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Real Estate Lawyer Houston, TX

A real estate and closing attorney in Texas can provide valuable legal guidance and representation to those buying or selling property. Some of the critical services that a real estate and closing attorney can provide include:

  • Reviewing and drafting contracts: A real estate attorney can review and draft contracts related to the buying or selling property, including purchase agreements, lease agreements, and other legal documents.
  • Conducting due diligence: A real estate attorney can conduct due diligence on the property to ensure that there are no title defects or other legal issues that could impact the transaction.
  • Representing you at closing: A real estate attorney can represent you after the transaction, ensuring that all legal requirements are met, and the transaction is completed smoothly and efficiently.

When choosing a real estate and closing attorney in Texas, it is essential to look for an attorney with experience in this area of law, who is responsive and communicative, and who has a track record of success in representing clients in real estate transactions. By working with a qualified real estate and closing attorney, you can help protect your legal rights and interests and increase your chances of achieving a successful outcome in your transaction.

Overall, a real estate and closing attorney can provide valuable legal guidance and representation to those buying or selling property in Texas. Whether you are a buyer, seller, or investor, working with our team at Rodney Jones Law Group P.C. can help ensure that your legal needs are met and your transaction is completed smoothly and efficiently.

What is a title examination or abstract?

 A title examination is a study of the records related to the ownership history of the property and sometimes of other matters related to ownership interests in the property.  An abstract of title is a collection of public records about the ownership of a parcel of real estate.  During the examination, a title examiner reviews the applicable title information to determine who owns the lands, whether there are any defects in or claims against the ownership, and whether any action is needed to make sure the purchaser obtains a good record title to the property at closing.

What is title insurance, and why is it needed?

 A title insurance policy ensures the status of the title in the name of the policy’s owner. Title insurance companies issue title insurance policies. The title company contracts with the insured person named in the approach to protect against financial loss related to the title, as well as the cost of defending the title in court. The title company searches and examines documents related to the ownership of and items affecting the property before issuing a policy. It provides a source of indemnification to the named insured if they are damaged by a negligent or destructive title search or examination and also from hidden defects that would not be discovered in a title search. For instance, a title defect resulting from a forgery would not be revealed in an investigation or examination of the public records. Still, it would be covered by the title insurance policy.

Before issuance of the title insurance policy at closing, a title commitment will be prepared. You may or may not be allowed to see this document before closing, but you should make every effort to review it before closing. You should make sure to have your attorney (if you have one) check it as well. While there are many essential parts to a title commitment, at a minimum you should be familiar with the following: (i) Schedule A identifies the type of policy being issued, the names of the proposed insureds and the current owners, and the legal description of the property; and (ii) Schedule B contains a list of items that must be satisfied for the title company to issue the policy of insurance and also contains a list of title matters (called “exceptions”) that will be excluded from coverage, such as statutory real estate taxes and easements for utilities servicing the property unless deleted from the title commitment at the time of closing. If there are objectionable items in the commitment, you need to try to have them removed by the title insurance company before closing.

How should title be held?

Sole Owner. Under this approach, the title is taken in the name of only one individual grantee. It is freely transferable or subject to encumbrance by that grantee, subject to dower and homestead rights described below. Example: John Doe, a single man, grantor, to Jane Smith, a single woman, grantee.

Joint Ownership with Right of Survivorship. The title can be taken in multiple names under this approach. Each joint tenant owns an undivided interest in the entire property. The “survivorship” language means that if one joint tenant dies, that person’s claim is automatically transferred to the remaining joint tenants. Any joint tenant may freely move their fractional interest in the property during their lifetime. Still, any such transfer will terminate the survivorship aspects of the joint survivorship tenancy to the extent of the interest transferred. Equal ownership shares are presumed unless the deed states otherwise. For example, if there are two grantees, each grantee will own a one-half interest unless the act specifies otherwise.
A joint tenancy is created and exists only if four essential characteristics exist: (1) unity of joint ownership and control; (2) the interests held must be the same; (3) the interests must originate in the same instrument; and (4) the interests must commence at the same time. If all or any of these characteristics do not exist, the owners will own the property as tenants in common. Example: John Doe, a single man, grantor, to Able Smith, Jane Baker, and Charles Jones as joint tenants with right of survivorship.

Tenants by the Entirety. The title can be taken as tenants by the entireties only by a validly married husband and wife. This form of ownership does not exist in all states. The words “husband and wife” in the grantee’s name make this choice. If a transfer of this type is attempted, but the grantees are not validly married, or if they become divorced, the title reverts to tenants in common. As tenants by the entirety, neither tenant may transfer their interest to a third party or encumber the property without both parties joining the deed or mortgage. Upon the death of one party, the property automatically becomes the sole property of the surviving spouse. This is a common form of ownership among married couples, except in community property states. In community property states, the husband and wife presumptively acquire the property as community property and hold it as tenants in common or as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. Example: John Doe, a single man, grantor, to John Jones and Jane Jones, husband and wife.

Tenants in Common. Title held as tenants in common, like joint tenants, allows the identification of the entire property to be held in multiple names. Title is also freely transferable or subject to encumbrance (as to the transferring tenant’s interest) by each tenant. However, there is no right of survivorship in the surviving tenants upon one tenant’s death. Also, note that equal percentage ownership is presumed unless the deed specifically states otherwise. For example, unless the deed states otherwise, if there are three grantees, each grantee will own a one-third interest. It is always best to state each co-owner’s percentage ownership interest in the deed to avoid any uncertainty or misunderstandings. Example: John Doe, a single man, grantor, to Jane Smith, Sam Wilson, and Tom Baker, in equal shares as tenants in common. Or John Doe, a single man, grantor, to Jane Smith as to ½ interest, Sam Wilson as to ¼ interest, and Tom Baker as to ¼ claim, as tenants in common.

Title Conveyed in Trust for the Benefit of the Purchasers. Under this approach, legal (record) title is transferred to a trustee (for example, the grantee would be “John Doe, as trustee under agreement dated June 1, 2005”). Care should be taken in using this approach since there are more complex concerns involved.

Special Marital Property Issues. This is one issue where you must find out if the state where the property is located has special rules that will require a different statement of ownership or will automatically grant interests in ownership between spouses. California, Arizona, and Wisconsin are “marital property” or “community property” states, where statutes impact how title is held. The grantee’s interest must be accurately described with terms required by that state’s law.

What is the difference between a General Warranty Deed, Special (Limited) Warranty Deed, and Quit Claim Deed?

General Warranty Deed. A general warranty deed guarantees the grantor’s good title before the conveyance, and that warranty continues after the ride. The usual guarantees or warranties by the seller are good title, freedom from encumbrance other than as specifically identified, and right of possession to the buyer as against all others. The warranty includes any claims arising during or before the grantor’s ownership.

Special (or Limited) Warranty Deed. A special warranty deed sometimes called a limited warranty deed (and some states may have a different name for this form of the act), provides less extensive warranties than the grantee receives from a general warranty deed. Under a special warranty deed, the grantor warrants only against claims arising during the period of the grantor’s ownership but does not warrant against any claims arising before the grantor’s ownership of the property.

Quit Claim Deed. A quit claim deed contains no warranties of any kind. It conveys only the interest, if any, held by the grantor (for example, if the grantor had no claim to say, the quitclaim deed would not vest any ownership in the grantee). The quitclaim deed is not typically used for residential real estate purchase transactions.

What is an escrow and an escrow agent? What does it mean to have funds or documents in escrow?

An escrow agent is typically a third party designated to hold an item (usually funds, but sometimes certain documents, such as a deed and mortgage) for a particular time or until the occurrence of a condition. At this time, the escrow agent will hand over the item to another party. Typically, the escrow agent will be the title company, and the funds and documents they hold include any deposits made under the contract to purchase the property, as well as the deed and the mortgage instruments. In many home purchase contracts, the initial deposit or earnest money will be held by an escrow agent until the closing. In some states, the entire conclusion happens through an escrow agent, with all funds and documents being collected and distributed in the manner required by specific and detailed written escrow instructions.