Real Estate 101

Real Estate


You’re about to make the biggest financial investment of your life: Buying a home. It sounds stressful, but you can keep your anxiety in check if you know what you’re getting into from start to finish. And by finish, we mean knowing what to expect when you hire a real estate attorney. Here, local experts offer tips on how to ensure your real estate purchase goes smoothly. 

Read the forms. It can be tempting to just scan and sign when you’re at the end of the home-buying journey. But real estate attorney Sarah Robertson of Burr & Forman says double-checking the paperwork before you sign off can save you — and your attorney — a headache later. “I realize it seems trivial, but is your name spelled correctly? Is your address included?” she said. 

Check the calendar. Once the closing date’s been set, take a look at your calendar. Do you have a vacation planned? Is it a bank holiday? “If you are financing your purchase, choose a closing date at least 45 days from the date you sign your contract,” Robertson said. “And avoid closing on the 15th and the last day of the month. Your real estate lawyer and paralegal will thank you.” 

Pick up the phone. Real estate attorney Daniel Saxon with Novit & Scarminach recommends verifying important information by phone. “Internet trolls have been known to intercept emailed bank wire instructions and change them, and your wired funds could be stolen by the bad guys,” he warned. 

Keep your papers. Don’t assume the digital age has you covered. Ryan Mikkelson of Mikkelson Law Firm said that down the road, you may need the original copies of your closing documents — and you should keep in mind that the law firm won’t hold onto them forever. South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct requires lawyers to retain a client’s file for six years after the completion of representation. 

Avoid delays. You will need to wire funds to your lawyer’s trust account for the amount you owe at closing. Some banks require you to go to a bank in person to authorize a wire. “One client had to drive from Hilton Head to Virginia to authorize a wire at the closest bank branch,” Robertson said. 

Show up. In South Carolina, it’s not required you be present at closing — but it certainly helps. You likely won’t be able to use digital signatures for your closing documents, and some signatures might need to be witnessed and notarized. If you won’t be attending the closing, you might need to arrange to sign documents in the presence of a witness and notary wherever you will be signing, Robertson said. 

Take a deep breath. You’re itching to get in your new home, but don’t rush the process. “Don’t show up in your moving truck with your pets for closing,” Robertson said. “Despite our best efforts, sometimes delays occur, and having to tell clients to reschedule deliveries is one of the most difficult calls we have to make.”