A real estate closing is one of the most important transactions of your life.
It’s the process by which a real estate attorney, buyers, sellers, a lender, and real estate agents all work together to consummate the purchase of real property. From first time home buyers to large, corporate investors, the law firm of McCullers, Whitaker & Hamer, PLLC has closed tens of thousands of real estate transactions in North Carolina.
Why do you need a closing attorney? The North Carolina State Bar has mandated that many aspects of the closing process require a legal opinion to be rendered by an attorney certified to practice in North Carolina. The North Carolina Bar and the North Carolina General Assembly have determined that a real estate closing is actually comprised of several steps, many of which involve an attorney to render a legal opinion.
We caution you to be wary of a law firm or non-attorney settlement shop where you are unable to speak to an attorney regarding your real estate closing. While it is perfectly acceptable for paralegals to help your real estate attorney process your file and aid in the collection of information from the county governments and homeowners associations, it is of the utmost importance that a qualified, experience real estate attorney is closely monitoring the closing process.
How much should a real estate attorney charge me for a real estate closing? Most real estate attorneys have a flat fee for a real estate closing, but this flat fee depends on a wide array of factors. Is your transaction a cash transaction, i.e., you are not getting a mortgage? Are you getting several loans in connection with your real estate purchase? How much is your loan amount? Do you require a power of attorney, additional deed, freetrader agreement or another legal document to be prepared to close? Do you need your closing attorney to hold an escrow? All of these factors affect how much your closing attorney will charge.
Should I order a survey in connection with my mortgage? Yes, yes, a million times yes. Surveys can cost as little as $325 and will tell you a lot about the property you are purchasing. While our firm will perform a detailed title search and procure title insurance for your purchase, our firm is unable to determine encroachments and the precise locations of easements and other possible defects. Only a surveyor can find these defects. Your closing attorney cannot determine these types of defects. Your title insurance policy will specifically take exception to any defects a survey would have revealed.
The purchase of real property is an important investment. Do not undervalue the importance of a qualified attorney and surveyor working together to unearth any possible defects. In North Carolina, these fees are considerably lower than other states and said advice may save you tens of thousands of dollars down the road.
The following list is taken verbatim from Authorized Practice Advisory Opinion 2002-1 and details the many jobs of your closing attorney:
- Abstracts or provides an opinion on title to real property;
- Explains the legal status of title to real estate, the legal effect of anything found in the chain of title, or the legal effect of an item reported as an exception in a title insurance commitment except as necessary to underwrite a policy of insurance and except that a licensed title insurer, agency, or agent may explain an underwriting decision to an insured or prospective insured, including providing the reason for such decision;
- Explains or gives advice or counsel about the rights or responsibilities of parties concerning matters disclosed by a land survey under circumstances that require the exercise of legal judgment or that have implications with respect to a party’s legal rights or obligations;
- Provides a legal opinion, advice, or counsel in response to inquiries by any of the parties regarding legal rights or obligations of any person, firm, or corporation, including but not limited to the rights and obligations created by the purchase agreement, a promissory note, the effect of a pre-payment penalty, the rights of parties under a right of rescission, and the rights of a lender under a deed of trust;
- Advises, counsels, or instructs a party to the transaction with respect to alternative ways for taking title to the property or the legal consequences of taking title in a particular manner;
- Drafts a legal document for a party to the transaction or assists a party in the completion of a legal document, or selects or assists a party in selecting a form legal document among several forms having different legal implications;
- Explains or recommends a course of action to a party to the transaction under circumstances that require the exercise of legal judgment or that have implications with respect to the party’s legal rights or obligations;
- Attempts to settle or resolve a dispute between the parties to the transaction that will have implications with respect to their respective legal rights or obligations;
- Determines that all conditions of the purchase agreement or the loan closing instructions have been satisfied in accordance with the buyer’s or the lender’s interests or instructions;
- Determines that the deed and deed of trust may be recorded after an update of title for any intervening conveyances or liens since the preliminary opinion;
- Determines that the funds may be legally disbursed pursuant to the North Carolina Good Funds Settlement Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 45A-1.