Last Update: 02/22/16
When it’s time to actually close on your new home or condo here in South Florida, it can be intimidating to see just how much paperwork is involved. Even if it’s a small house or condo, closings can take lots of time (hours!). Why? Even when there are no problems, it can take quite a while for the buyer and the seller to go through all of the documentation (especially if the transaction is being financed; meaning, a mortgage is being given to the lender).
The parties have to read the docs, sign them, and some have to be signed before a notary public. Some documents have to be signed in duplicate. It can be overwhelming.
Florida Real Estate Lawyers and Residential Closings
In Florida, real estate attorneys represent buyers and sellers in condo and single family home transactions all of the time (they just shouldn’t represent both the buyer and the seller in the same deal – that’s a conflict of interest – see – 19 Reasons To Hire a Real Estate Lawyer When Buying or Selling Florida Real Estate).
And having a lawyer close a residential real estate deal can be very helpful just in case an issue arises between the buyer, seller or real estate agent – hiring a lawyer at the time of closing can be more expensive than if the lawyer was involved from the time the contract was signed.
The work involved in a real estate closing can often be repetitive for a seasoned real estate lawyer. One reason for this is each year that there are so many closings in South Florida. They get lots of experience!
One benefit of the repetitiveness is that an experienced real estate lawyer will know what to expect at a closing, and what changes or documents to request, before and after the closing, from the title company or from the lawyer representing the other party to the transaction.
Documentation Checklist For A Florida Residential Real Estate Closing
Most Florida real estate lawyers have prepared checklists for themselves in order to make sure nothing slips through the cracks and gets lost in all of that paperwork. He or she will have personal notes written on the file for things to follow-up on at the closing.
Things like: reminders to review the lien search, request a marked-up the title commitment, review the payoff statement and review the updated estoppel from the HOA or Condo Association. That checklist may also have a reminder to review the lenders closing instructions.
There’s are all sorts of knowledge that a Florida real estate lawyer brings to the closing table. Things that real estate agents and title companies may not know, or may not share.
That’s in addition to being well acquainted with the standard procedures and documentation for a closing, including:
1. Conditions precedent (like reviewing the survey – see our previous post that discusses several other conditions precedent);
2. Verification and confirmation of things like special assessments and redemption of tax certificates for prior taxes;
3. Transfers of warranties (roof and appliance contracts).
This can be quite a big pile of paper, which is why most lawyer’s have some sort of checklist.
Here are some more items that a lawyer will want to review at or before the closing:
Bill of sale
Other documents necessary to clear or resolve any title issues (for example, if the seller is an estate, then tax clearance documents, continuous marriage affidavit or a Court Order authorizing the transaction may need to be provided and reviewed)
Promissory Note, TIL and Mortgage (and all other mortgage documents)
Having a Florida Real Estate Lawyer for Your Residential Closing
The problem with a lot of closings are that they follow a cookie-cutter approach based on the presumption that the transaction does not have any circumstances that warrant special treatment. This approach assumes that non-lawyers (real estate agents and title company closing agents – it is illegal for these groups to practice law) can differentiate between a closing that needs special care and one that is routine.
All too often, we have clients come to us with problems that need resolving — issues with their real estate agent or with the title company or when they themselves, for example, have a change in financial circumstances — and the cookie-cutter approach doesn’t protect them with their special circumstances. Maybe the issue isn’t extreme, just an outstanding tax bill or a leaky roof needing repair. Sometimes, it is a much bigger issue like a cloud on the title discovered after closing or an unpaid condo assessment or a hidden defect in the property itself that wasn’t disclosed by the seller or the seller’s agent (did the seller provide, and where they required to provide, a seller disclosure statement at or immediately after the closing?).
A good piece of advice when you and your family are purchasing or selling your family home in one of the biggest transactions of your life is to at least talk with a Florida real estate lawyer. Getting someone to review all of the paperwork isn’t as costly as most of us think it is. And, it’s always a lot cheaper than paying to fix a problem after a closing occurs. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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