The standard purchase and sale contract provides a place to list a closing attorney. You should research and choose a closing attorney and make every effort to have your attorney listed in the contract. If you were not able to choose the closing attorney for your sale, contact your real estate agent or loan officer and find out who the closing attorney will be and their contact information. The next step is to get in touch with the real estate attorney or pre-closing paralegal and make sure they have the information concerning your lender, if you will be financing the purchase, or if the purchase will be cash. You may want to verify the attorney has received a title order for your purchase, the correct buyer's names, and either a contact phone number or e-mail address to get in touch with you.
Stay in touch with your real estate agent and loan officer
If you are obtaining financing on your purchase, it is important to stay in touch with your real estate agent and loan officer, especially if you have any questions or concerns. With tighter lending standards today, often loan officers will need additional information from you throughout the entire process, sometimes even up to the day before closing. There may be revised information concerning your good faith estimate, appraisal of the property, and loan application, that must be addressed a minimum number of days prior to closing. Failure to stay in touch with the lender may result in a delay in closing. You should also stay in touch with your real estate agent. Should any issues concerning the title of the property or a delay in closing time occur, the real estate agents would be the first to have this information. If you are needing or planning to pay any additional items at closing that are not in the contract, you should let the closer know as early as possible so they can
Holding title to the property and owner's title insurance
If you wish to hold title to the property in a manner that does not match the sales contract and the information from the lender, you need to let the attorney know how you would like to hold title as soon as possible. The attorney will need to contact the lender and verify if the lender will allow a party not on the loan to hold title. In some situations, the lender will allow a party not on the note to hold title if that party is on the security deed and a few other documents. Some lenders do not allow any person not on the loan to hold title. If this request can be made to the attorney in advance, the attorney can work on any possible solutions to resolve who is on title. You should also advise the attorney if you do not want to purchase owner's title insurance. Owner's title insurance is not usually required but is a wise investment. The attorney will be able to provide you with information concerning the benefits, costs, and simultaneous issue discounts upon request.
Property Tax Information and the Homeowners Association
Property taxes billed and due within 60 days of closing are usually required to be paid at closing. Annual property taxes are also prorated for the current year, unless your contract says otherwise. If property taxes have been billed for the current year, those figures will be used. If property taxes have not been billed for the current year, the closing attorney will use tax figures from the previous year for proration. You may wish to obtain property tax figures on your property for the most recent tax year for comparison at closing. If your property is in a homeowners, property owners, or condo association, you may wish to obtain information concerning the association and/or the management company, annual dues and fees, and access to amenities. Many homeowners associations have websites with such information or your real estate agent may be able to get information from the seller concerning the association. Annual dues for the current year should be prorated at closing unless
Buyer who may not be present at the closing
Contact the closing attorney as soon as possible if you are aware that you or another buyer will not be available to sign at the closing. This could include a person who may be able to execute a Power of Attorney prepared by the closer and specific to the property. If the property is being financed, the attorney will need to verify with the lender whether a buyer may be allowed to name an attorney-in-fact to sign loan documents on their behalf and what form of the Power of Attorney is acceptable. Often, a Power of Attorney must be sent, properly executed, and the original returned before a lender can proceed with an attorney-in-fact. Letting the attorney know as soon as possible of this issue will insure a smoother and faster closing.
Ask to review the settlement statement prior to closing
When you speak with the closing attorney, ask to have the Hud-1 sent to your agent and yourself prior to closing. Be aware that when there is a lender, as is the case in most closings, the attorney cannot send you a settlement statement or Hud-1 until that statement is approved by the lender. The new RESPA Hud-1 has an additional page which compares areas on the Hud-1 (called buckets) with areas on you Good Faith Estimate and will show if any tolerance violations exist. The closing attorney will advise the lender if any tolerance violations do exist and the lender will cure those violations on page one of the Hud-1 if applicable. You may wish to review the Hud-1 with your loan officer and agent. Please ask questions or raise issues with the attorney as soon as a question or potential error is discovered in order to ensure that any revised Hud-1 is re-approved by the lender prior to the closing.
Bring to the Closing and Certified Funds
Make sure to bring a copy of photo identification (such as your drivers license) to the closing. Attorneys must verify individuals, buyers and sellers, at their closings. Also, bring anything else the closing attorney or lender discussed with you. If you were able to obtain a preliminary Hud-1, bring that to the closing for comparison as well. Closing attorneys are required by law to accept certified funds only and are limited to the amount of funds that can be accepted by cash, check, and cashiers check. Sending funds for closing by wire is the preferred method of delivery for certified funds. You should check with the attorney in advance concerning the method of delivery of funds required to close. Non-certified funds, such as a regular hand-written check, credit cards, or debit cards, are not acceptable as certified funds, and the attorney will be unable to fund and finalize the closing until certified funds are received.
The Closing Table
Be timely to the closing and be prepared to produce your identification and certified funds right away. Sometimes a closing will take place with all parties around the conference table; other times, the attorney will have the seller sign first and then review the buyer's loan documents with the buyer in private. If you have questions during your portion of the closing, make sure to ask them. Also be prepared to wait. The closing attorney would always prefer to have everyone in and out of the office as soon as possible, so everyone is happy. In order to finalize the closing, the attorney often must satisfy a variety of conditions of the lender. Those conditions may include sending in signed closing documents for the lender to review. These reviews take time, but the closing attorney is not allowed to release funds until that lender gives authorization.
Leaving the closing
You should be leaving the closing with a signed settlement statement and a copy of the documents that you executed during the closing. If you are unable to wait to get a fully signed copy of the settlement statement, ask the attorney to mail you a copy after the closing for your records. You should also make sure to get one of the attorney's cards in case you have future questions or need a copy of your documents at any time. Georgia attorneys are required to retain their trust account files, including closing files, for a minimum of 7 years. Also, unless other arrangements have been made, you should leave with keys in hand as the new owner of the property- congratulations.
Need to refinance or sell later on
In the future, if you decide to refinance your loan or are ready to sell your property, consider using the same closing attorney who closed your purchase. Closing attorneys keep their files on hand and often offer reduce fees for conducting another closing on the same property. While it is no longer allowed to offer re-issue rates for lender's or owner's title insurance, there are costs which can be saved by closing with the same attorney, such as a reduced title search and other closing fees. Also, if you were happy with the closing attorney and the service they provided, it would make good sense to use them again since you are likely to receive the same level of service as before.
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