The process of purchasing a home is detailed and governed by state and city laws. Here’s what you need to know about buying in Columbus.
Home seller and buyer laws
Ohio sellers must complete a residential property disclosure form reporting any conditions that affect the property. The form requires sellers to report on myriad home conditions, including mechanical systems, the structure of the property, the presence of termites and other wood-destroying insects and the existence of hazardous materials.
Sellers may attach additional pages to the document if more space is needed. If the seller does not provide the form before entering a contract, the buyer has the right to withdraw the offer within three days of receiving the disclosure, provided it’s within 30 days of the seller’s acceptance of the offer and before closing.
Should you encounter difficulties paying your mortgage on time, know that Ohio is a judicial foreclosure state, meaning your lender would need to go through the court system to foreclose on your property. This is different from non-judicial foreclosure states that permit a foreclosure process outside of the courts.
Your lender will file a foreclosure complaint against you after three missed payments. If you receive a complaint and summons, do not ignore it. Seek legal help immediately. Save the Dream Ohio provides more information on the foreclosure process, as well as links to free legal aid and other resources.
For homeowners going through a divorce, Ohio is an equitable distribution state, which means marital property (assets acquired during the marriage) is divided among the spouses equitably. The courts typically split the assets equally between the spouses. However, there are cases in which the courts may allocate them equitably, or proportionally, based on numerous factors, including the length of the marriage and the assets and debts of each spouse.
Assets acquired outside of the marriage (separate property) are usually awarded to the spouse to whom they belong.
Ohio law does not specify how debt is to be separated in a divorce, and this is left up to the court on a case-by-case basis. A judge may choose to divide liabilities equally between the spouses, proportionate to each spouse’s income, or may assign it to one spouse or the other.
Buyers in Ohio are not required by law to be represented by an attorney when closing on a home. They can choose to hire an escrow or closing agent, which can be a lawyer, title company or escrow company.
Home purchases in Franklin County, where Columbus is located, usually incur a real estate transfer tax. A portion of the tax is a state-mandated conveyance fee of $1 per $1,000 of the property value, while part is a Franklin County conveyance fee of $2 per $1,000 of the sales price and a transfer tax of $0.50 per parcel. Sellers typically pay the transfer fees in their closing costs, but your lender will notify you if you are responsible for paying any taxes as you near closing.
Homeowners who qualify may take advantage of tax relief programs to reduce their ongoing property tax liability. The state’s homestead exemption provides eligible low-income senior citizens, permanently disabled residents and surviving spouses a reduction in the taxable value of their home by up to $25,000. Franklin County offers the owner-occupancy credit, a 2.5% reduction in taxes to eligible homeowners who occupy their home as their only residence.
The median property tax in Franklin County is $2,592 for a home worth $155,300, slightly higher than the median tax for the state of $1,836, according to Tax-Rates.org.
Conforming loan limits
The conforming loan limit in Franklin County is $484,350. Conforming loan limits represent the maximum amount buyers can finance with a conventional mortgage backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored enterprises that guarantee loans. Buyers who wish to finance a purchase above the conforming loan limit will need to do so with a jumbo loan, which is typically harder to qualify for.