Title company and attorneys:
Functions of title/escrow company:
Whether you’re selling with an agent or not, once a contract is agreed upon, the next move is to engage the services of a title company (title insurance company) or escrow company.
The “closer” or “closing agent” at a title company or the ”escrow agent” will be your primary contact for questions.
The key responsibilities of this closing entity are to make sure that:
- All outstanding property liens and mortgages are paid before or at closing.
- The lender gets a good mortgage. This is one that is endorsed by the proper parties and covers their financial commitments, obligations and remedies (in case of buyer default).
- The various real estate taxes and other costs (transfer fees, survey, attorney, inspection fees, etc.) are paid at or prior to closing.
- Checks are prepared for any real estate commissions due as well as checks for other services that are to be paid for at closing.
- No funds or property changes hands until all of the contingencies and instructions in the purchase contract have been satisfied and all necessary documents have proper signatures.
- A check is prepared for the net proceeds due you.
- The buyer obtains a clean (lien free) title to your property.
- The new deed is properly recorded.
You should receive a copy of the closing statement, detailing both the buyer and seller expenses and disbursements anywhere from a day to a week before the actual closing.
At the closing, you and the buyers both sign documents pertaining to the property. In addition, buyers will sign documents relating to the loan, if any. This process is done with the buyers and sellers together at a “closing table”, the parties could be in separate rooms or the document signings could be done separately.
The settlement, including title transfer and distribution of the monies is usually done immediately at the closing. However, in some areas, ownership and funds are not transferred until the deed has been recorded in the county, which could take a few days.
A “dry closing” refers to a signing of all documents with a delay of time (sometimes up to a few days) until the funds (checks) are disbursed. The procedures will vary slightly depending on local customs and laws.
Select a closing company
Shortly after the contract has been signed, the title or escrow company needs to be chosen to coordinate the sale. When you bought the house, what was the process then? Probably, pretty much the same today. Ask your agent or attorney who selects the closing company and how the process works in your area.
If it is the buyers’ responsibility to choose the closing company, have them advise you of their choice so you can contact them. They may need copies of certain documents from you and will need to communicate with your lender for payoff information (outstanding loan balances on your home).
Get by without an attorney:
Are you serious?
When selling your home and especially if selling by owner, it is recommend that you have an attorney lined up, even prior to putting your home on the market.
Although, in most states you are not required to have your own attorney, both parties find them helpful, even when the parties are using real estate agents.
Why have an attorney:
Legal representation can eliminate a number of problems. A real estate attorney can:
- Evaluate complicated offers.
- Act as an advisor during negotiations.
- Offer professional and legal advice.
- Act as an escrow agent to hold the earnest money deposit.
- Represent you at closing to explain what you’re signing.
- Review any and all other documents related to the sale.
- Act as a Power of Attorney if you don’t attend the closing.
Your attorney should be experienced in residential sales transactions. Whether listed or selling as a by-owner, you want someone who knows the ins and outs of offers and contracts. In addition, your attorney should have a positive, conciliatory attitude in making, rather than hindering, contract negotiations.
An attorney usually charges a flat fee of $300 to $600 (and up depending on property value and or local custom) for a typical closing. Let the attorney know how much guidance you’ll need (first time seller, new to the area, first sale in many years, have some unusual circumstances, etc.). A very low fee means you'll get minimal attention and you shouldn’t expect (or probably you don’t need) much one-on-one consultation.
If you want an attorney, get recommendations from friends, neighbors who recently sold, real estate agents, the yellow pages or go to lawyers.com or realestatelawyers.com.
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