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Buying a House in Divorce: Seven Considerations to Starting Your New Life in Your New Home

In many divorce cases, the martial residence is ordered sold1 as a part of the property
division or one party is awarded this home. For many divorcees who have lived in the same
marital residence for a long period of time, it is time to navigate the ever-changing and complex
world of home buying. Remembering that dream of homeownership remains a fundamental life
goal for most Americans, it is important to remember the common and substantial issues that go
with home ownership. This blog digs into the seven key areas to consider before any home
purchase.

Radon. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive material that is found in certain soils
across the United States. Prolonged exposure to high radon levels may increase cancer risk. Before
you buy, it is crucial to conduct a radon test, especially in abandoned or long-closed homes where
levels may spike. Remediation, typically costing between $750 to $1,500, is straightforward and
effective. Elevated radon levels should not deter a home purchase but do require attention.
Staked Survey. While lenders usually require a boundary survey to provide a home loan,
a boundary survey mostly protects the mortgagee. This survey merely verifies the home's location
within or on the real property’s boundary lines. What if a fence, outbuilding, or driveway is over
an adjoining property line?

Litigation. To avoid this, it is wise to consider a staked survey. This
survey marks the precise boundaries of your parcel. A licensed surveyor then drives stakes into
the corners of each property boundary line. Not only does this ensure you know your boundary
lines, but it is also useful for future fences, driveways, and hardscapes. The cost is typically
minimal and provides clarity that what you think you are purchasing has the boundary lines as you
understand them.

Older Homes. Be aware of the charm of an older home. Clearly, older homes can offer
unique architectural styles and robust construction not found in newer properties. However, they
may also contain hazardous materials like lead-based paint, asbestos, or outdated electrical
systems. Prospective buyers should be aware of these issues and their potential removal costs.

Engineered Materials. Newer homes may feature engineered materials that, while
sometimes more cost-effective, have been found defective in certain cases. Examples include
specific types of siding that internally degrade over time or shingles inappropriate for the climate
in any particular place. Prospective buyers should ensure thorough inspections to identify and
evaluate these materials.

Mold. Mold is a fungal growth that forms and spreads on various kinds of damp or
decaying organic matter. Exposure to mold can be toxic; and exposure to molds can lead to
symptoms such as a stuffy nose, wheezing or red or itchy eyes or skin. If mold is found in a home,
it may necessitate costly remediation. Home inspections should include mold assessments to
identify potential problems. While not always a deal-breaker, the presence of mold should be
carefully evaluated.

Evaluating Taxes, Assessments, and Covenants. Property taxes, especially in areas
undergoing growth and urban areas, can significantly impact a home's affordability. Additionally,
special assessments for community improvements can alter monthly mortgage payments. Buyers
should also understand any restrictive covenants in their chosen neighborhood. A restrictive covenant may prevent you from using your property as you wish and lead to costly penalties and
litigation. Any prospective home purchase should obtain and carefully review any restrictive
covenants on their property; this is particularly the case in home editions.

Flood Zones, Neighborhood Dynamics, and Crime. Properties in flood zones may incur
higher insurance costs, although some may qualify for reclassification. The neighborhood's
character, including potential noise disturbances or problematic neighbors, can affect both the
living experience and property value of any given home. Finally, a home's history or location in a
high-crime area or near registered offenders can impact both quality of life and resale potential.

Buying a home, particularly in the emotionally charged situation that often surrounds a
divorce, requires careful planning, informed decision-making, along with an awareness of
potential pitfalls. By focusing on these seven issues, you can navigate the complexities of the real
estate market more confidently. Remember, thorough “home” work is the foundation of a
successful and fulfilling home-buying experience; and it is a solid way to move forward in life
post-divorce. At Ciyou & Associates, P.C., we understand the emotional and practical impacts of
these issues and stand ready to offer legal guidance to address and resolve these matters. This blog
is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. This blog is intended to provide general
information in the public realm. The blog is not intended at legal advice or a solicitation for legal
services.

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