If you’re a fan of the Selling Sunset show, you may be under the impression that selling or buying a home is a simple matter of asking a real estate agent to arrange some show houses and negotiate a deal for you. In reality – and as all homeowners will know – the process is far more complicated than this.
The closing of the property sale usually only happens weeks after the seller and buyer initially come to an agreement. Who’s behind this aspect of the work that we never get to see on TV? You guessed it: real estate attorneys. They play a big role in home sales, particularly during the closing process, and will take all the stress out of closing for you. Let’s take a closer look at the closing process to understand how real estate attorneys’ expertise is vital to closing.
What Is Closing? Isn’t The Sale Complete Once The Contract Is Signed?
This is a common misconception, especially among people who have never bought or sold a home. In fact, the execution (signing) of the contract of sale is only the start of the real estate transaction. This is the first step at which hiring a real estate attorney is beneficial: although real estate agents can provide standard-form contracts of sale and help you to complete them, they do not have the legal ability to amend them or review the contract provided by the opposing party. Whether you’re the buyer or seller, hiring an attorney to prepare or carefully review the contract of sale will give you peace of mind that your contract of sale is clear, binding, and valid and not going to present problems down the line.
Once both parties have signed the contract of sale, the contract becomes effective and binding. From this point, the remaining steps of the transaction, as detailed in the contract of sale, will need to be implemented. This is what the ‘closing process’ is called. It is important to note that in Florida, real estate lawyers both (i) represent the seller or buyer (as the case may be) and (ii) act as the closing agent.
Escrow And Its Role In Closing
The closing process is overseen by a third party, the closing agent, who is either an escrow company or a real estate attorney appointed by one of the parties to the transaction. In some counties, it is the seller, while in others, it is the buyer who chooses the closing agent. The closing agent will oversee the exchange of funds and transaction documents between the buyer and seller necessary to complete the transfer of the property. An ‘escrow account’ is the account that the closing attorney sets up, into which the buyer pays the money deposit once the contract of sale has become effective. Appointing an attorney as your escrow agent will ensure that your escrow arrangements are watertight and reliable. Being an escrow agent is an enormous ethical responsibility, as you are trusted with the buyers’ funds and the sellers’ title documents until the transaction is finalized. Attorneys are subject to high ethical standards and will ensure that the escrow funds are secure and kept separate from other funds.
A Vital Step: Title Searches
The closing attorney is also responsible for conducting a title search to verify that the seller is the lawful owner of the property and that there are no claims, municipal liens, or unknown mortgages over the property. The purpose of this due diligence process is to protect the buyer and the lender (if the buyer is taking out a mortgage) and to ensure that there will be no disputes as to who the rightful owner of the property is down the line.
Only real estate attorneys can conduct these searches. The closing attorney will also ensure that there are no easements that the buyer is unaware of. They will also order a land survey to ensure there is no encroachment on the property. If the title search produces clean results, the attorney will arrange for title insurance to be issued. This protects the buyer from any future claims which may arise.
Closing Date Finally Arrives
With all these steps complete, the only remaining step is for the buyer, seller, lender, and closing attorney to sign the necessary closing documents and for the closing agent to release the funds to the seller. The real estate attorney who was appointed as the closing agent must then ensure that the deed is registered with the county. In terms of Florida’s property law statutes, this is the point at which the transfer of ownership of the property to the buyer is complete and effective in law.
A Real Estate Attorney Will Ensure Your Closing Is Hassle-Free
Given the complexity and importance of the closing process in real estate transactions, hiring a real estate attorney you can trust to act as your closing agent is highly recommended.
At the Law Offices of Gary I. Handin, P.A., we have over 50 years of experience in real estate law. Our real estate lawyers have dealt with hundreds of closing processes, both simple and complex.
Give us a call at 877-815-4560 today to find out how we can ensure your closing process goes as smoothly as possible.