When it comes time to close on a new home, buyers in the Florida Panhandle may want to turn to a local law firm rather than a title company. That’s according to Shalimar attorney Michelle Freeman, who manages the real estate department at Fleet, Smith & Freeman.
- Freeman said buyers have more direct access to legal guidance throughout the entire closing process when using a law office.
“You have access to me at all times. Anything that comes in the office or goes out of the office, I’m reviewing and I’m discussing with my team. I’m making sure that it’s correct,” Freeman said. “Not only that, but if you have any questions that are sort of ancillary to the contract or related to a deal that we may have done in the past or something you’re just wondering about, I’m always available to talk about those things.”
In Florida, homebuyers can choose either an attorney’s office or a title company to handle their real estate closing. Freeman encouraged using a law firm because clients have access to an attorney at all times. She said law offices also adhere to higher standards.
- “We have a little bit higher standard for what we’re doing in the office,” Freeman explained.
When a law firm receives a real estate sales contract, the first step is to have their underwriter put together a title commitment, according to Freeman. The title commitment lists any requirements that must be satisfied to ensure the buyer receives clear title to the property.
Freeman said attorneys frequently spot issues in title commitments that require legal expertise to resolve properly. As an example, she said a deed could list a deceased person, meaning probate proceedings would be necessary. Fortunately, Fleet, Smith & Freeman offers probate services in-house.
“My team comes right down the hall to me and says we’ve got a probate issue on this particular title commitment. We need you to talk to the customers and go over what needs to be done,” Freeman said. “So the benefit is that when you use an attorney’s office for your real estate closing, we’re really a one-stop shop for all of those different needs.”
Freeman said her firm does not try to skip over title commitment requirements like some title companies might.
- “We don’t believe in that philosophy. We want to make sure that title is clear, that the person who’s purchasing the property or home is going to have clear title going forward,” Freeman stated.
The attorney said Fleet, Smith & Freeman has three lawyers licensed by the Florida Bar who must meet strict malpractice and ethics standards. The firm also employs licensed title agents.
“We are taking every step possible to be extra cautious and make sure that nothing is overlooked during the process, and that is the higher standard that we’re held to,” Freeman said.
Contrary to popular belief, using a law firm for real estate closings does not necessarily cost more than a title company, according to Freeman. She said the closing fee itself is the only major cost difference clients will notice.
- “That title insurance policy that you’re paying for is going to be based off your sales price. It’s a percentage of the sales price, and so that’s not going to change anywhere you go,” Freeman explained.
Still, some homebuyers may wonder what exactly happens during a real estate closing and why a law firm is the best option. Freeman laid out some of the key benefits:
- Direct access to real estate attorneys for any questions before, during or after closing.
- Review of the entire closing file by experienced real estate lawyers.
- Higher standards and ethics requirements than title companies.
- Ability to resolve title issues and probate problems in-house.
- Competitive pricing compared to title companies.
Freeman encourages local homebuyers to learn more about Fleet, Smith & Freeman’s real estate closing services by calling their office or stopping by in person.
“While these are just a few of the benefits of using an attorney’s office for your real estate closing transaction, there’s certainly more things,” Freeman said.
When it comes to the local real estate market, Freeman wants to make sure panhandle homebuyers understand all their options when it comes time for closing. She says that working with a trusted law firm can provide peace of mind and helpful legal guidance.