Before deciding to offer closing and title agent services, our firm surveyed some local real estate agents and found that while they were getting closings done at the large title companies in the area, they were not totally satisfied with their service.
Since most of the real estate closings and refinancings are done without the aid of an attorney, they believed that it would be a better service for their clients if the closings were done through an attorney’s office. While the attorney would not be representing the buyer or the seller, the attorney’s office would be reviewing all of the documents and noting any exceptions for the real estate title insurance policy application. The rates on title insurance in the state of Florida are set by law and are the same for a title company or an attorney providing the title insurance.
The purpose of title insurance is to protect real estate purchasers, owners and lenders against a claim by someone asserting some right to the property that was not found on the title search of the county records. This claim can be from an heir of a previous owner who never signed away their interest in the property or it could be an easement (another’s right to cross or otherwise use someone else's land for a encumbrance on the property).
The title policy will exclude the known easements and claims, but anything that is not excluded will be covered as specified in the policy. This provides a purchaser, owner and lender comfort that they do have a property that is not subject to other claims or easements than are known.
Our lead closing agent is Jan Knapmeyer. Jan operated Freedom Title in Clearwater for ten years. She has overseen the closings for a wide variety of residential and commercial real estate refinances and sales.
Paula Hayes is a Florida CPA who will assist with the closings, but also will ensure that all of the financial aspects of the closing, loan payoffs, prorations of taxes and other fees, will be correctly calculated for the day of the closing.
Steve Hayes has represented clients who have purchased or sold commercial and residential real estate properties all over the world and is currently representing a client that is building an 80-unit condominium project in Clearwater.
Steve is a member of Florida Attorney’s Title Fund Services LLC and is a licensed title agent with one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious title insurance underwriters, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A REAL ESTATE CLOSING?
A real estate closing is a process where a seller of real estate transfers title to his real estate to a buyer in exchange for payment of the seller’s selling price. Because the buyer wants to be sure that the seller owns the property and the seller wants to know that he will be paid, normally this process is done through a title company or a closing attorney, like us.
Once the seller and buyer have agreed on a price and the conditions, the parties will engage our firm to help them complete the transaction. Here are the steps:
- The signed contract is delivered to us and we open a file.
- The real estate deposit from the buyer will be held in our trust account.
- To ensure that the seller owns the property, we will have a title search done.
- The title search will show all the parties who have recorded interests in the real estate.
- Often a survey is required and will be ordered to show the exact location of the property and if there are any unrecorded easements or instances like a fence not on the property line or other problem that could interfere with the buyer’s use of the property.
- Then we will prepare a title commitment which will set forth all of the liens and other title defects which will need to be cured prior to closing.
- We will also assist with the scheduling of home inspectors, appraisers, termite inspectors and other parties to help provide the information needed for the closing.
- If there is financing involved, we will coordinate with the lender to ensure that the lender’s requirements are met.
- When all the requirements are completed, the title is clear, the title policy is ready to be issued to the buyer and to the lender, and all of the lender requirements are met and the money has been wired to our trust account, or if there is no lender, the buyer has deposited funds in our trust account, we then transfer the title and the keys to the buyer and the net money to the seller after paying off any loans or other liens on the property.
- Then we file the new title with the country recorder and prepare a package with all of the documents and send them to the buyer and seller and the lender.
If the closing involves refinancing of the property it follows most of the same steps above.