Attorney is not required at settlement But a lawyer is helpful to explain costs, documents

Mailbag

June 21, 1998

Dear Mr. Azrael:

My wife and I are having a house built. Is an attorney an absolute requirement at closing? What exactly is the responsibility of an attorney at closing? And what will one do for us?

Ben Brooks

Baltimore

Dear Mr. Brooks:

At the closing on a newly constructed home, the buyer pays the balance of the purchase price, plus settlement costs. These extra charges normally include state and county transfer taxes, recording fees and fees for title examination and title insurance. Lender's fees and required escrows for taxes and insurance are also collected at closing.

When an attorney represents a buyer at closing, he or she has the responsibility to make certain all charges paid by the buyer are correct and in accordance with the contract of sale.

The buyer's attorney also has a responsibility to explain and advise the client about the many legal documents that are signed at closing. The buyer's attorney typically will review the deed, loan documents and title insurance commitment, and is responsible for advising the buyer about any problems or concerns raised by these documents.

Based on my experience, few homebuyers in Maryland retain attorneys to represent them at closing. They rely on a title company and their real estate agent to verify figures, handle documentation and answer routine questions.

Buyers more frequently are represented by attorneys at closing when they have had a dispute with the seller, or anticipate that a dispute may arise at the settlement table.

Homebuyers have an absolute right, at their expense, to choose an attorney or title company to represent them at closing. Having an attorney present at closing is not a requirement, but, as a wise man once said, "It can't hurt!"

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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