What is OPRA?
OPRA is the “Open Public Records Act” which was enacted to provide the public greater access to governmental agency records. OPRA can be used to obtain information on properties from the building department in every township. This is a great way to find out what permits were taken out, giving an overview of the history of home improvements during the current seller’s ownership and prior owners of the property. You may ask yourself, why would this be important to know? As a buyer it is important that you or your Realtor check with the township to see if there are any open permits or open violations recorded with the town before your purchase of a home. It is not enough to just to do a home inspection. You would not want to purchase a house and then be penalized for the previous seller’s open permits or violations that may not have been disclosed to you or your agent. If anything is discovered during the course of negotiations during a purchase of a home, you should let your attorney know immediately and send him a copy of the OPRA for his review.
As a homeowner, you may have had work completed on your home and taken out various permits during the course of ownership. You naturally assume that when the work is completed that your contractors closed out each permit after final inspection from the Building Department. However, some contractors inadvertently might have forgotten to close some of them out without your knowledge, so it is a good idea to check with your respective building department and ask for the OPRA on your home before you put your house on the market. You will also need a fire Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) which is required in by the seller in Teaneck before closing, which covers fire and carbon monoxide safety.
Other townships require a CCO (Continued Certificate of Occupancy) before closing. This requires the premises to be inspected by a city code enforcement inspector before proceeding with any sale of a property and may include closing of all permits and/or resolving any code violations. The inspector will also conduct a general overview inspection of the property to make sure that the walls, floors, ceilings; stairs and rails are intact and safe for the next occupants before moving in and certain items are to code. The inspector will issue the owner(s) a Certificate of Continued Occupancy which is to be passed on to the buyer at the closing of the sale. It is important to check with the guidelines of your respective township. You want to be current and proactive and not let anything interfere with the sale of your home.
What are some of the pitfalls that I may encounter when putting in an offer on a home?
The housing market has improved in many towns, so if a home is priced well it may receive multiple offers or even drive up the price above its asking price. At other times an offer may be accepted from one buyer over another if the buyer has stronger financials or is offering better terms than yours. If that happens, do not despair, you will eventually find another house even though you may feel discouraged in the moment. Also, keep in mind that if the offer falls through, your offer can act as a back-up offer should the deal not go through.
In another scenario, your offer gets accepted, but issues come up either during the attorney review period or during the inspection period. Circumstances may arise or be discovered in the house that you were not anticipating. Some of these things can include an underground oil tank even though the home is running on gas heat, a chimney flue could have a crack, sewer issues, permit violations and/or current code issues or structural issues. The attorneys may agree to have the seller correct some of those issues and/or give you a monetary credit for other issues if an agreement can be made. It takes the willingness of the buyer and seller, both attorneys and agents to help resolve the discovery of these findings. If a buyer is willing to work with the seller and has already been qualified to purchase the home, it would be extremely beneficial to the seller to come to an agreement in completing the sale of the property and not let emotions get in the way of a sound deal, especially if the buyer already has a mortgage commitment and a closing date has been set.
Remember: home buying can be very emotional and if things work out, great, but if things don’t work out, despite all of the efforts made on your behalf and you are financially qualified, be patient and do not despair, another home is sure to come to market that may be at a better price point or offer you better amenities.
By Nicole Idler