Purchaser Information – be prepared and your closing will go more smoothly.
- Scheduling the closing: please coordinate with your real estate agent, lender and the other parties to set a closing date, time and location with The Fryer Law Firm.
- Bring to closing: your photo ID (driver’s license and/or passport) confirmation of your wire transfer, your personal checkbook for last minute cost changes, and any documents requested, such as original powers of attorney or credit card statements.
- Funds for Closing: funds must be wired to The Fryer Law Firm (See Section 2 below).
- Reviewing your Closing Disclosure/Settlement Statement: please review the names and amounts prior to closing and immediately notify The Fryer Law Firm of any needed corrections for errors in the following:
- Names and addresses for all parties
- Sales price and earnest money paid ( who is holding)
- Loan amount and terms
- Closing cost credit from the seller
- Missing payoffs, taxes or Homeowner’s Association dues
- Home warranties
- Repair expenses or payments to third party vendors
- Late amendments to the contract changing the terms, especially the sales price or closing cost credit
- How to hold title: If you are buying with another person you need to decide whether you want to hold title as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship or as Tenants in Common.
- After closing:
- Purchasers need to promptly establish water service and other utilities in their names.
- Borrowers should confirm their payment due dates and methods for payment to their lender and to their association, if applicable.
- Purchasers will receive their original, recorded deed from The Fryer Law Firm within three to four weeks after closing along with a reminder to file for any Homestead Exemptions for which they are eligible the following year. The deadline for most taxing authorities is April 1st.
Funds for closing: How do we handle your money?
The Fryer Law Firm has an escrow account with Ameris Bank which the law requires to be balanced, insured, and audited on a regular basis by title companies and independent accountants. Closing attorneys are also subject to audit by the State Bar of Georgia; any interest earned on funds in the account is paid to the State Bar.
- Buyers: you will need to send your funds due for closing by wire transfer to The Fryer Law Firm, preferable two to three days prior to closing
- You must sent a “Federal Funds Wire” and not an ACH, Paypal, Venmo, Credit Card, Debit card, Zelle or any alternative forms of payment, which will be rejected by our bank and could delay the closing for several days. These transfers do not qualify as “Good Funds” for real estate closings under Georgia Law because they can be canceled or rescinded.
- Caution: Do not wire any funds until you have confirmed the wiring instructions with our firm. Do not rely on wiring instructions provided by any realtor, lender or anyone else other than an employee of The Fryer Law Firm. You may also call us to confirm the instructions. Cyber Fraud is a growing problem with cyber-criminals trying to divert your funds to their accounts, so please verify, confirm, and call The Fryer Law Firm to insure your funds are properly received and applied.
- If you are financing your purchase, your lender will send you the Closing Disclosure that shows the amount due (or a close estimate).
- If you are paying cash, The Fryer Law Firm will send you the Settlement Statement showing the amount due. We recommend you bring a personal check in case your amount due increases by $5,000 or less. Any amount over $5,000 must be wired. If you have sent excess funds, you will receive a refund check at closing.
- All purchase lenders will wire loan funds needed for closing to our escrow account.
- Many payoff lenders now require that we wire their funds. Otherwise, we send all payoffs by Federal Express for next day delivery.
- Other disbursements at closing:
- The Fryer Law Firm will also send all payments for hazard insurance premiums and homeowner’s associations fees by Federal Express to confirm delivery
- We can also wire commissions to real estate brokerages.
- Always required for buyers financing their purchase – always recommended for cash buyers. Even condos require an insurance policy for the contents and interior.
- The policy must be in effect on or before the closing date.
- The insured parties are all of the buyers taking title to the property.
- Your lender can assist you with the necessary coverage amount and lender information to appear on the policy.
- Please have your insurance agent email the declarations page and invoice to The Fryer Law Firm, once the lender has approved the coverage.
- The premium will be collected at the closing and Fryer Law Firm will forward the first year’s premium to the insurance agent. If you are escrowing insurance in your monthly payment, your lender will pay the annual renewals.
If you are not escrowing insurance, you will be responsible for timely payments to keep the policy in effect. Your lender will be notified if you are delinquent on those payments.
- If you are paying cash, you will be responsible for all insurance payments and renewals.
- Hazard Insurance does not include Flood Insurance Coverage. If your property requires flood insurance (as determined by your lender and the FEMA flood plain maps), you will need to obtain a separate flood insurance policy.
Title Insurance: Don’t go home without it!
There are two kinds of title insurance: lender’s and owner’s: You need both.
- Lender’s title insurance is almost always required by your lender, if you are financing your purchase, because it protects the lender’s investment in the property.
- Owner’s title insurance is optional but strongly recommended to protect the buyer. This coverage protects the owners while they own the property and even after they warrant the title to a new buyer.
- Both policies are a one-time purchase at closing and there is a discount when buying them at the same time. If you refinance, you will be required to insure the new lender with a new lender’s policy.
- What does title insurance protect and provide? Real claims happen every day in all price ranges and neighborhoods!
- Financial claims that affect the title to the property, including unrecorded or undetected liens or mortgages in the history of the title, unknown heirs, mistakes in deeds or recording, funds that are due to clear title, property tax payments, and even challenges to actual ownership.
- Legal representation against these claims with no deductibles, whether the claims are successful or unsuccessful. Even if a claim is not valid, there are legal costs to defend the claim, and the title company provides the expertise and litigation support that would otherwise be the financial and stressful burden of the owner or lender.
- Confidence that the insured owners will not have any delays or problems when selling or refinancing because of a title problem caused by a third party. The Georgia contract requires “insurable title”, which highlights the benefit of having the owner’s title insurance.
- How do I get this insurance?
- The Fryer Law Firm is an authorized agent for several leading title companies, and we partner with them to review, underwrite, and insure every title that we close, so that our buyers and lenders have the protection of large national companies for their properties.
The premiums are standard by state law and are based on the sales price and loan amount for each closing.
Property Taxes come with property ownership – know what to expect.
Every property has county taxes and may also have city taxes, if the property is in an incorporated city. Taxes are based on the county’s assessment of the value of the property, taking into account documented sales of the property and neighboring properties. Most counties and cities have websites containing homestead info, assessment info and billing info, including due dates.
- Every county in Georgia will send an annual assessment of your property, and you will have 45 days to appeal that value. The assessment will also show an estimate of the tax bill, which will be finalized and sent out later in the year.
- The assessment notices are mailed to the owner of record as of January 1st and not always to the new owner.
- The assessed value can be more or less than the most recent purchase price.
- Many owners are successful in filing appeals to lower their assessments and also to freeze the assessed value for a few years.
- Who pays the taxes?
- If the tax bill for the current year is available, the bill will be paid at closing, unless the seller has already paid it. Any unpaid tax bills for previous years will also be collected at closing from the seller.
- If the tax bill for the current year is not available, the closing attorney will prorate the seller’s share based on the best estimate available of the annual bill; this prorated share is credited to the buyer, who will be responsible for paying the full annual bill when it comes out. The prorated share is not paid to the county; the county will not accept any payment until the actual bill is issued.
- When the tax bill does come out, it may still show the name of the January 1st owner, but the new owner is responsible for paying the entire year’s bill
- Sellers who receive these bills should forward them to the purchasers because it benefits both parties to have the bills paid.
- If the bill is significantly different from the estimate and proration at closing, the buyer and seller may settle the adjustments after closing between themselves.
- If the new owner has a mortgage with taxes being escrowed, the lender will pay the entire tax bill before the due date.
- Purchasers who pay cash or do not escrow taxes should make sure that they are receiving all tax notifications, so that they can pay the bills on time. They can also access this information on their county tax website.
Non-owner occupants or investors should confirm that the closing attorney and the property tax departments have their correct mailing address, so that they will receive all notices and bills. They should also check the county tax website to stay current on all assessments and bills.
- How else can you lower your tax bills?
- If the owner lives in the property as a principal residence, the owner may be eligible for the homestead exemption, which is a discount on the tax bill.
- Additional exemptions are available in many counties and cities for elderly, disabled, and low income owners.
- The deadline for filing the county homestead exemption is April 1st, but other exemptions and some cities may have earlier deadlines.
Surveys: Do you need a land survey?
- Although surveys are not typically required by lenders, they are always recommended for properties other than condos. The typical cost begins at $500, depending on the lot dimensions and detail requested.
- A survey may alert a buyer to discrepancies between the actual size or shape of the lot and the descriptions on previous deeds, encroachments of walls, fences, driveways, and other structures, or easement violations.
- A survey is also recommended for any purchaser who plans to enlarge or add new structures on the property, including decks, parking pads, driveways, and even landscaping.
- It is the buyer’s responsibility to order a survey directly from the surveyor, but Fryer can provide some surveyor referrals and will also review the completed survey with you upon request.
- Enhanced owner’s title policies provide some survey coverage to the buyers, but there are some deductibles and policy limits.
Powers of Attorney and Remote/Zoom Closings when a party can not attend closing in person
- The Fryer Law Firm can prepare and provide a power of attorney (POA) to be executed by a party to the transaction that can not attend closing.
- If the party is a borrower on the mortgage, the lender must review and approve the use of a POA prior to closing.
- Once approved by the lender, the POA can be emailed to the signing party to print out, sign with a witness and notary, and return the original fully executed POA to our office prior to closing. The person needing a POA can also come to the Fryer office prior to closing and sign here with our witness/notary provided.
- If the buyer is paying cash (no mortgage), the buyer can sign all documents via email and scan back with no originals required.
- Current Georgia Law (2020-2021) allows remote notarizations via Zoom if the parties are signing in the State of Georgia. This law is in effect to provide social distancing due to COVID-19 restrictions and health considerations. Parties who attend closings in person may also request signing in their cars, outside on the Fryer front porch, or in separate sanitized offices in our building. All Fryer employees and parties in the building will wear masks and observe social distancing.
- Borrower document signatures via Zoom must also be approved by the lender.
- Original documents must be delivered to the signing parties by courier or Federal Express, and Fryer attorneys must witness all notarized documents via Zoom. The originals must then be returned to Fryer Law for original notary/witness signatures to be affixed before the closing can be finalized and disbursed.
- If the party is a borrower on the mortgage, the lender must review and approve the use of a POA prior to closing.
- See Contact Section for directions and phone numbers.
- You are welcome to contact your pre-closer and/or any Fryer attorney if you have questions about your closing.
- The Fryer Law Firm wants to make your purchase is a pleasant and stress-free experience. We handle thousands of closings every year, and we will always do our best to answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide explanations about the closing process.