I predominantly handle real estate transaction documents, deeds, powers of attorney, deeds of trusts and other transactional matters. I do not handle contested issues.
I practice predominantly residential real estate law. I don’t receive many calls for commercial. That’s a specialized area of real estate law, so I limit my practice to residential matters.
A layman doesn’t understand all the things that need to go into a deed or an earnest money contract. These are serious contracts and they need to be looked at by an attorney to make sure that they have all the elements that are required and ensure its legality.
The first thing you need to do before selling a property is to create an earnest money contract. Then, you take it to the title company and they can do one of two options. The title company can do a complete title search or they can do an abbreviated title search. The abbreviated title search is used to spot possible problems that could cause title issues that would prevent the property from selling without a proper title would take a long time to cure. In Texas, we pass title by reviewing documents that are filed with the county, such as the deed and the deed of trust. It is very important to have those documents complete, including the entire legal description, not just the legal description that is on the tax records. You have to make sure that all names and other information have been spelled correctly and that a lot of time has been taken with these documents. When the title company is satisfied that the sale/transfer will pass a negotiable title, the new deed is guaranteed by the title company.
A title abstract is not used much anymore. The abstract contained every document ever filed in county records regarding the subject property. You can imagine how unmanageable some abstracts are, hundreds and hundreds of pages. These were very expensive because of all the work and expenses required to complete an abstract. Abstracts were supposed to follow the property, but often they didn’t. A home inspection is not required but is strongly recommended. The home inspection can determine whether they are structural condition of the air conditioning, plumbing, heating, electrical and other concerns.
One of the most common issues that hold up real estate transactions is if there is not a proper chain of title. An example of a chain of title would be if the house or the land belonged to your great-grandfather; is there a good title from the great-grandfather to the grandfather? Then, is there a good title, meaning are the deeds conveying the property, to the father correctly filed with the county? Then, a good title to the son? That is a good title. But, if someone didn’t have a probate done at the death of one of those parts of the family, then you don’t have a good title and then you have to contact an attorney to “remove the cloud” from the property.
In my opinion, the standard real estate contract provided by the Houston Realtors Association is the best. They have been fine tuning this document for years. They have every kind of addendum and every kind of attachment that could ever be required on their listings and their sales agreements. However, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your attorney.
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