Real estate is a complex industry with lots of laws and regulations, which is why it’s best to rely on the expertise of your agent to educate you during your home search. But even with a team of experts on your side, there are hundreds of real estate sanctions and it’s almost inevitable that you’ll occasionally find yourself in a dark or grey area. Below are five real estate laws that many people are unaware of.
1. Open house photos and personal rights
Be careful when taking pictures at an open house; although it’s not illegal to take pictures of the property, you could get into trouble if you caught the seller in any of your pictures. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution includes the right to privacy, and photographing someone in their own home without their permission is a violation of that right.
2. Using public or unsecured Wi-Fi to search for real estate properties
Most states have regulations on using someone else’s unsecured network, as it’s considered stealing. Even though these regulations are rarely enforced, it’s best to stick to a secure network when conducting your search.
3. Asking your real estate agent to disclose unlawful neighborhood information
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) prohibits discussions of a neighborhoods religious makeup, schools, median household income, crime rates and more in order to prevent discrimination against homebuyers. Instead, you should do your own homework to gather this kind of information on your own.
4. Entering a property without proper permission
As you move along through the mortgage process, it’s easy to feel like the house is already yours. However, until the paperwork is signed and the keys are in your possession, you cannot access the property without permission, even if the home has already been vacated by the sellers.
5. Signing documents for your co-borrower to help move things along faster
If you’ve ever bought a house before, you know the mountain of paperwork that comes with it. It may be tempting to sign for your significant other, but even with their verbal permission, this is considered fraud. Since fraud is technically a felony, the punishment could possibly include prison and large fines. Instead, you can talk with your real estate lawyer about becoming power of attorney for your partner, but until then, it is highly illegal to sign on their behalf.