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 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 correct spelling of all the seller's names and either a contact phone number or e-mail address to get in touch with you.
Get your payoff information together
If you have any loans which need to be paid off on your property at the closing, you will need to get the closer the name of the current lender/payee on your mortgage, the loan number, and your social security number (often the last 4 digits of the SSN will do, but not always). If you have a home equity line of credit, you may need to provide the attorney with written authorization in order for them to order your payoff. You can contact your lender and get a copy of your payoff as well or get a verbal payoff quote. The remaining principal balance from your previous loan statement does not take into account interest that has accrued since your last payment date and the payoff good thru date. If you are 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 advise you if it is allowed.
Get your homeowner's association information together
If your property is in a homeowners, property owners, or condo association, you will need to get the contact information for the association and/or the management company to the closing attorney. The closing attorney will need to get a clearance letter from the association or management company showing any amounts due at closing, such as assessments or fees, and any other fees due at closing, such as letter preparation fees and transfer or initiation fees. You may wish to contact your association to verify what fees will be collected and what, if anything, is owed on your account for comparison at closing. Annual dues for the current year should be prorated at closing unless your contract says otherwise.
Get you property tax information together
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.
Persons on the title of the property
Contact the closing attorney as soon as possible if you are aware that a person is on title who is not 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. On rare occasions, a deceased individual remains on title. The closing attorney needs to know of this as soon as possible to obtain the correct documents, possibly estate documents or otherwise, in order to properly transfer title to the buyer. More commonly, a divorced spouse may remain on title to a property. A divorce decree is not sufficient to remove that person from title and a Quit Claim Deed must be obtained. Corrective measures are usually available but may take several days, the sooner the closer knows, the better.
Ask to review the Settlement Statement or Hud-1 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 the buyer has a lender, as is the case in most closings, the closer cannot send you a settlement statement or Hud-1 until that statement is approved by the buyer's lender. The closer may be able to send you a condensed seller's side of the closing with seller items, such as payoffs, included for review. Be prepared to see charges for courier or over night delivery fees for your payoffs, recording fees to file a release for certain payoffs, and legal fees for additional title work performed, such as power of attorneys. Review the Hud-1 with your agent and ask questions or raise issues with the closer as soon as a potential error is discovered.
Bring to the closing
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 discussed with you, such as original power of attorney to be filed for another owner. If you were able to obtain a preliminary Hud-1, bring that to the closing for comparison as well. If a preliminary Hud-1 was not available for review, you may wish to bring a copy of your payoffs, tax statement, association statement, or any other item that was to be placed on the Hud-1 or prorated at closing.
The closing table
Be timely to the closing and be prepared to produce your identification 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 do that though, the closer often must satisfy a variety of conditions of the buyer's 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. Hopefully you will have enjoyed selling your property and can leave with a check in hand for the proceeds from the sale. Georgia IOLTA checks are considered certified funds check and should not be held by your bank on deposit. Should you experience an issue, you should contact the closer and request that they have their bank verify funds to your bank as soon as possible.
Ready to purchase another property
You may now be ready to purchase another property. You may want to consider using the same attorney for your new purchase. This is often called a back-to-back closing if you are selling one property and then purchasing another. If possible, you may prefer to close with the same attorney and avoid traveling across town to another closing and arranging for proceeds to be transferred and verified. Georgia closing attorneys are available to close your purchase and loan in any county in Georgia, not just the county where their office is located. You may also be able to negotiate a reduced closing rate for such a back-to-back closing or for being a repeat client at a later date.
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