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

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We all know that buying a home is not an everyday experience. Most people only go through the process a few times in their lives. My philosophy is that a buyer should learn about the process. My first and best advice for my clients is to build a team of experienced professionals (Realtor, lender, inspector and lawyer) to assist them in the process. I bring over 30 years of real estate experience and thousands of successful transactions to your closing table. Armed with knowledge and the right experienced professionals you can have an enjoyable experience. Below I have provided you with a time line of sorts so you can better appreciate the steps and complexity of your transaction.

Overview of Buying a Home From Your Attorney's Perspective

1) Shop for a loan.
To be a smart buyer you need to have a good idea of how much home you can afford. A first step would be to speak with a bank's mortgage department or a mortgage broker and obtain a pre-approval letter. A pre-approval letter is not a "commitment" to make you a loan but is rather a letter that states, based upon the information you provided, you would qualify for a loan of a certain amount. Of course, any loan would be subject to further conditions such as confirmation of the information you provided, an appraisal of the house, etc.... Your lender will be able to give you a good idea of the price range for a home as well as the available mortgage options and programs. My advice is to check with a few lenders since interest rates, available loan types and fees vary. You should also inquire about available grant programs which you may be eligible for.

2) Offer + Acceptance = Contract
With a price range in mind, you can then look for a home either by yourself or with the assistance of a Realtor.  Realtors provide an invaluable service since they have access to the MLS and have the ability to hone your search to homes in a particular price range, type, location, etc... Remember that unless you have a buyer broker agreement, the Realtor normally represents the interest of the seller. The Realtor can assist you in making an "offer to purchase" using the approved form of contract. If you do not have a Realtor and you find a home that you want to make an offer on you can call me to assist you. After you make an offer the seller will review it and may accept it or you may need to "do the dance" and negotiate further with the seller until an offer is eventually accepted. Once an offer to purchase is accepted by the seller you have a legally binding contract. Note pursuant to the Statute of Frauds all contracts for real estate have to be in writing and signed by all parties (buyer(s) and all seller(s)) and any revisions or modifications will likewise have to be in writing and initialed by all. If a Realtor is assisting you then you need to forward a copy of the contract to me to review, preferably the same day the seller accepts it. The standard Broome County contract has an attorney review provision which is "time sensitive" so you should not delay or you could possibly waive your attorney review. I will review the contract with you and will stress the important provisions.

3) Work on contingencies.
Your contract will undoubtedly contain various contingencies such as financing, inspections, etc... You should forward a complete copy of the contract to your lender and also provided the documentation required by the lender to approve your loan. At this time you will also be hiring a home inspector if you are having inspections done. I suggest, to all my clients, to have a professional home inspection performed. The only exceptions may be when the buyer actually has a building background or is already familiar with the home.  The money spent on an inspection is invaluable especially if problems are found and just for plain peace of mind. Note that the standard contract has specific time frames to perform the inspection(s) and to provide the results  to the seller. As a buyer, you must be vigilant to do everything in a timely manner. If there are issues with the inspections your Realtor will normally assists in further negotiations with the seller's agent. This is also the time we should talk about the possible need for a survey of the property.  Depending on the parcel's legal description and secondary market requirements, you may need to hire a surveyor to prepare a survey.  Surveys do take some time so this determination needs to be done early in the transaction because surveyors' schedules are often booked weeks in advance.  Please see my Common Questions page for a further discussion about surveys.

4) Look into Fire Insurance and Title Insurance.
You should also talk to an insurance agent about fire insurance. Note that you will need a binder and paid receipt (for one year of coverage) prior to closing and you should review, with your lender, their specific requirements.  Most insurance agents need a start date for the insurance so after a closing date is "actually" scheduled you should attend to paying the initial year premium and provide the binder and paid receipt to me so I can forward same to your lender.  The lender will need the premium figure to use in escrow calculations prior to closing.  Providing the insurance in a timely manner will assist in keeping your closing as scheduled.  Without the binder and paid receipt your closing may need to be rescheduled. Note that you can often save some money by using the same company for your auto and fire insurance.  Your lender will usually require a title insurance policy insuring the bank's mortgage against title defects - this is known as a mortgagee policy. With today's litigious society it would be tantamount to malpractice for me not to suggest you also seriously consider purchasing a similar policy against title defects - this is commonly known as a fee or Owner's policy. Title insurance, unlike fire insurance, is a "one time" payment. If you purchase the required bank policy and also a fee policy you receive a simultaneous discount. Note that your title insurance is normally provided by me and the premium cost is regulated by the New York State Insurance Department.

For more information on title insurance fees please refer to the following website which have rate calculators available: 
Chicago Title Insurance     Stewart Title

As an agent for Chicago Title Insurance Company and Stewart Title, my office will receive a portion of the premium as remuneration for providing the policy. Title insurance is a very complicated decision and can not be completely reviewed in this summary. I will send you an e-mail before closing which outlines the benefits of title insurance so you can make an informed decision.  Also see my Common Questions page for a further discussion about title insurance. Note that your fire/hazard insurance and title insurance should not be confused with Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) which is charged by a lender if you do not have a minimum amount of equity in the property at closing.

5) Title review and scheduling closing.
Upon receiving your bank commitment letter you should immediately forward a copy to me since this sets into motion a series of events culminating in your closing. First, the seller's attorney will forward the title work (Abstract) to me and I will review same and prepare the lender's title insurance binder, if required. You should now advise me if you want the additional policy insuring your interest as well. I will forward the Abstract of Title, tax receipts and certificates and title insurance to the lender. After the lender reviews same and only after all other lender conditions have been met, I will receive a call or e-mail that your loan clear to close. A closing date will be scheduled taking into account the schedules of the buyer/buyer's attorney, seller/seller's attorney and the lender. Note that the closing date on your contract is normally an "on or about date" and is not carved in stone. Scheduling a closing date/time often requires cooperation by all parties as the seller needs to arrange movers to move out and the buyer to move in. Once a date/time is agreed upon the seller's attorney will prepare a Statement of  Sale and will forward same to me to review.  I will add some costs to it and then forward it to the lender who will add the lender's costs. The lender will then compile all costs/expenses on a form called a Closing Disclosure (CD) which reflects the amount you will need to bring to closing. You should be in contact with me so I can provide you with the amount and type of check needed at closing.  At this time if you are on public water/sewer and electric/gas you should call the applicable water/sewer department and NYSEG to arrange these utilities to be changed over into your name as of the closing date.  If you will have fuel oil or propane you should coordinate service turnover and reimbursement amounts with the provider of same.

6) Closing!
Closing is a special day when all our hard effort culminates in a set of keys to your new home. You should always do a walk through of the home within a few days of the closing to make sure all personal property of the seller is out and that the home's condition has not materially changed. You will meet me at closing where I will review all the lender's paperwork including the note, mortgage, escrow paperwork, etc... as well as the seller's transfer paperwork which includes the deed. Your closing will normally last between 60-90 minutes. I pride myself in thoroughly explaining the important legal documents to you. I do not want you to leave the closing with no idea of what you just signed! In fact, if you have any questions after closing I encourage you to call me. I consider my clients to be "clients for life" and I look forward to assisting my clients for all their future legal needs.


Gary B. Kline, Esq.
Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP
99 Corporate Drive
Binghamton, New York

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