The Real Estate Process, Home Buying and Selling Tips

Lake Norman Real Estate: What Does the Closing Attorney Do?

Scales of Law, Closing Attorneys in Lake Norman

When my husband and I bought our Lake Norman home in 2005 we knew nothing about the closing process in North Carolina let alone what the attorney’s role was in the process.

Yesterday I received an email from someone moving here who had read this blog but couldn’t find anything specifically explaining the role of the closing attorney. She too is moving here from CA where we used escrow and title companies for closings so I can understand her confusion.

Here is an outline of the most common closing practices and the role of our closing attorneys here in Lake Norman and throughout North Carolina:

Once the buyer and seller have finalized the Offer to Purchase and Contract, the buyer’s agent, on behalf of the buyer(s),contacts a real estate attorney to schedule and handle the closing. The closing attorney is hired and paid for by the buyer however they do assist in the closing paperwork for the seller as well. “The most common practice is for the closing attorney to represent the purchaser and lender while performing limited functions for the seller (such as the preparation of the deed).”

The Closing Attorney in North Carolina real estate sales acts much as an escrow company does in other states:

  • They receive a copy of the sales contract soon after the day of acceptance usually from the buyer’s real estate agent
  • They do the title search and arrange for title insurance for both the buyer and the buyer’s lender
  • They work with the lender to get the loan documents in time for the closing
  • They will process the Property Insurance Policy, the Wood Destroying Insect Inspection Report and the Property Survey if required
  • They get the information from the seller about the payoff of their loans, their deed and proof of repairs
  • They prepare the new Grant Deed
  • They will notify the buyers the day or so before closing as to the exact amount of money they need to bring to the closing. This now must be wired funds to the attorney
  • They preside over a meeting on the day of closing attended by the buyers, the sellers and their real estate agents.
  • They process the closing documents and file all with the county
  • They handle the disbursement of funds

On the actual day of the closing agreed upon in the sales contract, the buyers, sellers, and their real estate agents meet with the closing attorney at an appointed time together to sign all of the necessary documents:

  • First, the attorney will explain the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Settlement Statement which is a statement of the actual settlement costs. All parties, including the real estate agents, go through the HUD Settlement Statement line by line to make sure all of the costs/credits are correct and paid by the appropriate party. It is not uncommon for mistakes to be found. The attorney merely has a corrected Settlement Statement printed for all parties to sign during this meeting.
  • Once the HUD Settlement Statement is approved, all parties sign multiple copies so that everyone has original signatures on their own copy to take with them.
  • At this point usually the sellers are excused
  • The attorney then goes through and explains all of the loan documents to the buyers and has them sign all including the Grant Deed
  • As soon as possible, preferably the same day as the closing meeting, the attorney will “update” their earlier title search, record the deed and the deed of trust and disburse funds as indicated in the closing statement

Attorney’s fees vary but to give you an example, at my last closing of a $410,000 home the costs related directly to the attorney were:

Buyer:

  • Title Search: $100
  • Attorney’s Fees $425
  • Title Insurance: $519
  • Recording of Deed: $112
  • Misc Fees: $130 (couriers, wiring fees)

Seller:

  • Document Preparation Fee: $175
  • Release Fee: $60
  • Courier Fee: $50

“In 2003, the North Carolina State Bar ruled in an ethics opinion that attorneys do not have to be physically present at closing meetings in residential real estate closings. A non-lawyer assistant who is under the direct supervision of an active member of the North Carolina Bar may attend the closing without the attorney being present.”

If you have any further questions regarding attorney closings don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment!

RELATED ARTICLES

Relocating to Lake Norman: What you should consider before buying real estate Part 1

Relocating to Lake Norman: What you should know before buying real estate Part 2

What you need to know about buying real estate in North Carolina

Lake Norman Relocation Resources

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