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We have all heard the closing horror stories.  The closing that took eight hours.  Or even worse, the parties that waited eight hours only to be told to come back the following day or even week.  The closings that never happened.

If the agents, parties, lenders, and attorneys have done their jobs, there should be no such horror tales.  By the time closing approaches, all problems should be resolved.  While all parties could have a part in a closing nightmare, typically any delays or problems are associated with the buyer’s loan; the closing is when the lender funds the transaction.  Problems arise when the buyer has failed to supply all required documents, if the lender’s underwriting department isn’t on the ball, or if there are problems with title to the property.

Choosing the right lender is one element of this puzzle.  But the other important consideration is the CLOSING ATTORNEY.  A good closing attorney will work out any problems they can ahead of time, and let the parties know promptly if the lender is indicating that there are any problems with funding.  So how do we choose the closing attorney?

In Georgia, real estate purchase transactions must be conducted by a licensed attorney.  In some states, a title company can hold the closing without an attorney present, but here in Georgia you must use a licensed attorney, and that  attorney represents the buyer’s LENDER.  Therefore, typically the Buyer chooses the closing attorney, subject to approval by the Buyer’s lender.  However, a Seller, particularly one who is paying closing costs on behalf of the Buyer, can often negotiate to name the closing attorney.   Here’s what to look for if you are the Buyer or the Seller and need a closing attorney:

  • Choose an attorney who does closings often, regularly, and in the normal course of business.  I look for attorneys who have a full staff devoted only to closing real estate loans.  This doesn’t mean that the firm can’t or doesn’t also handle other legal work – just that they have a full and complete department specializing in real estate closings.  You don’t want the attorney’s office that only does closings once in a blue moon – closings are too specialized and too important to the parties.
  • I recommend that you also choose a closing attorney’s office that has been in business for a long time and which will BE In business for the foreseeable future.  You may not sell your home for seven years or longer.  What if at the time you go to sell the home you purchased you can’t find your title insurance policy or some other important document?  Or you need a legal affidavit relating to the closing?   If your closing attorney is around, they are invaluable in that instance.

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Realtor Panel convened by Morris Hardwick Schneider – our pre-meeting last week

Recently I was asked to serve on a panel of top producing agents.  The forum was a firm retreat for the largest real estate closing firm in the Southeast, Morris Hardwick Schneider.  I was honored to be asked and impressed that real estate closing attorneys cared enough to find out how they could be BETTER closing attorneys, from a Realtor’s point of view.  Look for a firm, similarly, who is focused on and cares about customer service.  It’ll pay off in piece of mind.  And will keep those horror stories at bay.

Mary Anne Walser is a licensed attorney and full time REALTOR, serving buyers and sellers in all areas of Metro Atlanta. Both her knowledge of residential real estate and her professional legal expertise offer great value to her clients. Mary Anne serves on the Committee that drafts and reviews the contracts utilized by all REALTORS in the State of Georgia. In addition, she is a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, the Georgia Association of Realtors, the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. Contact Mary Anne at 404-277-3527, or via email: maryannesellshomes@gmail.com.

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