Thinking of Buying a Home?  Read This First!

Thinking of Buying a Home?

The real estate market is heating up on Long Island, and you are thinking about entering the hunt for a home. So, what should you do?

First, I would recommend seeing a mortgage banker at the bank you do business with or at a reputable local private mortgage banking company. This is because you need to know whether you are financially qualified to purchase the home in the first place. You also need to know what price range can you afford. There is no sense looking at homes that you can’t afford to buy, right?

The banker can provide a mortgage pre-qualification letter to certify you as a serious buyer. This added legitimacy is important to sellers and real estate brokers as it says you can afford the home being shown. It can give you a “leg up” on other potential buyers bidding for the same home.

What happens after you agree to terms of a sale?

You should contact two people – your lawyer and a home inspector.  Let’s start with the home inspector. This is an additional expense that some buyers do not want to incur but – in my humble opinion – is well worth it.  This is probably the largest purchase of your life so don’t you want to make sure that the home does not have any hidden pitfalls?

Home Inspection

Generally, a home buyer is not qualified to know if the house’s electrical panel or wiring was done to code, or whether that two-story deck of the kitchen was constructed sturdily with proper cement footings supporting the framework.  Home inspectors give you a written report making you aware of obvious or hidden defects. If there are none, then it will give you peace of mind. If there are problems, you can bring them to your broker’s attention BEFORE any contract is prepared. In such a case, some negotiation can be had to determine if the seller is willing to remedy the condition or reduce the price commensurate with the cost of repairs.  This is not your attorney’s job.

The Role of Your Attorney

Many buyers, especially first time buyers, do not understand the role of their attorney in the transaction. The attorney’s role for the buyer is foremost to ensure that whatever terms of the deal were agreed upon are contained within the four corners of the contract. Under New York State law, to enforce a contract to purchase real estate, the contract must be in writing (called the Statute of Frauds – although it has nothing to do with fraud).

Let’s Make a Deal (Sheet)

Usually, the broker provides the attorney with a “deal sheet” which lists the purchase price, down payment, mortgage contingency amount, and approximate date of closing. Now the attorney is aware of the basic components of your deal, but as the buyer/client, you must inform him/her of any additional factors or nuances. This could be something such as the patio furniture is included or that the seller agreed to repair the sprinkler system before closing. Those terms must be spelled out in the written contract or they are not enforceable!

Closing the Sale

The contract of sale/purchase agreement is usually emailed to your attorney. The attorney should review the contract and then set up an appointment with you to go over the salient terms of the contract. Once you understand what the important terms are, you then can execute the contract and provide the down payment check (a personal check is generally accepted subject to its collection). The attorney should, at this appointment, go over the closing costs and approximate the total funds required.

Getting the Title Report

A title report will be ordered on your behalf and a copy sent to your lender’s attorneys.  Your attorney should review the report prior to closing to ensure that the sellers do indeed own the home, that the property size is what was bargained for, that there are no code violations against the home, and (amongst many other items) that the mortgages or liens (eg. tax liens by IRS) filed against the home do not exceed the purchase price.

Survey Says

Sometimes the lender requires an updated survey or perhaps the buyers may just want one to be sure of the boundaries of their parcel. This is an expense that is well worth it! A survey (topographical depiction of your lot) done by a licensed surveying engineer, will help the title company ensure the exact boundaries of your home.  It can disclose facts such as the neighbors’ shed is a foot onto your property or like disclosures. It is also helpful if you want to install a fence after closing or need a permit for outdoor structures such as a gazebo you’d like constructed in the future.

Wrapping it Up

Your attorney should be provided with your lender’s information so they can receive the mortgage commitment when issued, comply with their outstanding checklist for closing, and ultimately coordinate a closing date with the seller and lender. I am giving a synopsis here. There are generally many other small details that must be checked, reviewed and reckoned with, but this should give one a general idea of the process leading to a closing of the title (the transference of the deed).

I have handled real estate closings for 38 years, including owning an operating a title abstract company for more than ten years. I am very familiar with title issues and standard terms of a real estate contract. I am more than happy to help, so please feel free to reach out today with any questions – (631) 396-0255 or jmisiano@misianolaw.com.


How to Protect Yourself from ‘The Unexpected Lawsuit” and Losing Your American Dream

Unexpected Lawsuits & the Benefits of Umbrella Policies

Unexpected Lawsuits & the Benefits of Umbrella Policies

Life is treating you well. You own a house, a vacation condo, two cars, a retirement fund and some money put away for the kid’s college fund – then crash!  You are involved in a motor vehicle accident – and it was your fault. A few months later you get served with a summons and complaint. The person you were involved in the accident with was seriously injured and they are now suing you.

You take the complaint to your insurance company. Their lawyer contacts you and they say that the company has hired their firm to defend you, but also tells you that the value (yes, that’s how personal injury lawyers describe bodily injuries) of the plaintiff’s injuries far exceed your maximum limit insurance policy of $250,000. What can you do? All those assets you worked hard for are now in jeopardy.

It is not so much what you can do NOW, it’s what you could’ve and should’ve done – and that is – insure yourself with a million dollar (or more) umbrella policy. These policies are usually offered as additional protection against suits claiming negligence by your home insurance or auto policy carrier.

If you had such a policy, you would’ve had this comforting additional coverage. With medical costs soaring and people’s incomes growing with inflation, it’s not unusual for damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost income to exceed a million dollars. After the $250,000 auto policy coverage, the umbrella would cover you in lawsuits as herein described or for general negligence, such as your neighbor tripping over the rake you left out overnight on the sidewalk.

But you don’t have that umbrella policy, so what can they “take” from you if the plaintiff obtains a million dollar judgment?  Thankfully, any designated retirement funds (401k, IRA, employee pensions) are exempt in a chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Similarly, depending on the state you live in (Florida and Texas exempt your homestead), a portion of your principal residence would be exempt if you file for bankruptcy as a result of the judgment against you. But the condo, other funds set aside, and except for a small exemption for one car, pretty much everything else is up for grabs!  Pretty sobering.

Don’t get caught without an umbrella…policy that is!

Contact experienced attorney James Misiano at 631-396-0255 if you encounter a surprise lawsuit, or better yet, let him advise you ahead of time to protect your assets! 


Misiano Law’s Top 8 Considerations When Buying or Selling a Business

Selling Your Business

James F. Misiano, P.C. has represented hundreds of entrepreneurs throughout his career in either purchasing or selling a business, so he’s learned a thing or two.

Here are his hints and questions to consider for both purchasers and sellers:

1. Is the Business What it Seems?

If you find a business you think you would like to own, make sure it is what you think it is. This may sound like simple advice, but it is routinely ignored. You must vet the business before buying it!  How? First, ask the operating owner to allow you to shadow him/her over the course of two weeks. This way you can see whether you have the physical stamina and mental acuity to handle the management of its operations.

2. Look and Listen

Observe firsthand the employees and key management people. Do they know what they are doing, or are they incompetent friends and family of the owner?  Is your style and their management style compatible?  Do the employees get along or are you buying a hornet’s nest?  What is the corporate culture?

3. How Much Money Are They Really Making?

What is the business grossing in income?  Netting?  Unless you’re a forensic accountant, you may need some help on this one.  Aside from hiring an accountant that specializes in this type of investigation, you too should look at cash receipts, bank deposits, and past bank statements. Those figures can’t lie; the owner can. Do a judgment and lien search on the company to see if there are liens against any equipment, or tax liens, judgments, and liabilities.  This may tell you if the business is in distress. You may enjoy revitalizing a depressed business, but make sure the purchase price reflects that.

4. Be Careful of Leases

If you are negotiating a new lease with the current landlord, be sure to inform the landlord that the tenant will be a corporation as you want to limit personal exposure. The landlord may want a personal guarantee, but I would advise against this. However, if you feel it is a must, either to get the space or because you think the risk is worthwhile, be sure to limit the time frame of the guarantee and get a “good guy” clause in the lease. This will essentially allow you to be released if you surrender the security, are paid up to date on the rent, and the premises are in good condition when you surrender the key.

5. Hire a Business Broker

When selling, get a good business broker that has some experience in your type of business. Put the business up at a reasonable sales price. There are standard multiples in certain businesses depending upon their yearly gross. Decide if you want to finance part of the transaction, for how long do you want to finance the note for, and at what interest rate.

6. Obtain a Guarantee

If you do finance the business purchase, try to get a personal guarantee on the promissory note. Get security, either on the business equipment and/or accounts receivables, or even secure it by a mortgage on the purchaser’s home or other property. Be sure to take back an assignment of lease if you are financing. Why?  This way, you can come back into the business and run it if the purchaser defaults, protecting the investment you sold. The landlord must allow you back if the lease is not in default and you have the assignment.

7. Vet the Purchaser

A seller must vet the purchaser. What is the purchaser’s background? Can this person run the business competently?  This is only important if you are financing the business. Otherwise, it is not an issue when the buyer is paying the purchase price in full upfront.

8. Avoid Trouble by Selling to a Reasonable Buyer

Still, no matter what is written in a contract, unreasonable buyers can make your life hell. Sell to someone who does not have obvious defects in their personalities. You will discover this when negotiating with them. Why is this important? You don’t need a lawsuit commenced by the buyer after you’ve sold the business.  Even if the lawsuit has no basis, it still costs money to defend. I would advise against representing in the contract any sales figure. Let the buyer vet the business and decide on the purchase based upon his accountant’s advice or his own instincts.

“There is much more advice that I have for these situations. If you are buying or selling, retain my 38 years of experience to ensure a smooth process.” – James Misiano

Contact James Misiano today at 631-396-0255 if you are planning to buy or sell a business.


Leandra’s Law – What You Need to Know  

What is Leandra’s Law?  Technically, it is a violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1192.2a(b) – a Class E Felony. The violation is operating a motor vehicle on a public highway while one’s ability to operate such vehicle is impaired by the influence of a drug (or alcohol) while a child of 15 years or younger is a passenger in the vehicle. In simpler terms, if you drive your car while impaired with a passenger under the age of 16, you will be charged with a felony.

These cases were originally charged as a misdemeanor – reckless endangerment to a child – but this law now supersedes the old misdemeanor statute, and you will be charged with a felony. The Suffolk County District Attorney Office’s policy is to request a sentence of 1-3 years incarceration.

Some people may think that they would never be in a position to be charged with such a crime, but they should think again. Many clients are on prescribed medication, and unbeknownst to them, they are driving legally impaired. They may drive their children to school and get stopped because of a minor traffic infraction and the police officer could suspect something more. The next thing you know they are in handcuffs on the way to the precinct.

Typical situations I have encountered are motorists taking prescribed Xanax for anxiety. Depending on the level of dosage, this can impair your ability to drive. Now, if you have a child in the car, it’s a felony.

After surgery, many motorists are driving following taking prescribed painkillers, an opioid or similar type of drug (doctors are now prescribing methadone to patients susceptible to opiate addiction). The motorist may think “I am fine. My doctor prescribed this legally.” But they don’t read labels or take into account that the drug ingested may still be in their bloodstream that afternoon when they are picking up the kids from school. You get the idea.

Many of Leandra’s Law cases are not what you might believe as typical such as a motorist having too many drinks at a bar and picking up a child on the way home (although, I’m sure this too occurs). In my practice, most of the cases seem to be an innocent unawareness of the drug ingested and the effect it may have on their ability to drive.

The bottom line is, be careful and be aware of what you are ingesting before you drive your motor vehicle. If you get caught, you know who to call.

Contact seasoned attorney James Misiano at 631-396-0255 if you encounter any of these situations or have a question about Leandra’s Law.


Elder Law – Why You Should Plan Now to Avoid Problems Later

Caring for loved ones is never an easy task.  Combine the emotional stress of an ailing parent or spouse with navigating the waters of obtaining their care, and one can not only become quickly overwhelmed but can lose precious assets they or their loved ones have worked hard to save.

While many people talk about the eventuality of needing care, they often don’t plan for it, and when it is time, they find themselves completely unprepared.  The average cost of nursing home care on Long Island is between $300 and $500 per day, and if an application for care is submitted with surplus assets, an ailing patient can face a penalty period that costs thousands of dollars and uses all of their assets.

But there are ways to preserve those assets for spouses and loved ones if properly planned for, and properly managed before and at the time of application. There are exemptions for transfers between spouses, or to disabled children, and child caregivers.  Or if properly managed ahead of time, health trusts can provide protection for almost all of one’s assets.

Eldercare professionals are well versed in this area and can help veteran families who believe they have taken all of the necessary steps, as well as, families that have failed to do any planning at all chart the waters of nursing home care, at home care, or future planning.

While it is always easy to listen to a neighbor’s story of how they made sure their loved was “taken care of,” it is important to contact a professional who can help with the entire process from start to finish.

Contact Misiano Law with any questions about protecting your loved one’s assets, and we will help you prepare for this major life event.


Misiano Law Real Estate Purchases and Sales Tips: Mortgage Pre-Approvals

Mortgage Pre-Approvals

There are many things you can do to avoid the hold-up of a potential home sale – or at least not impede its progress. One is to make sure the buyer is indeed qualified for a mortgage.

Some purchasers bring with them, when looking for a home, a pre-approval for a mortgage, but how much stock does that really hold? And should you consider this a green light to move full speed ahead?

According to real estate attorney James Misiano of Misiano Law in Hauppauge, “This means, in my humble opinion, very little.”

“A pre-approval simply states that if the unvetted information the potential purchaser/borrower gave to the lender is accurate, and if their credit checks out, then they may qualify to purchase your home.  Remember, this is all unvetted information and should be considered as such.”

To be pre-approved for a mortgage means that a bank or lender has investigated your credit history and determined that you would be a suitable candidate for a mortgage. However, pre-approvals may only be good for a limited time. They usually signify that a lender is ready and willing to lend you money, but not quite yet as they will require verification of financial status and credit-worthiness.

“The contract will still be contingent upon the purchaser obtaining a mortgage.  Therefore, I would not prefer one buyer over another just because of this pre-approval,” said Misiano.

James F .Misiano, P.C. has been representing home buyers and sellers for 38 years. He owned and managed a Title Abstract company for 12 years and is expertly familiar with title insurance issues – and with the solutions.  If you are buying or selling a home, call Misiano Law today for a free consultation.


Misiano Law Real Estate Purchases and Sales Tips: Home Appraisals

Home Appraisals

Many stumbling blocks may appear when purchasing or selling a home. Of course, this is why you should obtain legal counsel from an experienced firm such as Misiano Law to protect your best interests in these matters. Today we’ll discuss home appraisals and reflect on a recent story of a client-seller that accepted a bid on her home.

After an initial bid, the purchaser requested that the seller raise the price of the home and give the purchaser back a credit that he could use for his closing costs. “I advised the seller that the raising of the price of the home could potentially kill the sale if the lender’s appraisal does not evaluate the home at the raised price,” said James F. Misiano of Misiano Law in Hauppauge.

In a case like this, it is important to consider the seller may lose valuable time removing the home from the marketplace to accommodate a buyer that essentially does not have the funds to close on the home.

“So, here’s the solution,” said Misiano. “I told the seller to keep the home on the market and have the potential purchaser pay his bank for an appraisal. If the appraisal values the home at the increased value, then we can enter into contract. If not, a new solution must be arrived at or nix this purchaser.”

James F. Misiano, P.C. has been representing home buyers and sellers for 38 years. He owned and managed a Title Abstract company for 12 years and is expertly familiar with title insurance issues – and with the solutions.  If you are buying or selling a home, call Misiano Law today for a free consultation.


Misiano Law Real Estate Purchases and Sales Tips: Certificate of Occupancy

Certificate of Occupancy

Many issues may arise when purchasing a home. And this is why you should obtain legal counsel in these matters.

If the home you are considering has additions such as a basement apartment, pool, deck, shed, and fencing, all these can be potential deal killers because you may apply for a mortgage and lock in a rate up to a certain date.  If you can’t close within the time set in your commitment, you will lose your rate of interest or even the commitment altogether.

So, what can hold up the closing?  A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) issued by the Town Building Department after inspection of the contracted work, which would state the pool, additions, shed, etc. was built in compliance with the town building code.

The lender’s attorney will generally not allow the loan to close without proper C of O’s for the entire premises. Therefore, when bidding on a home, don’t be afraid to ask the seller to produce the C of O or multiples for later additions.  It may help you decide to pass on the home or continue with the sales process.

Some applications can be obtained relatively quickly, depending on the town, but some can delay the sale substantially – particularly additions added without any permit process.

When selling a home, the converse is true. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL YOUR C of O’s for all your additions!

James F. Misiano, P.C. has been representing home buyers and sellers for 38 years. He owned and managed a Title Abstract company for 12 years and is expertly familiar with title insurance issues – and with the solutions.  If you are buying or selling a home, call Misiano Law today for a free consultation.


Misiano Law’s Real Estate Purchases and Sales Tips: Flood Insurance

Flood Insurance

There are many issues to consider when purchasing a new home such as flood insurance for properties in flood zones.

“I was recently contacted by a client who made an offer on a home near the Long Island coastline in Point Lookout,” said experienced attorney James F. Misiano of Misiano Law in Hauppauge. “He was completely “gutting” the home and would need to apply for a permit and get a new Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for the home. When we spoke, I asked him if he talked to the seller about an elevation survey.”

An elevation survey is important when purchasing a home or business property at or near the water because it can determine whether or not your lender will require the additional expense (which is constantly rising) of flood insurance. It may also determine the measure of your premiums of said flood insurance.

“The client said he hadn’t spoken about that, but the broker handling the sale should’ve brought that to his attention,” Misiano advised.

Adding a flood insurance premium, sometimes in the thousands of dollars per month, to your mortgage should be a decision you are well informed about BEFORE the binding contract is signed.  That elevation survey should also be brought to your insurance agent so that he can properly determine what you are facing in additional premiums.

James F. Misiano, P.C. has been representing home buyers and sellers for 38 years. He owned and managed a Title Abstract company for 12 years and is expertly experienced with title insurance issues and potential solutions.  If you are buying or selling a home, call Misiano Law today for a free consultation.

 


Are You a Traffic Scofflaw? Misiano Law Can Help!

Perhaps you received a parking ticket or moving violation ticket and ignored it. Or missed a court date because of something pressing and now you have defaulted on the appearance date. Congratulations – you are now a scofflaw! Your license is suspended, and you are no longer able to drive legally.

So, how do you right the mistake? Contact James Misiano of Misiano Law for a free consultation and obtain his experienced counsel.

Many different jurisdictions handle traffic violations. The Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violation Agency in Hauppauge and the Nassau County Traffic Bureau in Hempstead are the biggest. There are also many town and village justice courts in Islandia, Patchogue, Port Jefferson, and all the various Hamptons.

Generally, you or your attorney must appear and pay a scofflaw fee to get your case back on the calendar. Usually, after 60 days (each jurisdiction is different), you can no longer go back to “square-one,” and you have only one option to lift the suspension on your license – pay the fine and penalty for lateness.  If you don’t do either of these two things, your license remains suspended with no chance of renewal or even obtaining a license in another state.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will send a notice to the address on your license informing you of the suspension. If you have moved and didn’t receive it – tough luck!  If you are caught driving with a suspended license (multiple times) you will be charged with “aggravated driving with a suspended license” – a misdemeanor. If you are charged with this crime or any misdemeanor for that matter, and you don’t appear on your court date, a warrant for your arrest will be issued by the Court.  If you are picked up by the police after that warrant is issued, you are going directly to jail – without passing GO!

If you missed a misdemeanor or felony court appearance – for good cause – that warrant can be recalled and the judge may allow your former bail status to continue, rather than revoking bail and getting locked up until trial. Obviously, it’s important to attend court appearances, but if for whatever reason you miss a date, counsel can help you get reprocessed and remove the warrant.

“That’s what I do almost every day. Call me.” – James Misiano.