Our Closing Process

While we often prepare the seller’s closing documents, as the attorneys handling the closing, we generally represent the buyer.  Our job is to ensure that the buyer is receiving a clean and marketable title to the real estate they are buying. To accomplish that, there are some steps we generally go through in nearly all residential real estate closings.

Step 1 – Review the Offer to Purchase and Contract

We do this to verify that it properly identifies the parties, terms, and property, is properly executed and is binding on the seller. Sometimes parties or their agents mix names, addresses, parcel identification numbers, deed or plat references, lots, or legal descriptions.  Other times the contract is not properly executed or signed by the appropriate person in the appropriate role/capacity. The earlier these issues can be identified, the better chance the buyer has to get them fixed without losing money or causing a delay in the closing.

Step 2 – Gather Party Information from the buyer, seller, and real estate agents.

We must get contact information for all the parties along with information on outstanding loans, liens, homeowners association dues, taxes, marital statuses, free trader agreements, easements, prenuptial agreements, powers of attorney, etc. Waiting to the last minute to get all this together and verify its accuracy could also result in a delay. That’s why we work to get this information as quickly as possible after receiving a contract.

Step 3 – Open the File and prepare for the title search.

Our staff will gather the information from the contract and the information from the parties along with some basic information from the county tax department and other public records to prepare the file for a comprehensive title search.

Step 4 – Title Search

Unlike many firms, our office uses only in-house attorneys for all our title searches. Our closing attorneys have years of experience and know what to look for when doing a title search to identify potential issues at the outset. Because we represent the buyer, we will zealously comb the title the ensure that no impediments or unexpected liens exist.

That includes identifying Deeds of Trust (mortgages/loans) on the property, as well as UCC filings, marital rights, judgments, taxes, HOA dues, easements, driveway, road agreements, etc. If the buyer decides to obtain a survey of the property, we also review the survey with the buyer to be sure they understand anything of note.

Sometimes the title search discovers encroachments or other unexpected issues, and our office has the experience necessary to help resolve these issues with additional agreements, escrows, payoffs, or conveyances.

Step 5 – Title Binder and Insurance

The next step is to draft a formal opinion on the title and compile the information and documents gathered as part of the search to send to a title company. We work with nearly all the local, regional, and national title companies. If there is an issue in the title search, we are often able to work with the title company to get coverage or otherwise prevent the issue from delaying closing or harming our client.

Step 6 – Lender Coordination

If the buyer is getting a mortgage to purchase the property, we work with the bank or lender to get a package together of the documents they require as part of the loan. Most of the time, the initial closing disclosure that the lender sends over has errors and things that need to be fixed.

As the buyer’s representative, we make sure that the documents they are signing comport with the contract and that they are only paying for the things they are required to pay for under the contract and the bank agreement. In addition to working with the bank to make sure the documents are accurate; we also spend a great deal of time following up to get the package from the bank in time to close.

Step 7 – Get Seller Documents Signed

Once we have the title binder ready and the property appears ready to close, we get seller docs signed by the sellers to convey the property to the buyer.  Most of the time, our office also prepares the seller docs, but on occasion, sellers chose their own closing attorney, and we will coordinate with them to have the seller docs delivered to us at or before the closing. Sometimes that means we need to orchestrate the documents being signed out of town and overnighted to our office.

Step 8 – Closing

Next, we meet with the buyer to review all the documents. It’s Closing Day!  We do our best to make the closing experience as fun and informative as possible. You’re buying a house after all. Our closing attorneys have extensive experience in closings and can help first-time homebuyers wade through the documents to highlight the key components and offer advice on the numbers, how the escrow account works, the amortization table, loan assignments/transfers, making extra payments, etc.

We also know that some buyers have done this numerous times in the past and want to get this part done and over with.  We work for you and are glad to explain as much, or as little, as you would like in the closing.

Step 9 – Funding

Once all the documents are signed, we next obtain all the funding. The buyer usually brings money to the table, but sometimes a seller owes money. If there is a loan/mortgage, we often need to get the documents scanned into the system and sent over to the lender for them to verify everything was signed before they will wire money to us.  We have a proven system in place to double and triple-check that all the money has been received and funds verified.

Step 10 – Title Update and Record

Next, we go back and do another title search on the sellers to make sure nothing has been filed since we did the last title search, and that the property is still free and clear of liens, judgments, and encumbrances. Again, this is all done by an in-house attorney.

If the title is clean, we then upload the documents and use various systems to electronically file in the vast majority of counties in NC. Once the appropriate County Register of Deeds has recorded all the necessary documents, we call the parties and let them know that everything is on record and ownership of the property has changed hands.

Step 11 – Disburse Funds

We then disburse funds to the various entities.  The seller usually gets proceeds, but sometimes the buyer is also getting money. There are almost always other entities that need to get paid such as the realtors, homeowner’s association dues, tax department, water bills, repairs, etc.

Step 12 – Obtain Title Insurance

Days or weeks after the closing, we then go back to verify that any lien holder (seller’s lender for example) that has been paid by our office at closing has satisfied or canceled their lien of record. We then finalize the title insurance with the title company.

Get Started with Stegall & Clifford