upon being satisfied with the resulting inspection report.
Real Estate Purchase Agreements in Texas
A real estate contract must be in writing and signed by both parties (buyers and sellers). It must contain an offer to sell or purchase, an acceptance of the offer, the sale price, and an adequate description of the property.
Texas real estate agents must use a real estate contract form approved by the Texas Real Estate Commission.
Title Issues in Texas
Your loan mortgage company will likely require you to purchase title insurance in connection. Its purpose is to protect your title to the property against adverse claims by third parties or any clouds on the title missed by the preliminary title search (done before the policy is issued).
The title company will search public records and other sources for any liens, easements (such as the utility company’s right to access part of the property), or other encumbrances or restrictions that may affect your ownership or use of the property. If the title search locates problems, insist that the seller correct these as a condition to closing.
Working With a Lawyer in Texas
Unlike some states, Texas does not require that buyers involve a lawyer in the house-buying transaction.
Even if it’s not required, you may decide to engage a lawyer at some point in the process—for example, if you are buying property in a planned unit development with extensive CC&Rs that you need help reviewing, or you are purchasing a house jointly with others and need help structuring your co-buyer agreement. Or, you may want a lawyer’s help if disputes develop during escrow or the house closing.