Unlike many other countries and states the need for an attorney in a residential transaction in Florida is minimal.
A transaction is handled in Florida by the “Title company” who acts as the intermediary between the buyer and seller and has the responsibility of carrying out the necessary diligence to ensure ownership of the land and property is transferred from the seller to the buyer in compliance with the laws.
The choice of the title company is at the sellers discretion, a buyer may request a particular title company but that would have to be agreed contractually.
If you have a title company you would like to use – let your Realtor know who that is otherwise they can suggest one to you.
Title Companies and Law Firms
In Florida, law firms can perform all the same services as title companies, and sometimes they do. Title companies and law firms compete against each other, and as a result law firms are usually competitively priced. However, there are significantly more title companies than there are law firms doing title work doing title work in Florida, so in practice most closings are performed by title companies. Therefore, for the rest of this explanation, whenever I say “title company”, keep in mind that sometimes it may be a law firm instead, doing the exact same work.
Please also note that just because a law firm may be doing title work, it does not necessarily mean that the law firm will actually be serving as legal counsel for either party. Usually, a law firm will answer basic legal questions for anyone in the transaction, but they will still not be representing your interests in a legal counsel capacity unless you specifically hire them and pay them extra to do so. Often, if you are the party choosing who will do the title work (usually the party paying for the title insurance), and you choose a law firm to do the work, then the law firm may agree to represent you legally in the transaction for little or no additional charge. This would not be a conflict of interest for the other party with the title work because title work is not legal representation.
The Title Company
The title company executes the contents of the contract drawn up by the buyer and the seller and follows the details within to the letter with no preference or bias to either party. All instructions to the tile company must be agreed to by both buyer and seller and any changes to the original contract must be submitted via an addendum that is signed by both parties.
The title company is responsible for doing the title search to ensure the property is clear of any title defects or liens, it also is responsible for generating title insurance the seller provides to the buyer to protect the buyer from any future issues with property title for the full value of the property and for the lifetime of ownership.
The title company will create the “closing documents” for each party to sign off on including the necessary deeds to transfer the interest from one owner to the other.
The title company also holds all funding such as the deposit, any transferable documentation and payment in its own escrow account and is responsible for funding the transaction and disbursement of final monies. It registers the final deed information with the county and notifies all parties that the sale has concluded to the terms of the contract and supplies the buyers and the sellers with final paperwork.There are certain circumstances where having an attorney involved may be of benefit but since vacation home sales are pretty straight forward we find it’s not necessary in 95% of the sales we conduct.
What you need
Having an experienced Realtor who understands the FAR / BAR, Bank Addendum’s and New construction contracts and a knowledgeable Title Company who is familiar with the interests of out of state and most importantly international buyers and sellers is all you will require to successfully navigate the documentation of a real estate purchase.
It is however worth noting that there is absolutely no harm in having a Real Estate Attorney look over the documentation who can check through everything for you for a nominal fee. A small price to pay for the professional eye of an expert.
Most title companies are not directly represented by an attorney.