The Days of Closing Using Zoom Are Over

During the state of emergency under pandemic precautions, we could notarize and witness someone signing documents over video.  The signor would still have to send the original documents back for us to sign as the witness and notary, though.  This worked well.  

For the past 2 years, there was proposed legislation to allow for Remote Online Notaries, or RON.  The statute was tabled in 2021 and voted down in 2022. 

Real estate attorneys are perceived as being against RON, but that’s not completely true.  Real estate attorneys want to make sure there is accountability in signing documents and handling a closing.  

At Origin Title, every closing document is signed and notarized properly, and there is an attorney present at the closing. Homeowners, loan officers, and real estate agents who close with us will always be able to find us.    

John C. Bennett is a real estate closing attorney and owner of Origin Title and Escrow, Inc.. Since 2003, Origin Title has handled real estate transactions – purchases, refinances, reverse mortgages – quickly and professionally. There will be no surprises, nothing misunderstood. Title searches are thorough and well-reasoned, to avoid unpleasant surprises later down the road. Calculate your closing costs in Georgia or Florida using our calculator or contact Origin Title using this form.

Attorney States vs. Title Company States

Real estate closings differ from state to state. In “Attorney States”, a licensed attorney must be present at and have control over the closing. This includes reviewing the title search, preparing affidavits, receiving and disbursing all money. Several east coast states are attorney states:  Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Some states, such as Florida, are “Title Company States” that do not require an attorney to close loans or purchases as long as the closing includes title insurance.  This rule is unique because title companies can only prepare closing documents when insuring titles.  So, in this case, even in Florida, a Florida attorney would be needed if there is an all cash purchase with no title insurance.  

Origin Title & Escrow can close loans and purchases for Florida properties as long as title insurance is involved. An “attorney state” requires an attorney licensed in that state to perform closings.  John C. Bennet is a licensed attorney in Georgia and a licensed title insurance agent in Florida.  Origin Title can perform closings in both Georgia and in Florida.  

Closing Terminology

When someone calls to start an escrow, we know where they’re calling from…California.  

Each state has different terminology when it comes to closings.  In California, an escrow is opened where the title company holds all the documents and money until the disbursement date.  The parties may sign the documents days before the funds are actually sent out.  While the escrow process in California is different, it is not unusual for each state to have it’s own customs and processes for a closing.   Some states are ‘dry’, where everything is signed one day and funded on another day.  Some states are ‘wet’ where the signing and funding occur on the same day.   

Buyers from California are surprised that they must have their money wired into an escrow account on or before the closing date because, in Georgia, funds are dispersed the day of closing.   

Choose a closing attorney who understands the legal requirements to close a real estate purchase and who can explain it to the other parties involved in the transaction. 

Virtual Meetings

Who likes going to office meetings?  Frequent meeting attendees hope there’s a spread of food and drinks; if there’s not, then they’d prefer the conversation be conducted via email.

Real estate brokerages are shifting to virtual office spaces where there are no in-person meetings to attend.  Some brokerages even have avatars for their agents to meet with clients or attend meetings. 

Agents with virtual offices need a closing attorney with their own conference room to complete their closings and that’s where Origin Title & Escrow comes in. And yes, we will have a basket of candy on the conference table. 

Preventing Title Issues on Closing Day

Some surprises are good. When it comes to closing on a home, a surprise is rarely a good thing. 

Many closing attorneys use big title companies for their title searches and these companies can take about three weeks to receive title results.  When sellers learn about a title issue the day before closing, it’s because the closing attorney received the title search results at the last minute.  

You can avoid closing problems and delays by bringing on Origin Title & Escrow as the closing attorney. We use two companies that we’ve worked with for over 18 years. We typically get title searches back within a week, so that gives an extra two weeks to clear up any old title issues and get the home CLOSED!

Making a Closing a Pleasant Experience

Spring is right around the corner, which means it is home buying time! New real estate agents come into the market frequently with dreams of working just a few hours a week while earning $100K a year.  We all know that’s unrealistic.  It takes years to build up a client base, and clients only come back when they had a great experience the first time around.  

Delayed closings and extended wait times can really change how a client feels about their experience. Origin Title & Escrow doesn’t waste people’s time because we don’t overbook closings.  Our attorneys have the title information on hand at closing and can easily answer any questions that should arise.  

Buyers always remember the day they got the keys to their new home, ensure it’s a pleasant experience by using Origin Title & Escrow.  

Importance of a Buyer’s Closing Attorney

Buying a home is, perhaps, the largest and most significant investment of your life. It also involves a unique set of property laws that can raise unexpected issues at closing. That’s why a buyer usually selects the attorney to handle the transaction.  

We have a client who is an investor that fixes up and sells old homes. He didn’t quite trust the seller’s closing attorney, so he brought Origin Title on to review the title.  As it turned out, the seller only got a deed from one heir while there were two more individuals with an interest in the property.  Even with title insurance, cleaning up the title would take valuable time and lower the value of the investment.  It’s not always about title insurance, but about seeing the potential problems before buying a property. 

A buyer’s attorney serves to make sure the buyer’s interests are protected. The buyer normally choses the closing attorney, especially in a cash-purchase where the closing attorney represents the buyer.  It is important for cash-purchasers and investors to have an attorney look at title and closing documents on their behalf before closing, even when the seller insists on using their closing attorney.  Origin Title and Escrow can help avoid drawn-out and expensive title issues for their clients. 

A Quick and Stress-free Closing

Some attorneys start doing real estate closings because it looks easy and can be profitable. At a closing, the attorney simply explains documents for the buyer and seller to sign, and often, it looks like they are just pointing to a signature line.  But what if there is a title issue? The ‘point and sign’ attorney may not be much help.  

Origin Title and Escrow reviews the title and takes steps to fix about one-third of all files closed.  The fixes can be something as simple as creating a joint tenancy when the owners were not sure how they owned the property.  Or it can be a mess like when a Condominium Association has been dissolved and no one is paying dues because there is no entity to collect.  Origin Title and Escrow takes the time to research the issue and come up with a resolution. In the case above, we would send an estoppel letter to the condominium association’s last address listed with the Secretary of State to estop the condo association (if it’s ever re-formed) from trying to collect past dues on the unit.  They have five days to respond or lose their lien rights.  

Advise your real estate agent to use Origin Title as their closing attorney so everyone involved can get to the closing table quickly and without stress. 

Legal Property Descriptions

If you saw that a property is being purchased in the “21st District, 2nd Section of Cherokee county, starting at an apple tree, thence to a pine tree to line of Eli Wilbur, thence back to the road, up to a hickory tree, thence west 50 yards, thence south 80 yards, thence to E.G. Casey land, being 21 acres more or less” — would you have any idea which property was being referred to?  This is from a real deed from 1945!

Legal descriptions like these were written assuming everyone already knew what was being sold.  This clearly doesn’t hold up 70 years later, though. 

Additionally, street addresses are not sufficient to describe real estate. Several years ago, many addresses changed due to requirements from the new 911 system.  Addresses are not permanent, and that is why it’s not sufficient to simply list an address on a deed.  

This also rings true for tax parcel numbers.  Years ago, DeKalb County had letters in their parcel numbers for properties that were in DeKalb County, but in the city of Atlanta.  DeKalb County has since changed this to make the numbers uniform throughout the county.  

Realtors benefit from working with closing attorneys who both understand the implications of an insufficient legal description and know how to recognize and correct them.

Have Refi? Will Travel.

Everyone has heard of the real estate transaction that blows up at the closing table. The reasons vary widely, but in our office about 95% of all purchase transactions close.  With purchases, both the buyer and the seller are typically very motivated to see the sale through, so problems that arise are taken care of, so the deal can go through.

Refinances don’t have that high a close rate – in our office refinances close about 90% of the time. This might be surprising, since a refinance only happens when the homeowner initiates it, but little problems that arise on the way to closing can derail a refinance. The homeowner may decide keeping the current loan is less trouble than dealing with the requirements for the refinance.

A refinance is much easier for the homeowner if the closing attorney will go to them for closing. Origin Title is happy to travel to homeowners in Metro Atlanta. Homeowners who are thinking of refinancing should seek out a closing attorney who will come to them.