The first time through the process of purchasing a home can be overwhelming, and many new buyers wonder if they need to hire a real estate attorney to assist with the transaction. Because Georgia is considered a lawyer settlement state, an attorney will, in fact, be present at settlement. However, the closing attorney will not be working explicitly for the buyers. This lawyer will technically be representing the mortgage lender while facilitating the entire settlement process.
Responsibility of the closing attorney
According to the Georgia Supreme Court, the closing of a real estate transaction constitutes the practice of law. Therefore, it must be conducted by a real estate attorney. This attorney must be in control of the settlement from beginning to end and may not delegate these responsibilities to others. The attorney facilitating your settlement will ensure all documents are prepared correctly, all monies are disbursed appropriately and all valid signatures have been obtained. The closing attorney also ensures that the transfer of the deed from one party to another occurs according to law.
How a separate real estate attorney can help buyers
According to the State Bar of Georgia, real estate attorneys can help homebuyers complete the agreement of sale by ensuring the proposed contract contains necessary contingencies. Examples of contingencies buyers might request are the requirement to sell their own home before purchasing the new one or making the contract dependent on positive survey or inspection results.
Buyers may also wish to engage their own real estate attorney to assist them before or during settlement. First time homebuyers may ask an attorney to glance over the numerous documents related to settlement, such as the loan document (also known as the Promissory Note), the Truth in Lending Disclosures, the HUD settlement statement and other required disclosures.
Deed issues may also be handled by real estate attorneys. In Georgia, deeds can be drawn up with rights of survivorship, which means that if one person dies, his share goes to the other owner. However, the default option in Georgia is what’s known as “tenants in common.” This means that if one of multiple owners die, his share is passed to his estate.
If buyers believe the settlement may be contentious due to issues such as unpaid fees or unrepaired items that were previously agreed to be corrected by the seller, a real estate attorney may assist in resolution.
What to do if legal issues arise
Even buyers who take the initiative to prequalify for a loan and complete their due diligence on the other home buying steps may run into issues. Although the vast majority of home purchases result in a positive outcome, legal issues sometimes arise. Home purchases result in a large amount of money changing hands, and if one party wishes to terminate the sale after signing a binding contract, attorneys must be involved. Real estate attorneys advise clients on the initiation of legal proceedings and facilitate an agreeable settlement for all parties involved.
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