Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a closing and how long does it take?
“Closing” is the term used to describe the legal transfer of the property title from the seller to the buyer. Barring any unforeseen issues, most closings typically last an hour or less.
Why do we need a closing attorney?
Fantastic. Just when we thought everything was going to end peacefully, someone went and hired an attorney to get in the middle of our real estate deal!
The fact is, you need an attorney to prepare many of the important documents related to the purchase of your new home. The law in Georgia requires it. The attorney will ultimately be responsible for ensuring that you buy a home with a clean, clear title in your name, with no liens or taxes owed from the past.
Your mortgage broker and real estate agents got the buyer and seller through the first stages of your purchase. They negotiated for you, helped you get an inspection and hired a moving company. By the time you get to the closing table your closing attorney has been working behind the scenes for several weeks to examine the title to your new home and coordinate with your lender to make sure your loan is documented correctly.
If your closing was a football game, your closing attorney would be the quarterback and the closing would be your fourth-down play with the goal line in sight. He or she will gather everyone together at the closing table and keep the process of signing documents moving along. Legally, the attorney’s function at the table is to represent the lender. By doing so, the attorney must explain to you the importance of the documents you are signing and the ramifications of pledging your new home as collateral for a loan. He will explain to you that if you fail to repay your loan on a monthly basis, the lender can take the home from you through a process called non-judicial foreclosure—which means, in layman’s terms, “if you do not pay, you do not stay.” It is a sick joke, but that is primarily how the process works.
Hopefully, the brief talk about foreclosure will be the only nasty stuff during the closing. Most of the time, your attorney will tell a joke or two and reassure you that the mountain of debt you just acquired is far outweighed by the beautiful home you have just purchased. If you are lucky, she will hand out plenty of candy and Cokes along the way to keep it fun.
What does the attorney check for when running a title examination?
The attorney examines the title to check for defects in any prior deeds, to determine all mortgages that need to be paid off, to make sure all taxes have been paid (and make the seller pay them if they are not), and to make sure no other liens exist against the title.
What is title insurance?
Title insurance is a form of coverage you can purchase at the closing to protect you in the event that any unforeseen title claims are made at a later date against your property. Often, even the title examiner cannot determine if a deed was forged or drawn improperly. Or in extremely rare cases, your title examiner made a mistake and missed something. If these things happen, the title insurance company is a “deep pocket” which is there to cover you from any financial loss that occurs. It may be a small lien that was not paid off or it could be a mistake so severe that the property could be taken from you in a lawsuit. In either case, the title insurer pays you back for your loss. The lender requires such a policy to pay them back for their loss, but this does not cover your equity (which increases as the loan is paid down). So it is extremely important to buy this “owner’s title insurance” policy at the closing. The premium is only paid one time, and its relatively cheap. It lasts you for as long as you own the property.
How is title held for married couples?
The preferred method of holding title for family members is “joint tenancy with right of survivorship.” This means that if one title holder dies, the other(s) automatically retains the entire title to the property, without the necessity of a will. Joint tenancy can be held between brothers, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, parent/child, etc. You do not need to be married.
What other way may I hold title?
The default method of holding title in Georgia is called “tenancy in common.” This means that if one person on title dies, that person’s heirs get their interest in the property, not the other person(s) on title. This is commonly how investors hold title to property. This will be how you hold title unless your deed specifically states that it is “joint tenancy.” Make sure you double-check this with your closing attorney.
Can I write a check to the attorney for my closing costs?
Generally, No. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 44-14-13, all funds for closing that exceed $5,000.00 must be provided in the form of a BANK WIRE. Please ask for our firm’s wiring instructions, as an ACH draft or direct deposit will not be accepted by the bank to a trust account. Hartman-Imbriale, LLP accepts personal checks from the named party to the transaction in amounts under $2,000.00, and accepts certified or official checks from U.S. banks in amounts under $5,000.00.
What if I have a “punch list” for unfinished repair items with my builder or seller?
Such lists of small, unfinished repairs “survive” closing and become a binding contract for their completion, even after the seller receives their check. Most of the time, these repairs are completed peacefully. If your builder or seller refuses to complete the agreed-upon repairs, you have an action in court to force them to do so. If the relationship with the seller or builder has been difficult, you may enter into an agreement to have the attorney “escrow” some of the seller’s funds to be released only upon the completion of the repairs. But there is no law requiring your seller or builder to agree to such a plan. The attorney may charge a fee for such a service.
When will I get my original deed?
The attorney will file the original deed within a day of your closing. It usually takes most county recording clerks approximately eight weeks to record the deed and send it to the attorney. The attorney will then send the original to you along with your owner’s title insurance policy. But you legally own your new property on the day of closing.