Since this firm began business in 1977, we have handled thousands of real estate transactions, both residential and commercial, and our practice is usually limited to the Counties of Nelson and Augusta and the Cities of Waynesboro and Staunton. However, we have the capability of closing transactions in the Cities of Charlottesville, Lexington and Harrisonburg and the Counties of Rockbridge, Rockingham, Albemarle and Amherst. If you do have a transaction in those jurisdictions, contact Jaimie Withers, our real estate paralegal, at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to see if we can help. In addition to our basic fee, there may be an additional, reasonable charge for the services of a title examiner in those jurisdictions.
Our fee for the typical residential real estate closing is $400 and includes, unlike real estate settlement companies, all services required to get your loan money to the closing table. Most real estate settlement companies, on top of a basic fee of $350-$500, add on additional charges for title examination or title abstract and a so-called “settlement fee”, whatever that is. Our fee includes examination of title, satisfying all requirements of your lender and most importantly, giving you a legal explanation of all your closing documents at settlement. Real estate settlement companies are prohibited by law from explaining the most important documents you will be signing at settlement. If any legal problems arise between the time you sign the contract and settlement, then we tackle the problem, fully capable of making sure your rights are protected. Real estate settlement companies must engage the services of an outside attorney.
When you engage our services, we are required by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, (enacted by Congress in 1974), §38.2-4614 of the Code of Virginia, and the Code of Professional Responsibility to make certain disclosures to you. First, if your lender requires title insurance, we obtain that title insurance through our in-house title insurance agency, Afton Underwriters, Ltd., a Virginia corporation. We also act as the title agent for First American Title Insurance Company, the largest title insurance company in the world, which issues the title insurance policy. Until real estate settlement companies were authorized to conduct real estate closings, the Virginia State Bar said there was an irreconcilable conflict of interest for an attorney to represent a client and have any relationship with the title insurance aspect of the closing. We never understood why. You are hiring us to meet all the requirements of your lender so we can bring your loan proceeds to the closing table. To that end, your lender requires that the title insurance commitment and policy meet certain requirements. Except in the rare case of an encroachment (easily curable by release), since 1996, we have never had a conflict between the duty as an attorney and the duty as a title agent, or as the owner of a title agency, which could not be easily and quickly resolved. Under RESPA, as a settlement agent, we will advise you of the availability of, and explain, owner’s title insurance which is different from mortgagee title insurance, which insures your lender that it will be paid first in the event you default on the loan and the lender forecloses on your property.
The short answer is NO. Our basic fee of $400 still applies. We do not charge the usual $100 fee for acting as a Mechanic’s Lien Agent for your project. Since we have the land records of Waynesboro, Augusta County and Nelson County available online, we do not charge for title “bring downs” before your lender disburses each draw on your construction loan. The availability of those online records also enables us to issue “instant” endorsements to your mortgagee title insurance policy, a capability which keeps your lender happy and your construction loan proceeds flowing. Legal problems can arise as construction proceeds and as a lawyer, Bruce will be in a position to immediately resolve the problem. Moreover, he has special knowledge of the legal aspects of house construction from his representation of the developers of Stone Valley subdivision in Stuarts Draft and the Walnut Ridge subdivision in Greenville and numerous builders, among them, SHC Developers, Inc., Sunrise Investors, Inc., EJ’s LC, EA Homes, Inc., KBL Construction, LLC, Oaktree Builders and Robert Byrd Home Improvements, Inc..