What is Missing From A Botched Closing

I am a lawyer. More than that, I am a professional Real Estate Lawyer. I’m ok with that, because I started out much differently. I started with my Dad, scurrying for plumbing, electrical and air conditioning jobs all over Okaloosa County. Then, because of an interest that started at Ruckel Middle School, I went to law school, the U.S. Army, into practice. In politics, where I attempted to live for a brief period, people in an audience would often ask whether I was a lawyer, expecting me to apologize, or to say anything except, “Yes, and I do it every day, and I’m proud of what I do.” All those answers were given, and all are true.

It's also true that I am an expert in real estate law. I know that, not because I haven’t had serious doubts from time to time, but because the Florida Bar says I am; I hope they are right. I am Board Certified, and not many are. I taught the subject for years, and I sit on the Real Estate Certification Committee of The Florida Bar. This article is about real estate closings; and like Farmers Insurance, I’m supposed to know a thing or two about them.

When I first started practicing my clients taught me some quick lessons. One was that they believe that lawyers cost too much. (That belief is wrong. The driving cost of a closing is the title insurance premium, and that is set by law.) Nevertheless, the bulk of closings come through Realtors, and I was cutting off my access to this large world of closings by forcing them into my law office. So, we created an outside agency, Old South Land Title, to do the closings, while the balance of law practice goes through the law office.

To accommodate that, I found a pleasant surprise in Gayle Hurst, who has proven for many years to be capable and honest and unusually willing to provide service to her clients. Gayle became the talent on which we built what is now the largest, busiest title insurance and closing company in Okaloosa County. Residential closings are complex and time-consuming. Most law offices do not do them at all. We do, but for our clients, and we do all commercial closings.

As capable as we all think we are, the public should remember that the closing agent has one legal function – to assure that good title passes from seller to buyer. But the buyer’s interests often go far beyond merely getting good title. The additional rights the buyer has – if any – will normally be limited to those spelled out or necessarily implied from the contract or from general law. That means that a buyer, and particularly one with a complex contract, a commercial property or a condominium unit, needs his own lawyer. The real estate world is littered with commercial and condominium unit purchasers who got good title, but whose ownership would have been far more satisfying if the buyer had had a knowledgeable lawyer at closing.

What is missing from a botched closing? More often than not it’s the buyer’s lawyer.