Regulations and costs related to homebuying vary from state to state. Here we take a look at West Virginia’s real estate laws, taxes and conforming loan limits.
Home seller and buyer laws
By law in West Virginia, home sellers are required to provide a disclosure form in writing that reveals any known defects of the property. The form must be completed by the seller at the time the property is listed for sale and presented to the buyer before any offer is made. The buyer may, however, waive the disclosure requirement.
The form covers a wide range of potential defects, including those related to: water, sewer and septic systems; structural systems, such as roofs and foundations; plumbing and electrical; heating and air conditioning; and fireplaces. Disclosures must also be made regarding termites and other pest infestations; underground storage tanks and hazardous materials; and damage from events such as floods or sewage seepage.
Several types of sellers are exempted from having to provide this disclosure, including trustees, creditors and beneficiaries, as well as those for whom the home transfer is triggered by a court order, will, foreclosure, a failure to pay taxes or similar circumstance.
West Virginia allows both judicial and non-judicial foreclosures, which means lenders are not required to go through the court system to foreclose on a home. While non-judicial foreclosures are most common, a lender may file a lawsuit after the proceedings to receive a deficiency judgment. This would allow the lender to collect the outstanding amount due if the foreclosure sale did not recoup enough funds to pay off the mortgage.
West Virginia is an equitable distribution state, which means that assets acquired during a marriage, including property, are not necessarily split 50/50. A couple, or the court, may take various factors into consideration, such as the length of the marriage, each party’s contribution to the finances and whether the couple has children, in determining how property should be divided. There may be exceptions to the equal division for several reasons, including fraud,the existence of a separate agreement between the parties or because of a disparity in the overall contribution to the couple’s marital assets.
An attorney is typically required to handle the legal paperwork when you close on a home in West Virginia. A real estate agent and escrow officer may handle other aspects of the closing, including earnest money deposits and preparing and reviewing any mortgage documents.
Typical property taxes
At just 0.49%, West Virginia enjoys one of the lowest median property tax rates in the country, according to Tax-Rates.org. Homeowners pay a median of only $464 per year in property taxes (that’s for a home worth $94,500). Buyers in the state will want to check the county rates, however, as the tax rate can vary dramatically. While rural Webster County has the lowest average property tax in the state, at $235 per year, or 0.4% of home value, pricier Jefferson County levies an average annual tax of $1,379, or 0.54% of home value.
A transfer tax must be paid in several states in order to transfer the title. In West Virginia, that tax is $1.10 for each $500 of property value (or fraction thereof), plus a county fee of $0.55 per $500. An additional $20 must be collected by the clerk of the county commission before a real estate transfer can be made. Each county in the state may also set its own transfer tax. For instance, Jefferson County increased its property transfer tax in 2019 from $1.10 to $1.35 for each $500 of property value (or fraction thereof).
Property tax exemptions
There are several property types that are not required to pay property taxes in West Virginia, including some government-owned property, certain charitable organizations, agricultural property and property intended for educational, literary, scientific or worship purposes. The state also provides an exemption for persons age 65 or older and disabled individuals. This permanent exemption protects the first $20,000 of assessed value of their owner-occupied residence.
You can find out more about West Virginia’s property tax exemptions here.
Conforming loan limits
The conforming loan limit for 2019 is $484,350 for one-unit properties in every West Virginia county but one. The limit rises to $726,525 in Jefferson County, the easternmost county in the state, located about 90 minutes from both Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Conforming loan limits represent the maximum amount that will be backed by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Each year, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) sets these limits.