Arges Law Firm, P.C. © All Rights Reserved.
3200 Croasdaile Drive, Suite 706, Durham, NC 27705 PH: 1-919-384-8000 FAX: 1-919-384-8001
When you buy a home, the real estate closing attorney represents the mutual interest of you and your lender. Your attorney makes sure that you know what you are buying and that there are no unpleasant last minute surprises that might block you from realizing your dream.
The closing attorney does not represent the seller although for convenience we are allowed to prepare the seller's deed and so forth. We're there to explain everything to the home buyer, but we do not represent the buyer in negotiating the terms of the loan with the lender--that would be a conflict of interest.
When you come to the closing, much of the most important work has already been done, including the title examination. You need to know what you are buying. Does the seller own the property free and clear, or is there a lien or mortgage that has to be paid off? You want to be sure that everything is taken care of. Sometimes a seller has paid for a car by taking out an equity loan on the home. What people are not realizing is that those loans are now tied to the property -- there is a mortgage on the property. They' ll say, "That's a car loan, " and I'll say, "No, that's a mortgage on your house and it has to be satisfied before you refinance or sell the home." There may be IRS tax liens [A lien is an official claim against property for payment of a debt or an amount owed for services rendered. A mortgage on property is a type of lien.] or a sewer easement [An easement is the right to use the real property belonging to someone else for a specific purpose. The easement is itself a real property interest, but legal title to the underlying land is retained by the original owner for all other purposes.] or power line easement that the buyer should know about -- and it is my job to discover such issues.
Even "old pros" in the real estate business can come to grief if the title examination is neglected. I got a call from someone very familiar with real estate and property laws who made a big mistake on a foreclosure sale in a nearby county: she said, "Jim, I think I made a big mistake-- could you go and do a title examination?" It turns out that what she had bid on was a second mortgage, so she had agreed to pay $15,000 for the right to assume a first mortgage of $100,000. Luckily, we were able to work with the foreclosing trustee. I not only got her out of the transaction, but the trustee actually refunded her deposit-- but you can't count on such generosity and goodwill!
As a closing attorney, I work with realtors to collect all the invoices, to identify everything that needs to be paid at closing--making sure, for example, that the taxes are taken care of. I work with the home buyer's mortgage company to prepare the settlement statement and loan documents for execution. I inform the home buyer what amount and form of payment is needed at the closing. The closing usually takes around an hour with an attorney checking all the documents. This is your chance to be sure that you understand everything, so don't leave the attorney's office without getting ALL of your questions answered!