Gary B. Kline, Esq.
Your closing is my reputation!

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Q&A/Realtors

Common Questions

Q. How much will my legal fee be for closing?

A.  I pride myself in providing personalized cost effective and efficient legal representation.  Since every transaction is unique I can not quote an exact fee at the inception of representation -- I can, however, provide an average range, based on my experience, as follows:  Buyer $500 - $750 for legal work and Sellers $500- $750 for legal work plus approximately $275 for Abstract updating.  Seller's often have additional disbursements to pay as well which may include Federal Express, Sales Tax and Tax Certificates.

Q. What factors are considered in the legal fee charged?

A.  The lowest fee is based on a "standard" single family Broome County residential closing where there is a Realtor involved in preparation of the contract of sale.  Factors which may cause the fee to rise include the following:

For Buyers
Preparation of Contract for FSBO

Protracted negotiations regarding the contract or contingencies in the contract.

Preparation of powers of attorney, pre or post possession agreements or escrow agreements

Time for travel to closing if more than 30 minutes (0ne way)

Title issues found in reviewing the Abstract(s) of Title

Other factors specific to your transaction

For Sellers
-  Preparation of Contract for FSBO

-  Protracted negotiations regarding the contract or contingencies in the contract.

Extent of abstract updating needed / title searching or preparation of a new abstract

-  Surrogate's Court proceedings, if necessary, including obtaining release of estate tax lien

-  Obtaining discharges of mortgage for previously paid off mortgages

-  Short sales, negotiating tax liens or judgment payoffs

-  Preparation of powers of attorney, pre or post possession agreements or escrow agreements

Disbursements such as fed-ex and tax certificate(s) and applicable sales tax

-  Time for travel to closing if more than 30 minutes (one way)

- Other factors specific to your transaction

Q. What documents do I need to represent a Buyer?

A. I will need a copy of the Contract of Sale; copies of the inspection reports; and a copy of your commitment letter from your lender when received.

Q. Will I need a survey?

A. The answer depends on the proposed legal description of the property you are buying. The requirement for a survey is really dictated by title insurance standards and secondary mortgage market requirements and considerations. Title insurance companies have specific requirements to waive a survey. However, even if the title insurance company will waive the survey -- some lenders may still require one. You will normally not need a survey if the legal description refers to a filed subdivision map or already contains an acceptable “metes and bounds” survey description. You should discuss your specific situation with me. I would suggest my clients obtain a survey, even if not required to close, since a survey will disclose enroachments, variations and location of improvement and issues found can be discussed and hopefully rectified before closing. 


Q. If the property, I am buying, has a septic system which may not be able to be tested since the house is empty or the ground frozen what can do I do to protect myself?

A. You should have a septic escrow negotiated at the time the contract is made to be funded at closing. Note that this negotiation may prove difficult since many times a seller will not have the necessary equity or alternative funds to establish a large escrow which can run anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, and sometimes more.

Q. When will I know how much I need to bring to the closing?

A. In a perfect world, you would know the amount days in advance of closing. Unfortunately, in the real world, the best that can usually be done is to provide you with a figure with 48 hours of closing. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond your or my control sometimes you will need to obtain your check even on the day of  closing. I will endeavor to obtain your figures expeditiously but we are often waiting on the seller or lender to finalize their numbers.

Q. Can I get out of a contract if my professional home inspection is unsatisfactory?

A. The answer to this question just became easier with the new improved Broome County Standard Contract which allows a buyer to get out of the contract as long as the testing was done per the timeframe in the contract for any or no reason whatsoever.

Q. What is the STAR Exemption and will the seller’s STAR Exemption transfer to me?

A. Basic STAR is available to anyone who owns and lives in a home as their principal residence. Enhanced STAR is available to senior homeowners whose incomes do not exceed certain standard. New York State now provides an easy way to sign up online.

Q. What documents do I need to represent a Seller?

A. I will need a copy of the Contract of Sale; your original Abstract of Title to the property; the most recent Town/County or City and School Tax bill, and Village Tax bill, if applicable; and copies of your statements for mortgages and home equity loans.

Q. If I am a seller and I lost my Abstract of Title what do I do?

A. A seller needs to have an Abstract of Title or in some circumstances an acceptable Fee Title Insurance Policy. If you can not find your Abstract it will need to be recreated. The cost to replace an Abstract is normally in the range of $500.00 to $800.00 but cost is wholly dependent on the complexity of the search required. The county standard is to search back in time to a warranty deed at least 40 years old. All previous owners, during this time period,need to be searched for the periods of their respective ownership. Consequently, the magnitude of the search and related cost depend on how far back one needs to search and the names of the previous owners. In preparing an abstract it is not beneficial to be a Smith or Jones!  Additionally, the time to prepare an Abstract would be higher if the property went through an estate or foreclosure proceeding.

Q. Should a seller obtain a pre-inspection of their home?

A. There are some realtors who believe a seller should obtain an pre-inspection before they list the property. Said inspection will both advise the seller of issues with the property which should be corrected and if the inspection is shared with the a buyer the buyer may waive the right to make the contract contingent on a home inspection. Inspections often result in additional protracted negotiation with a buyer. Home inspection issues are the leading reason why a buyer renegotiates the contract price. In my opinion, the "jury is still out" on the value of a pre-inspection. On one hand, I realize the importance of a seller knowing any major issues at the outset since this will reduce the possibility that the buyer will renegotiate the deal after the inspection is done but on the other hand if your pre-inspection discloses a big ticket item you will be required to either disclose this on your "Seller Disclosure Statement" or fix it. Alternatively, a seller can refuse to provide a buyer with a disclosure and instead provide the buyer with the statutory $500 credit.  This may be looked at, by a prospective buyer, as a ploy to hide an issue. Of course, even if you do a pre-inspection the buyer still has the opportunity to make the contract contingent on an inspection by a company of their choosing. I encourage my clients to call me to discuss this important topic.

Q. Will my closing be on the actual date in my contract?

A. Not usually, since the contract date only serves as an “on or about” target date. Your actual closing date depends on many factors including your lender’s processing of your loan and the schedules of all parties including, buyer, seller, lender and their attorneys. It is not uncommon to close a few weeks earlier or later. Consequently, you should be careful not to give notice (if you are currently renting) or sign up with a mover until you speak with me regarding your anticipated closing date. I will always endeavor to coordinate a date which is best for you.

Q. What is title insurance and should I buy title insurance for myself (fee title insurance)?

A. Title insurance protects the insured against claims against the real estate. There are two types of title insurance policies involved in the normal real estate transaction. The first type is a Lender’s Policy (also known as a mortgagee policy). If you are financing your purchase through a lender you will normally be required to purchase, on behalf of the lender, a Lender’s Policy of title insurance. That insurance protects the bank from title problems but does not protect you. The second type is an Owner’s Policy (also known as a fee policy) which insures you. How much does title insurance cost? The rate(s) charged for title insurance are regulated by the New York State Insurance Department and vary depending on the amount of coverage for the lender and the purchase price of the house. Note that the rate schedule gives a buyer a break if both a Lender’s Policy and Owner’s Policy are purchased together closing. In my opinion, it would be tantamount to malpractice to advise you not to obtain a Owner's Policy to protect you. The cost for an Owner's Policy is very reasonable for the protection provided. Purchasing a home is one of the biggest investments you will make. A few hundred dollars for "peace of mind” is money well spent.

Our office serves as examining counsel for Chicago Title Insurance Company. As agent we receive a portion of the premium as remuneration for writing and issuing the binder and final policy. I refer you to the following link for additional information regarding the benefits of an Owner’s Policy. www.ticortitle.com/whatistitle.asp. Please contact me after you know the amount of your mortgage so I can provide you with a quote for your simultaneous Lender’s and Owner’s title insurance policy.

Q. What happens in circumstances when a buyer needs to get into the house before closing or if a seller has to stay in the house after closing?

A. In some cases it may be possible for a pre or post possession agreement to be negotiated with the other party. However, not all buyers or sellers will agree to this. In the case when the parties agree there will normally be a written agreement which will include an escrow for damages, a daily (per diem) occupancy charge and the requirement for adequate insurance coverage. As your attorney, you should discuss your needs with me early in the transaction so we can approach the other party with your request for a pre or post possession agreement.

Q. What can I do if I bought a house and there are major repair items found which the seller did not disclose on their seller’s disclosure statement attached to the contract?

A. This is a difficult question and the answer really depends on the specific facts and circumstances. Under New York State law, a seller must disclose, on a required form, what is known about the property. In lieu of completing the form, a seller may provide the buyer with a $500 credit at closing. To be held liable, a seller must have “actual knowledge” of a defect and fail to disclose same on the form. There must be, as we say, “a smoking gun”.  A seller may also be pursued if they actively tried to conceal a known problem with the premises.

Q. Who in my office will be assisting you with the your closing?

A. My firm employs many attorneys and paralegals but I pride myself in being the “go to guy” in your real estate matter. Unlike many firms, the first time you communicate with me will not be at your closing! I will be your guide through the closing process, from the signing of the contract to the delivery of the deed at the closing table. I realize that purchasing or selling your home is one of the biggest events of your life and I take your matter to heart as if it was my own. I will assist you by reviewing your contract, mortgage commitment (for buyer), negotiate inspection issues, update or examine the abstract of title, and attend the closing with you. My practice is primarily based on referrals so your successful closing is of utmost importance to me. There is an old adage that says that “A Lawyer’s Time is His Stock and Trade”. However, I am sensitive to the time I spend on each transaction so to minimize my fee to you and at the same time provide you with superior quality legal services.



Statement of Client Rights

1. You are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times by your lawyer and the other lawyers and personnel in your lawyer's office.

2. You are entitled to an attorney capable of handling your legal matter competently and, in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. If you are not satisfied with how your matter is being handled, you have the right to withdraw from the attorney-client relationship at any time (court approval may be required in some matters and your attorney may have a claim against you for the value of services rendered to you to the point of discharge).

3. You are entitled to your lawyer's independent professional judgment and undivided loyalty uncompromised by conflicts of interest.

4. You are entitled to be charged a reasonable fee and to have your lawyer explain at the outset how the fee will be computed and the manner and frequency of billing. You are entitled to request and receive a written itemized bill from your attorney at reasonable intervals. You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement that you find unsatisfactory.

5. You are entitled to have your questions and concerns addressed in a prompt manner and to have your telephone calls returned promptly.

6. You are entitled to be kept informed as to the status of your matter and to request and receive copies of papers. You are entitled to sufficient information to allow you to participate meaningfully in the development of your matter.

7. You are entitled to have your legitimate objectives respected by your attorney, including whether or not to settle your matter (court approval of a settlement is required in some matters).

8. You have the right to privacy in your dealings with your lawyer and to have your secrets and confidences preserved to the extent permitted by law.

9. You are entitled to have your attorney conduct himself or herself ethically in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility.

10. You may not be refused representation on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.


Disclaimer

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal advice, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Gary B. Kline, Esq. or Coughlin & Gerhart, L.L.P. or any of its attorneys or clients, and are not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. This World Wide Web site is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and Gary B. Kline, Esq. and/or Coughlin & Gerhart, L.L.P., and you should not act or rely on any information in this World Wide Web site without seeking the advice of an attorney. We would be pleased to communicate with you by e-mail. However, if you communicate with us through this World Wide Web site or otherwise in connection with a matter for which we do not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential. If you communicate with us by e-mail in connection with a matter for which we already represent you, please remember that Internet e-mail is not secure and you should avoid sending sensitive or confidential Internet e-mail messages unless they are adequately encrypted. In some jurisdictions, this World Wide Web site may be considered advertising. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon written information about our qualifications and experience. Gary B. Kline, Esq., and Coughlin & Gerhart, L.L.P. have endeavored to comply with all known legal and ethical requirements in compiling this World Wide Web site. Gary B. Kline, Esq. and Coughlin & Gerhart, L.L.P. do not desire to represent clients based upon their review of any portions of this World Wide Web site that do not comply with legal or ethical requirements.



Gary B. Kline, Esq.
Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP
99 Corporate Drive
Binghamton, New York
1-607-723-9511

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