Q. After many decades of home and condo owning, my wife and I are considering buying a unit in a building under construction near us here in New Jersey. Should we have a lawyer and/or a real estate agent reviewing the contracts? Is there a way to check up on the history of the developer, which is doing many projects in the area? And do we need title insurance if the bank doesn’t require it or we self-finance?
— New homebuyer

A. When you enter into a contract for a purchase as large as a home, you need to do your homework.

You may not need a real estate agent but you should have an experienced lawyer who specializes in real estate, said Stephen Craffen of of Stonegate Wealth Management in Oakland.

He said although the developer has many projects in the area, you should check the builder’s history.

“You may want to talk to owners in previous developments and the construction officer in the town where he is working,” Craffen said. “You should reach out to references, and see if the company has a listing/rating with the Better Business Bureau.”

Additionally, you should research whether or not the developer is a member of any professional organizations such as The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB),  The New Jersey Builders Association (NJBA) and ask the groups about the builder’s standing.

Also see if the builder has any complaints with the Division of Consumer Affairs, and theDepartment of Community Affairs and make sure the builder is following state registration rules.

Also read this link by the state, which has information that every new homebuyer should know.

Next, Craffen said, it would be wise to obtain a copy of the homeowners’ association rule/policy document.

On the issue of title insurance, it’s a smart item to buy even if it’s not required, Craffen said, and nearly all lenders will require the purchase.

“Title Insurance protects property owners and mortgage lenders against losses from defects in titles,” Craffen said.

Craffen said policies are relatively inexpensive, and in your case, it will be even cheaper because it will only need to protect you, not you and the lender.

“The good thing about title insurance is it is a one-time purchase that provides coverage on properties for as long as you, or any heirs, own it,” Craffen said. “It is a small price to pay for such long term protection.”

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

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