Q: I am moving from another state and buying in North Carolina. Where I lived previously, a title company handled my closing. I have been told by my real estate agent or mortgage company that I need an attorney to conduct the closing of my purchase. Why is that? My understanding is the attorneys are expensive, so won’t this cost me more?
A: Every state has a different system. In quite a few states, title companies handle closings. North Carolina requires an attorney to certify title to the title insurance company, whose sole role is to issue and service the title insurance coverage for both you and your lender. This is, in my view, much more protective of you as the buyer, as you have an advocate representing you and answering to you. The best measure of how well this system works in comparison to other states is that North Carolina consistently ranks around 49th or 50th of 51 jurisdictions (including District of Columbia) in the total cost attributed to settlement fees plus title insurance premiums.
Q: Why should I select your firm?
A: There are many good and knowledgeable real estate law firms in the Lake Norman and Charlotte metropolitan area. The first thing you want to be sure of is that the attorney in fact specializes in or concentrates his or her practice in the area of real estate law. The firm should be professional but without some sort of “superior” attitude from either the attorney or the support staff members you will be interacting with. We have had numerous correspondences from both clients and real estate professionals that they appreciated both the professional way we treated them and the friendly attitude that we insist on in this office. We also pride ourselves on getting things done right the first time and on your schedule, and we fully explain all documents and are happy to answer any questions you may have, both before and during closing. You will find us to be very reachable as well.
Q: I have been told I dont' need a survey for closing. Is that true?
A: Lenders typically tell borrowers that they do not require a survey. Sometimes that gets wrongly translated as “you don’t need a survey”. The reason lenders are usually not concerned about a survey is that title insurers usually insure the lender as to matters of survey on the loan policy. For buyers, however, an owner’s policy will generally not insure you as any items that an accurate survey would make known. This may include a fence or driveway encroachment or even some structure being built over the property line or into a right-of-way. We have had a survey show the actual house having been built well onto the adjoining lot, and the buyer would have not known (or be insured for) that until they had a very unhappy surprise when they or the next-door neighbor went to sell. While correctly not required, we always recommend a new survey for purchase.
Q: I am selling my property. Do I need an attorney?
A: If you are knowledgeable and have significant experience in the type of transaction you are engaged in, perhaps not. Most sellers in this state choose not to involve their attorney. You may want, however, to review the proposed contract or the settlement documents you will be asked to sign with an attorney, or you may have various questions about the closing process. Additionally, sellers are typically responsible for providing the deed for the closing, and we will be happy to do so for you. If you are extending “seller financing” to the buyer, you really need to discuss this with your own attorney, as there can be ramifications to this that the buyer’s attorney will likely discuss with you.
Q: I am selling and have been told I cannot get my check at the closing table. Is this right?
A: Yes. The Good Funds Settlement Act in North Carolina requires that the deed and other documents be recorded and all funds deposited in the attorney’s trust account before checks (including yours) can be disbursed. This is to protect against the attorney running into some change in the title between the initial title search and recording. Note that you should also not cancel your homeowners insurance on the property being sold until after you know the deed has been recorded.
Q: What if I have other questions?
A: We encourage other clients or potential clients to contact us with any questions they may have about the closing process or real estate law in general. You will find us accessible and friendly.