The Closing Attorney's Role

EVERY SO OFTEN AT THE CLOSING TABLE, A BUYER WILL ASK ME WHAT MY ROLE IS IN THE CLOSING PROCESS. 

It’s a valid question since our very first face-to-face interaction may be at that table. Up until this point, we may have only been communicating through phone calls and emails. 

Assuming we are representing the buyers, and a lender is involved, here’s a brief overview of the process our office goes through during a real  estate closing:

Our process beings when we receive a fully executed contract. Our title search paralegals check the information on the property, the buyer, and the seller to see if any liens affect the property. They look for deeds of trust, judgments, past due taxes and information to make sure the sellers are the owners of the property – otherwise, anything that might affect the buyer’s ownership of the property or an issue that clouds the title.

Once the search is complete, all title work is reviewed by one of our firm’s attorneys to see what, if anything, needs to be reported to the parties. 

Next, an opinion of title is submitted to a title insurance company. This opinion will disclose, among other things, who owns the property, whether the taxes have been paid, and whether there are any liens or judgments against the property. The opinion will also address whether there is access to the property, public or private, as well as easements or restrictive covenants.

Once a preliminary title opinion has been submitted to the title company, the title company will issue a binder. A copy of this binder is submitted to the lender for review so any questions or concerns can be addressed prior to closing. If the lender doesn’t have any concerns, then the loan will continue to be processed and made ready to close. Upon receipt of the loan package and the necessary seller documents, we are ready to go to settlement.

After the settlement, we send the signed loan documents to the lender, record the deed and deed of trust with the Register of Deeds office, then disburse the proceeds, paying off liens on the property, recording cost, lender fees, and often repairs and commissions to agents. 

After the proper documents have been recorded to convey title as the parties intended, we issue a final title opinion and title insurance premium to the title company addressing the requirements they may have included in the title binder. The title company issues the final title policy and sends it to the buyer and to the lender. At this point, we are ready to retire the file so you can move into your new home.

In North Carolina, providing an opinion of title is considered the practice of law, therefore, only a North Carolina licensed attorney can do this. We are searching for any potential legal issues that might affect the buyer’s ownership of the property: a defective deed with an erroneous legal description or a defective notary acknowledgment in the chain of ownership. If a defect or “cloud on title” is identified, we determine if there is a simple solution to resolve the issue or if a more complex resolution is needed to “clear title”.

Published by Christopher T. Salyer on March 6, 2017