Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I talked a bit about the new Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 Settlement Statement for residential closings previously. Yes, it's official and any new loan 'started' in 2010 will have the new GFE and new HUD. Expect a lot of questions and confusion on this but as with anything new, 'this too shall pass'. What I want to talk about today is somewhat self-serving but very important for the future. Why is choosing an attorney important? For that matter, why is closing a loan with an attorney important? First off, it's not all about fees. Yes, I know how self-serving that statement is. When you look at a new GFE or HUD-1 you'll see all of our fees combined are almost $700 (without lender's title). I know one firm that will do all that for just shy of $300. They may be a great firm, but we never set out to build a high-volume closing firm. I've been there--the lobby full of people waiting to close, delays, tempers and it seems that customer service is tossed out the window. When we chose to open this firm in late 2008 we knew that's not what we wanted.
So our fees are about the same as most closing attorneys out there and we all have to quote the same title insurance rates as dictated by our title companies. If the playing field (e.g. 'fees') is level, more or less, why choose us? We are all veterans here. We can handle your first-time homebuyer's questions with ease (and patience!). We can handle "issues" at the closing table (we've all been there before) with tact and finesse (yes, even me!). For that matter, we don't let files 'lay around' until the day before closing so there really shouldn't be surprises on closing day. Come see us again and I know you'll be pleased. And remember not to think of us as 'just' an in-town firm--we can close all over metro ATL!
Final topic--why close with an attorney at all? This is less relevant for purchases but there are a lot of options out there for consumers. Many large national lenders use 'closing services' to close transactions and issue title insurance. Yes, I've closed loans in homes (even a Starbucks or two). However, there is a huge difference between us and these companies. We believe (as do most Georgia real estate attorneys) that a closing should be handled by the firm from start to finish. We run (and clean!) the title, close the loan, issue the title insurance and fund it through our IOLTA (trust account). This should be the bare minimum that a licensed Georgia attorney should do but some lenders insert themselves into the transaction. A witness-only attorney is just there to watch you sign documents--where are they when you have questions or issues after closing? An out of state 'title company' or 'escrow provider' won't help you clear up a messy title with open loan deeds--if you can even get someone on the phone or in the correct department! The bottom line? Even if you don't choose Harris Wagner Law Group, do yourself a favor and choose a licensed, LOCAL Georgia attorney to handle your transaction. You could even say the same thing about lenders and agents as well. Choose wisely as your home is the largest investment you own!

The Holiday Hangover

I guess I have to start off with a New Year's resolution: I promise to stay in touch more in 2010! As always, it's been a bit busy, but not so busy that I couldn't have said Hi and let you know how we're doing! This blog is a labor of love for me--I like to do more than provide info on boring legal topics unless it's new and/or useful; I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy the writing!
Christmas is over... Sad puppies under an empty tree, a big mess of pine needles left behind to clean up. But the email tagline of "Holiday Hangover" doesn't reference over-indulgence. It speaks to the first few weeks of the year and how you just can't get back into the swing of things after the holidays. It seemed as if time hit a standstill at some point in mid-December and early January was no different. But now people are starting to wake up; bills are coming due and activity is stirring. Hopefully we'll see more houses being bought and sold in 2010! Take care, Bo

Monday, January 18, 2010

A simple thank-you...

So what's up with the blooming onion pic? I place it here as a fond reminder of a great date night last night. Even better than that, it was a low-cost date night due to a thank-you gift received by my wife for all her work on a difficult closing. An agent friend was kind enough to give us a $50 gift card to Outback Steakhouse and noted we needed to enjoy some beef, a blooming onion, and a pitcher of margaritas after difficulties getting to the closing table. Well, I did have beef (Susie had Salmon) but we each had wine (quelle surprise, eh?) instead of margaritas--we felt 'duty-bound' to have the blooming onion, however and I had forgotten how yummy it was!

It was also fun to go to the movies (though the popcorn was a bit much after dinner) and enjoy a great new chick flick, "It's Complicated". I do admit I enjoy so-called chick flicks, but this one had some true "LOL" moments and I highly recommend it. (our last date night included "Up In The Air" with some other dude from Kentucky and it was great as well, though the ending was a bit of a surprise to us).

So yes, we're a cliché (dinner and a movie) but we had a great time! The closing was 'all in a day's work' but we truly appreciated the gesture. Get out there and enjoy yourself!