Title insurance offers you financial protection and legal representation against potential claims to the title of the property made by a third party. Even with a careful title examination conducted and reviewed by experts, there are hidden hazards that may arise after closing that could not have been detected or cured before closing. These hazards may involve funds due, undetected liens or mortgages, fraud, unknown heirs, mistakes in deeds or recording, or even challenges to actual ownership.
Even if a claim is not valid, there are legal costs in defending a claim, and the title insurance provides the litigation support that would otherwise be the financial burden of the owner or lender. The title insurance also guarantees marketable title, so that the owner can sell or refinance the property, even if an issue arises.
There are two types of title insurance. The first is Mortgage Title Insurance, which protects the lender’s investment in the property against title claims. If you are obtaining a mortgage loan to purchase your home, the lender will usually require you to purchase a Mortgage Title Insurance policy. This is typically handled by the lender’s closing attorney, and the premium charge is included in the “Title Services and Lender’s Title Insurance” portion of the Good Faith Estimate and Line 1101 of the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The Mortgage Title Insurance policy is a one-time purchase for each mortgage obtained, so a new policy will be required for any refinance loan or second mortgage, even with the same lender.
The other type of title insurance is Owner’s Title Insurance, which protects the property owners for as long as they own the property; the owners continue to be protected if they sell the property and convey it by Warranty Deed or Limited Warranty Deed to someone else.
It is important to understand that the Mortgage Title Insurance provides no protection for the owner, and a lender will not file a claim on behalf of the owner. Owner’s Title Insurance is also issued by the closing attorney, and the premium is based on the purchase price of the property. A simultaneous issue discount will apply when both the Mortgage policy and the Owner’s policy are issued at closing. There are also two types of Owner’s Title Insurance, basic and “enhanced”; the enhanced policy provides much more coverage to the owner, including many survey issues and increased coverage (125% – 150%) as the value of the property goes up. Click here for a comparison in chart form: Chicago Title’s Comparison of Basic and Enhanced Owner’s Title Policy analysis.
The Fryer Law Firm strongly recommends the purchase of Owner’s Title Insurance with enhanced coverage, which gives the purchasers the protection of a national underwriter. If the Owner’s coverage is declined, the attorney fees for the closing will be higher to cover the full cost of conducting the transaction.
The Fryer Law Firm is an issuing agent for three (3) major title companies:
A survey is a drawing prepared by a registered land surveyor based upon a physical inspection and measurement of property in conjunction with information contained in county land records. A survey precisely and accurately determines the size of the lot and any easements of record, encroachments, or dimension discrepancies affecting the property, and can also determine if the property is located within a flood zone. Surveys are required in most of the Metro-Atlanta counties before building improvements and additions such as decks or driveways, or planting or removing trees and landscaping along property lines.
A survey confirms for the buyer(s) that their visual assumptions about the property boundaries are correct by disclosing exactly what portion of the property is being purchased as well as any structures located on that property. Furthermore, a survey may alert the buyer(s) to legal description discrepancies, encroachment issues, or easement violations. Cases have occurred in which houses were built entirely or in part on the wrong property, resulting in the forced removal of the homes, in whole or in part. Even though “enhanced” title insurance may be available for owner-occupants of property to protect a purchaser from most catastrophic problems, conducting a survey in advance may help the purchaser avoid potential problems altogether.
A survey will not automatically be ordered for closing unless the purchaser’s lender requires it. However, upon the purchaser’s request, The Fryer Law Firm will order a survey as part of the closing process. If you would like to have a survey ordered, please contact us at least one week before your scheduled closing. The average cost of a survey is $400 – $500. Additionally, we can provide contact information for local surveyors who will work directly with consumers to complete surveys during the contract due diligence period and can review the survey upon request.
Survey Land Express, Inc.
Georgia Land Surveying Company
Josh Lewis, IV
155 Cliftwood Drive
Atlanta, GA 30328
(404) 255-4671 (Office)
All closing attorneys need “good funds” from the buyer, lender, and seller (if necessary), and this usually involves sending a wire transfer. Please contact Fryer Law Firm for our wiring instructions (bank name and address, bank routing number, account name, and account number) before the closing. Do not rely on wiring instructions sent by anyone other the Fryer Law Firm.
Amounts over $5,000 should be wired, and smaller amounts may be brought in a cashier’s check or even a personal check, depending on the amount and the circumstances. Please confirm with Fryer Law Firm what will be required for your particular closing and amount due. You should also confirm prior to closing that your wire has been received and posted to our escrow account.
Some banks offer ACH transfers that cost a little less ($8-$10), but this option is not acceptable for closing and will be rejected by the attorney’s escrow account, possibly delaying the closing for several days. ACH transfers do not meet the standard for a real estate closing, because they can be cancelled or rescinded.
Always be sure that you are sending bank wires and not ACH transfers. Sometimes the bank will not explain the difference or even clarify which type they are sending, unless you inquire and specify what you need.
It is the goal of every closing attorney and every lender to provide the Settlement Statement to all of the parties prior to closing.
All parties need to review the Settlement Statementwhen they receive it, and they should notify the closing attorney immediately with any corrections, especially the following:
- Corrections of names and addresses
- Sales Price
- Earnest Money
- Closing cost allowance
- Missing payoffs for mortgages or taxes
- Missing HOA info
- Home Warranty
- Repair expenses to a contractor
- Any other items that appear incorrect or incomplete.
One of the most important aspects of property ownership a consumer should become educated about is the property tax status of their real estate. Please refer to the links and resources page of this website to review the property tax information specific to your address. If you are in a city jurisdiction as well as a county, you will need to visit both sites for relevant information.
- Owner occupants. If you will reside in the property you will will want to file Homestead Exemption as soon as your deed is recorded and the tax assessor has the record of your ownership (approximately one month after closing).
- Investor owners. Be certain the correct mailing address is given our firm for the tax office to use for re-assessment notices and bills. Please note: The tax authorities will not automatically update their address information during the tax year, so you must be proactive in finding your tax information until the following calendar year update has occurred.
- Paying your own tax bill. If you do not have an escrow account with your lender to pay property taxes, you must be prepared to obtain the bill from the county/city website if the current tax bill(s) is not paid and settled at your closing.
Please feel free to discuss specific questions about your taxes with us at closing or feel free to call or email your closing attorney after closing for help understanding the process.
Beware of Cyber Fraud.
Fake e-mails attempting to get you to wire money to criminal computer hackers are increasingly common in real estate transactions. Under this scam, computer hackers fraudulently assume the online identity of the actual mortgage lender, closing attorney and/or real estate broker with whom you are working in the real estate transaction. Posing as a legitimate company, they then direct you to wire money to them. In many cases, the fake e-mail is sent from what appears to be the authentic web page of the legitimate company responsible for sending the wiring instructions.
You should use great caution in wiring funds based solely on wiring instructions sent to you by e-mail. Independently verifying the wiring instructions with someone from the company sending them is the best way to prevent fraud. In particular, you should treat as highly suspect any follow up e-mails you receive from a lender, closing attorney and/or real estate agent directing you to wire funds to a revised account number. Never verify wiring instructions by calling a telephone number provided along with a second set of wiring instructions since you may end up receiving a fake verification from the computer hackers trying to steal your money. Independently look up the telephone number of the company who is supposed to be sending you the wiring instructions to make sure you have the right one.
LINKS & RESOURCES
Cherokee County Tax Assessor
Cherokee County Tax Commissioner
Cobb County Clerk of Superior Court
Cobb County Tax Assessor
Cobb County Tax Commissioner
Dekalb County Online Judicial System
Dekalb County Probate Court
Dekalb County Tax Assessor
Dekalb County Tax Commissioner
Fulton County Tax Assessor
Fulton County Tax Commissioner
Hall County Tax Commissioner
Hall County Tax Assessor
Gwinnett County Tax Assessor
Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner