Buying or selling a home will probably be the largest and most significant transaction you will make in your life. Real estate transactions are unique and raise special issues of practice and issues not present in other types of transactions. A real estate lawyer is trained to deal with these issues. Only an experienced professional, who is closely familiar with the documents and process, can catch the potential problems or mistakes that may arise in a transaction. A real estate attorney will likely save you future time and expense by foreseeing issues and catching errors on the road to closing.

Technically, unless you hire an attorney to represent you at closing, no one else exclusively represents your interests. Although your realtor is there to represent you, he or she is not authorized to give legal advice. Even the most experienced, professional realtors will be limited in the advice they can give you when the transaction hits road blocks, difficulties and unforeseen circumstances. Your loan officer or mortgage broker has the same limitations. They cannot give legal advice.

It is also important to understand that other attorneys present at the closing – for example, the lender’s or other party’s attorney – do not represent you. These people may be able to answer some of your questions, but are required to act in their client’s best interests, not yours.

What will an attorney do for me?

Contract Review and Deadlines

An attorney who practices in residential real estate will review your purchase contract before you sign it. This is particularly recommended for first-time homebuyers. Excitement and anxiety tend to take over when you buy your first house, which makes it easy to miss critical terms.

Your attorney will work with the mortgage loan officer, the other party’s attorney and agents to make sure that dates are set for: home inspection, mortgage commitment, other contingencies and closing. This is critical because there are certain requirements and limitations on the timelines for these events. Missing any of them could add extra fees or prevent you from backing out of a deal even if you find something catastrophically wrong with the property.

Document Review

The attorney will inspect important documents for common mistakes such as typos and misspelled names, including:

  • Deed, Legal Description & Other Closing Documents
  • Mortgage Loan Documents
  • Survey
  • Title Search
  • Title Insurance Policy
  • Tax and Lien Search

Resolving Disputes and Unexpected Problems

There is an abundance of scenarios that your attorney can walk you through. Sometimes legal issues arise that your real estate agent can’t answer or is not permitted to answer. You will need your attorney to negotiate, advocate and resolve in your best interests.

What if the inspection comes back with serious red flags? What if the property is damaged by water leaks or other harm between the inspection and the final walk through? What is the seller files bankruptcy while under contract? What if the property has a judgment or lien that no one was aware of? Whose responsibility is it to close expired or open permits? What if there are homeowner’s association violations or past due maintenance? What if the association has just voted on a special assessment? What is the seller’s spouse has recently died resulting in probate issues?

Once you begin to go through the process, and understand the steps and procedures, you will be glad that you have a seasoned pair of eyes advocating for your best interests and bringing your transaction to close.

Would you ever think you could lose your home because another person legally has a right to it? That thought might never cross your mind, but perhaps it should.

There are many problems that could affect your title, including tax liens, forged signatures in the chain of title, recording errors, title search errors and claims by missing heirs and/or ex-spouse.

Our office has seen Pandora’s box of title defects over the years. Title defects are most commonly resolved prior to closing. However, some defects are not apparent or do not yet appear in public records – – making it difficult or impossible for the defect to be recognized and addressed prior to closing. Even when all protocol and best practices are utilized, there may still be a lurking title defect.

Title insurance, in my view, is imperative to protecting your most valuable material asset. In a nutshell, title insurance protects your home from future loss if a covered claim against your property is made.

There are two types of title insurance:

An owner’s policy protects you and provides assurance that your title insurance company will stand behind you if a covered title problem arises after you buy a home. This means that, if a title defect arises, you can make a claim for coverage. If covered, your title insurance company may defend you in any foreclosure lawsuits, resolve liens and take other measures to protect your property. Measures like these can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket if you do not have a title insurance policy.

A loan policy protects the lender for the amount of the loan. If you only have a loan policy, you are not protected if a problem materializes with title. A common misconception is that the home is protected if you have a lender’s policy. However, a lender’s policy does not protect the homeowners from any loses. The lender’s policy will focus on making the lender whole, not the homeowner.

The bottom line is that your home is your most valuable material asset. Title insurance is about protection, protecting your home, your family and yourself. It is a about preventing a mishap or lessening the severity of its impact.

Unlike most insurance policies, title insurance is a one time only fee. As owner’s policy will protect you as long a you and your heirs have an interest in the property. Your home is yours. Title insurance helps keep it that way.

Adapted from Old Republic Title, “What a Buyer Should Know About Title Insurance”

#1 – Who are my Team Players?

Real Estate Agent – Your real estate agent does not only help you buy and sell properties. Your agent will work with the other parties to help your transaction seamlessly close.

Lender – If you are obtaining a loan as part of your purchase, your loan officer or mortgage broker will help you meet your lender’s requirements so that the transaction funds on time.

Closing Agent – The closing agent facilitates the closing process so that the moving parts of your transaction come together at the closing table.

#2 – Do I really need to respond to requests from my team ASAP?

Your Team Players will be requesting information and documents from you beginning on the day you contract to buy or sell a property. It is practically impossible to close on time if you don’t respond quickly to requests. Take the time to provide docs and info ASAP!

If you are obtaining a loan, it is more important than ever that you communicate with your real estate agent. lender and closing agent. The TRID laws require mortgage disclosure at least three days prior to closing. You will not be able to close on the scheduled date unless you review and approve the closing disclosure in a timely manner.

#3 – What is TRID?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) created the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) Rule to improve mortgage disclosure forms to make it easier for consumers to understand the terms of their loans and closing costs. TRID has strict disclosure requirements that must be met to close in a timely manner.

#4 – How do I know my personal information will be protected?

As an additional security measure to protect your non-public personal information, you will receive secured emails from us. We will likely be asking for your social security number and banking information. We have a secure system for your protection.
Please follow the instructions for retrieving that information. You will be required to create an account. Make sure that you return any information through the secured email system.

#5 – How can I be protected from wire fraud?

If you are wiring us funds, we will provide you our wiring instructions. Contact our office VERBALLY to confirm wiring instructions BEFORE initiating all wires! If you receive any written or verbal communication advising that our wiring instructions have changed, contact our office immediately! We rarely change our wiring instructions.
If you are receiving funds from us, we will request your banking information securely. You will not be able to adjust your banking information without a two-step authentication initiated by us.

#6 – Why does the Closing Statement say that Owner’s Title Insurance is optional?

The new TRID laws require that the owner’s policy is disclosed as optional. If you are obtaining a loan, an owner’s policy is not optional and is required by your lender to close.

If you are purchasing in cash, technically, the owner’s policy is optional. However, we are not able to close a transaction without issuing an owner’s policy. This may jeopardize our malpractice insurance as well as require our office to guarantee and cover any title defects discovered after closing. We adhere to Best Practices for our industry to ensure you closing is smooth and successful. Issuing title insurance is part of our process and will ensure security for years to come.

#7 – Do I need a survey?

If you are obtaining a loan, a survey will be required by your lender. The cost is typically $350 – $425. We work with preferred vendors that we will recommend to you.

If you are purchasing in cash, you are not required to have a survey. However, any survey related matters arising after closing will not be covered by your title insurance policy. A typical example is the discovery, after closing, that your fence is on your neighbor’s property, resulting in the necessity to relocate your fence. Your title insurance policy will not cover survey related matters without a survey completed by the time of closing.

#8 – What is the difference between the ALTA statement and Closing Disclosure?

If you are obtaining a loan for your closing, you will sign both an ALTA statement and Closing Disclosure (CD) at closing. The ALTA is prepared by your closing agent. The CD is prepared by your lender in coordination with your closing agent. Although the CD and ALTA are different in form, the bottom line is the same.

#9 – Will buyer, seller and both realtors be present at closing?

Our office typically meets with buyer and seller separately. This gives us the opportunity to review documents and answer questions without distraction and while honoring the confidentially of the parties. We typically meet with sellers a few days before closing and hold all documents in escrow until the transaction has funded. We typically meet with buyers on the closing date. We have found this is the smoothest way to close.

#10 – What if I am not in town for my closing?

If you are a seller, you do not have to be present for closing. Your closing documents can be electronically delivered to you for execution prior to closing. We will provide full instructions to you. You will need access to a notary and two witnesses. If you are buyer closing with cash, you do not have to be present for closing.

If you won’t be in town for closing, you will need to arrange for your realtor or other trusted person to attend the walk through for you as well as plan for the exchange of keys. We will assist you with this process.

There are numerous ways to save on title insurance expenses.

  • If you are a seller purchasing title insurance on behalf of the buyer, you may be you may be entitled to rate discounts on the policy.
  • If you are purchasing title insurance and your sale price is over $500,000, ask us about closing cost credits and/or discounts we can offer you.
  • If you are a return customer, we would be happy to offer you discounted services and/or credits.
  • If you are an investor, please ask us about discounts and credits we offer to our regular customers.

Over the last decade, we have solved most every kind of title defect and brought the transaction to close. Some of the most common title defects and common solutions are listed below. It is important to remember that the title insurance policy can protect the homeowner and the buyer from most title defects. If you have a question about your current title insurance policy or how your policy can protect you post-closing, please feel free to reach out to us.

  • What if it turns out there is a lis pendens on the property? It is possible that the property owner fell behind on their mortgage payments and has decided to sell the property. Whether the foreclosure litigation has not been filed yet or the litigation has been pending for months, a smooth closing is possible. It is the job of the real estate attorney to be sure that the foreclosure litigation has been dismissed and the lis pendens is released once closing takes place and the loan is paid off.
  • What happens if there are judgments attached to the property? It is possible that the property owner had a monetary judgement entered against him/her that attached to the property. All judgments must be resolved by the time of closing. Sometimes this means that the seller will have to pay in full or settle the money judgment prior to closing. In other cases, if the property is homestead, a satisfaction of the judgment may not be required. It is the job of the real estate attorney to look for the smoothest viable option to bring the parties to closing.
  • What if the condo or homeowner’s association has placed lien on the property? It is possible that the association has placed a lien on the property for one reason or another. In this case, the real estate attorney will need to work with the association to bring the property into compliance – – whether that means resolving past due maintenance dues or assisting with bringing the property into compliance with association by-laws.

Law Offices of Sasha Katz has been an authorized agent of Old Republic National Title Insurance Company since 2008. Our office is regularly monitored via “red flag” management reports, on-site and desktop audits, “checks” and other factors. We are proud to meet and exceed these requirements over the years.

Prior to being approved as an Old Republic Title agent, each applicant goes through an in-depth application process. Key steps in the application process include:

  • validation of licenses and insurance coverage
  • review of settlement account procedures and practices
  • validation of settlement accounts
  • background checks that include a review of credit history

In addition, Sasha Katz, Esq. has been a Florida Bar member since 2001. As a Bar member, she is required to adhere to Rules of Professional Conduct as issued by the Florida Supreme Court. Professional responsibility includes a commitment to trust account standards, fluid client communication and service to the community. She is also required to meet ongoing Continuing Education milestones.

The bottom line is that professionalism, ethics and operating with Best Practices in place has led our office to create a positive, trustworthy client environment.