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  • Writer's pictureHarrison Baron

Questions You Should Ask Your Lawyer Before Closing on a Home

When it comes to closing on a home, your emotions may range from nervous excitement to relief. You've taken each of the necessary steps to get to this point, and you want everything to go smoothly. One way to accomplish this is by knowing what to expect and what your role will be.

While you might depend on a real estate agent to help get you to this point, legal advice surrounding the closing is paramount for both buyers and sellers. While states may differ in how closings are handled, in New York, it is customary to hire your own legal counsel, so all your rights are protected in the transaction.

To help you prepare for the closing of your house, condo, or coop, here are the questions you should ask your lawyer before the closing.

Who handles the closing?

Different state laws and customs will dictate who handles real estate closings. In New York, the buyer and seller customarily hire their own attorneys in transactions involving real estate. Once a contract and any riders are agreed upon by both the buyer and seller and any necessary down payment is made, your attorney will begin preparing for the final closing and let you know what to do.

What steps are necessary before closing on real estate near me?

To determine what must be done prior to the closing, ask your attorney what steps have to be taken to prevent surprises. Most likely, with the contract signed and down payment made, the next step will be for your attorney to conduct a title review. For this, they will obtain a title report and look for any blemishes, such as liens on the property or any type of violation. If anything is found, time is spent relaying these to the seller and allowing for the resolution of each one. Your real estate lawyer will also consider any litigation concerns surrounding the property and advise accordingly.

What documents are necessary to provide prior to the closing?

Together with your attorney, you will compile necessary documentation to satisfy lender requests in regards to your mortgage application prior to the closing date. Your mortgage application will need to be finalized before attending the closing, so working closely with your legal team on this will be beneficial.

How much will I owe at the closing?

Your attorney will undertake to make the calculations of amounts you will need to pay at the closing. These payments will most likely be due to the seller, seller's lender, title company, and any others found to be owed at this time. Ask your attorney to provide a full listing and calculation for your own records.

In New York, you may be responsible for paying any or all of the following, depending on what is included in the contract and the type of home you are purchasing.

  • Attorney fees: These fees are for various services, including document preparation and legal advice at the time of closing.

  • Title insurance: This insurance is applicable to all homes except for co-ops.

  • NYC Mansion Tax: An additional transfer tax is imposed on those properties which sell for $1,000,000 or more.

  • Mortgage recording Tax: Tax is calculated based on the amount of the mortgage as it relates to real property, including houses and condos, but not co-ops.

  • Bank attorney fees: (If utilizing mortgage financing, the buyer customarily pays the bank attorney fees.

  • NY State Transfer Tax: This NY real estate transfer tax applies to those buys in new developments only. Your Cold Spring Harbor lawyer can explain more fully this transfer tax and whether you will be responsible for it at closing.

  • NYC Transfer Tax: Certain transfer taxes apply only to buyers of new developments.

  • Seller's Attorney's Fee: The seller's attorney's fees are customarily paid for by the buyer when the closing is on an NYC new development.

  • Flip Tax: In a transaction involving a co-op, either the buyer or seller will be responsible for paying what is called a flip tax. Although not a government levied tax, it is a fee payable to the co-op itself.

  • Other Closing Costs, as applicable

Your attorney will also provide the name of the payee for each of these, so you know how many certified or cashier checks to bring with you. Be sure to discuss funding options ahead of time to avoid any delays at the closing.

Who needs to attend the closing on real estate near me?

As the buyer, you will need to attend the closing so as to sign the loan documents. The seller, on the other hand, can choose to sign the documents ahead of time, and his or her attorney can attend the closing in their place. On occasion, a buyer can present a Power of Attorney, allowing someone else to attend the closing on their behalf. In some cases, a trust or estates lawyer may also be involved.

When will the closing take place?

In most instances, the closing date will be chosen during the signing of the purchase agreement. However, much will depend on each party's schedule, as well as the representing attorneys' schedules. Discuss what the benefits are for scheduling the closing at the end of a month as opposed to any other time.

Where will the closing be?

There are usually no concrete rules on where a closing can take place. However, the most common locations are at the home itself or in your attorney's office. Discuss the options with your Huntington lawyer and find what works best for all involved.

What do I need to bring along to the closing?

Much will depend upon your particular situation. However, common documentation required at closings, particularly in New York, include:

  • Mortgage Note – the buyer-signed document which represents the promise to repay the loan (if you are financing)

  • Truth in Lending Statement – a required federal document showing the true costs of financing the home

  • HUD Statement – a required form when using a conventional mortgage listing, showing the full amount of what the buyer paid and what the seller received

  • Closing Statement – a statement presenting how the money is applied at the closing

The attorneys will prepare these documents, and you should have a chance to review them before the closing itself.

If you are buying a co-op, different documents may be required. One of these might be proof of post-close liquidity or financial reserves available for future payments.

You will also want to bring with you the following:

  • photo identification

  • proof of homeowners' insurance

  • certified or cashier's check(s)

You may also need to bring other items, depending on your own circumstances. Be sure to ask the attorney for a list.

The seller, in particular, may need to compile a list of what to bring to closing. Items may include keys, openers, warranties, maintenance records, and others.

What role will I serve at the closing, and what will the lawyer near me do?

Be clear about your role in the closing and what is expected of you. Your New York attorney will attend and represent you, but you have a role to play as well. Your attorney will spend time reviewing each document and provide you with any pertinent legal advice regarding each one before you sign. These documents can include deeds, mortgage documents, and transfer tax returns.

What can go wrong at the closing?

Ask your lawyer what could go wrong at the closing so you can be as prepared as possible if things don't go your way. For example, if the final walk-through of the property finds issues, such as uncompleted repairs or new damages, this can delay the closing. This is particularly problematic if the walk-through doesn't occur until right before the closing. You may still be able to close but may need to negotiate with the seller for a cash payment or other option. If problems are detected after the closing, discussions may continue, or litigation may ensue.

It's imperative, then, when searching for a New York lawyer near me, you find the right fit. You may even want to consider an attorney experienced in commercial law, litigation, and corporate law in addition to real estate to combine all your legal needs.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced New York Real Estate Lawyer Today

Knowing what to expect before and during the closing of a home can alleviate any anxiety and help you maintain the confidence for moving forward. And with such an important transaction at hand, you'll want to work with an experienced real estate attorney you can rely on before and after the closing.

The Law Office of Darren E. Sheehan is here for you wherever you are in your real estate journey. Serving Long Island and all of New York's five boroughs, we know what is involved and will provide the legal expertise you need.

Let our Huntington lawyer or Cold Spring Harbor lawyer consult with you today on all your residential legal needs. We can also provide commercial law, corporate law, and estates lawyer representation, so call our office today to schedule an appointment.

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