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The closing attorney conducts the closing of the sale or refinance. To do so, he or she must gather information about the contract, the title, the loan being closed, homeowners insurance, home warranties, termite inspections and property surveys then prepare documents that memorialize those matters. This requires a great deal of communication and coordination. The attorney must supervise the closing itself including collecting and distributing funds and providing title insurance for the lender and buyer. Every closing is different; therefore the closing attorney must be organized, patient and flexible.
It depends. There are firms that do nothing but closings and work with a variety of buyers, sellers, builders, lenders and agents. These firms are approved by various lenders in the region. Often, an agent, lender or builder has a strong relationship with a particular closing attorney or firm and they will request the closing occur at that firm. Other times, the builder, buyer or seller will request a specific closing attorney. Selection criteria should be reputation, high quality service and fair pricing rather than simply location or convenience. If someone other than yourself picks this service provider, ask why that firm was chosen and express your preference for a different firm if you so desire.
Buyers, sellers, lenders, agents and the closing attorney gather at the law firm. Identification for both the buyer and the seller will be obtained, any pending issues will be discussed and questions will be answered. The attorney will review the ALTA Settlement Statement and the buyer and seller closing documents in detail. The attorney will then go over each of the loan documents with the buyer and the transfer documents with the seller. (If you wish to review the documents in detail please feel free to request copies in advance.) Each party will sign their documents. The atmosphere is generally pleasant and organized. The attorney will make copies, hand out commission checks and seller funds and see that keys are transferred. The agents will give advice on transferring utilities and other practical matters. The process usually takes about 45 minutes or so.
The closing attorney will do his best to supervise resolution of various issues that may occur. The lender and agents also contribute to this process. Rarely can a problem not be solved!
There are two types of title insurance: owner’s and lender’s policies. The lender will require their interest in the property to be insured as part of the closing costs. This type insurance does not benefit the owner in any way. Owners have the option to insure their own title at an additional cost. Generally, title insurance pays if something arises that was not or could not be discovered and resolved via a title examination. For a lender, title insurance protects their loan. For an owner, it protects their equity. Since Georgia title records are the basis for the title report, title examiners cannot verify matters which occurred in the weeks immediately before closing or matters which have not been properly recorded. Common examples of surprises are liens filed by contractors, Federal tax liens, judgments, unrecorded or misrecorded matters such as easements, and unpaid past property tax matters, to name a few. Other points of concern are fraudulent documents, forgeries or matters concerning a property survey. We prefer to issue “enhanced owners title policies” that expand in value as equity increases and also cover certain matters that occur after closing. In a typical transaction, say a $250,000.00 home with a $200,000.00 home loan, the cost of the loan policy would be about $525.00 (part of the original closing costs estimate) and the optional owner’s policy would be $696.00 (as of the Fall of 2017). The cost of title insurance in Georgia is much lower than other parts of the country and the vast majority of owners insist on it. We recommend owner’s coverage in every single situation.
A plat of the survey is a drawing of a particular piece of property showing boundaries, homes and other improvements and designated areas such as easements and setback lines. For a free-standing home, it can reveal problems like encroachments of fences and driveways or other improvements or violation of easements and setbacks. These types of problems can prevent an owner from improving or selling their property. A survey also helps verify the actual property being bought. A normal survey is $475.00 to $550.00 and is invaluable, especially in new construction. Townhouses are also surveyed but condominiums don’t usually involve land area and, therefore, are not surveyable. If the survey reveals a problem, the seller must resolve it, or the purchaser must accept it. In some cases, a survey makes the title insurance coverage more powerful. A current survey is always recommended.
Someone, typically a buyer, lender or realtor will “order title” with us and schedule an appointment to close. We then:
1. Order a title exam and property tax statements and work to resolve title issues, if any.
2. Order a survey, if requested.
3. Contact the buyer for information about their lender and advise them of the amount to wire for closing.*
4. Contact the seller for information about the mortgages on the property that need to be paid off, homeowners’ association information and other matters which might affect title. Order payoff statements to verify balances owed.
5. Contact the realtors for any special matters (repairs, invoices, special situations).
6. Prepare an ALTA Settlement Statement outlining all the buyer and seller charges and collect loan documents from the lender for signing at closing.
7. Prepare limited warranty deeds, seller’s affidavits, title insurance paperwork, and other documents related to the transfer of the title to the house.
8. Collaborate with buyer’s lender to finalize the buyer’s closing disclosure which will determine the amount due from the buyer at closing.
9. Conduct the closing and collect and disburse all funds.
10. Record the deeds and issue the title insurance policies to the buyer and lender.