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How to Handle Mail Away Real Estate Closings in Florida

How to Handle Mail Away Real Estate Closings in Florida

In this article, we’ll break down:

If you’re looking to purchase real estate in Florida, but you are unable or prefer not to physically attend the closing, then you can close your transaction remotely by way of a mail-away real estate closing.

In this arrangement, the closing agent will send the closing documents to you via overnight mail delivery, fax, or email. Then, it is your job to read the forms, execute them, have them notarized, and then send them back to your closing agent to complete the transaction.

Since buying real estate is often the largest transaction most of us will make, a buyer and seller should educate themselves by learning how the process works, the legal requirements for executing the paperwork, the post-closing requirements, and the various options for notarization.

Florida Real Estate Closings In a Nutshell

Once you have identified the property you want to buy, signed a contract, arranged financing, conducted inspections, obtain homeowner’s insurance, and your real estate attorney or title company determined the title is marketable, you can proceed to closing the deal.

Benefits of a Mail Away Closing

In a traditional in-person closing, the buyer, the buyer’s agent/broker, the buyer’s attorney, the seller, the seller’s agent/broker, the seller’s attorney, and a notary, will all be in the same room at the same time when closing a property transaction. Getting all these parties together is not always easy.

This isn’t the case for mail-away closings.

Buyers and sellers don’t need to be present at the closing site. The paperwork will be sent to them for execution and returned to the closing agent or their attorney.

This arrangement is ideal when the buyer or seller is in a different part of the state, outside of the state or country, or when the parties involved have conflicting schedules that make it difficult to get everyone in the same place at the same time. Mail-away closings prevent delays, which, in turn, will speed up the closing process.

Closing Documentation

Closing will be the final step in the purchase and sale of real estate. It is the point at which the title will be transferred from the seller to the buyer, the funds are transferred from the buyer to the seller, and the buyer receives the keys.

Here are the common documents required to effectuate the sale of real estate in Florida when there is a cash transaction:

  • Deed: A Florida deed documents the property’s ownership transfer (conveyance) from the seller to the new owner. After closing, the deed will be recorded in the public records for the county where the property is located. A deed will take one of many forms, including these common forms:
    • Warranty Deed: A deed that makes warranties about the title and the conveyance of the property to the buyer.
    • Quit Claim: A deed without any warranty (“As-Is” – The seller simply transfers whatever interest he or she may have in the property to the buyer).
    • Personal Representative Deed: A deed that transfers real property belonging to a deceased individual or probate estate to its new owner.
  • Bill of Sale: A legal instrument that transfers personal property included in a real estate transaction to the buyer (e.g., microwave, fans, pool equipment, refrigerator, washer and dryer, etc.).
  • Owner’s Affidavit: A sworn statement that states the seller’s belief that the information they’ve provided about their property is true and accurate.
  • Affidavit of Continuous Marriage: An affidavit confirming that the owners purchased a property during their marriage and that they’re still married as of the date of the sale (or date of death of one of the spouses).
  • Affidavit of Non-Identity: A sworn statement confirming that a buyer and seller with similar names is not the same person involved in the current transaction—commonly used when there is a recorded judgment in the public records.

Steps to a Successful Mail Away Real Estate Closing

estate agent inviting couple to enter house for visit

Closing is a critical time in any real estate transaction. Many legal issues can arise if the process isn’t handled properly, particularly where mail-away closings are concerned.

Here’s an overview of the critical steps to ensure a successful closing.

Selecting a Title Company or Attorney

While some states require buyers and sellers to use an attorney in real estate transactions, Florida law gives both parties leeway to use a title company or closing attorney to handle the settlement.

The most common reasons real estate transactions fail to conclude is that the parties involved disagree about certain terms of the contract or, in other instances, issues with the title arise that cannot easily be resolved without a lawyer.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using a title company to handle the closing, leveraging the skills and expertise of an experienced attorney can save both parties time and money in post-closing legal complications. They would be able to spot issues early on in the process, which, if not resolved in good time, can kill the deal.

Regardless of the route a buyer or seller takes in a real estate closing, due diligence is key. Ensure the attorney or the title company you choose to work with has real experience handling real estate closing, particularly the mail-away kind.

Note: A prudent buyer will have a real estate attorney oversee the transaction on his or her behalf, which includes reviewing the seller documents and title work, to ensure the title is clear and marketable and the buyer receives what he or she has bargained for in the contract.

Read: 19 Reasons To Hire a Real Estate Lawyer When Buying or Selling Florida Real Estate

Preparing, Reviewing, and Executing the Closing Documents

The closing agent, title company, or attorney will prepare the closing documents and send them to the party that could not be present at the closing. Upon receipt, the individual is then required to review them to identify and query any issues they might not agree with. Once they’re satisfied with the contents of the documents, the next step is to execute them.

Facilitating Remote Notarization

To execute the closing documents, the buyer/seller must sign and initial all the forms in the presence of a notary in-person or online via remote notarization. The notary will then notarize the necessary documents and obtain the property identification to facilitate the notarization.

Once done, the buyer/seller will send the closing documents back to the closer, who will then complete the closing just as they would have, had the individual been physically present at their office.

The notary used for facilitating the in-person or remote online notarization must be certified and have an active notary. If their notary has lapsed, the executed documents won’t be valid.

Coordinating the Delivery of Funds, Keys, Clickers, and Key Fobs

Once the closing attorney or title company receives the executed closing documents, they will review them to ensure everything is in good order. If they are, the closing agent will disburse the sale proceeds to the seller, facilitate the delivery of the keys to the buyer, and then record the deed.

In a mail-away closing, the seller doesn’t hand the keys directly to the buyer. Instead, the closing agent or real estate agent will deliver keys, clickers, and key fobs to the new property owner once the seller confirms receipt of the funds.

Recording of Documents

After the closing, the closing attorney will forward the deed, affidavits, and the mortgage, if any, to the county recording office where the property is located for official recording. The recording office will then provide the deed and mortgage recording information, including the instrument number for the recorded document.

Issuing the Owner’s Title Insurance Policy

Once the closing agent has received the recording information from the county office, they will issue the buyer an Owner’s Title Insurance Policy. The new homeowner, or their attorney, should then review this title policy and compare it to their title insurance commitment to ensure no new exclusions were added to the policy.

This final step marks the conclusion of a mail-away real estate closing in Florida.

Note: Real estate taxes in Florida are paid in arrears. This means they won’t be assessed until November of the year they are due. At closing, the amount payable will be prorated based on the amount that was due the previous year.

Legal Issues and Documents to Know About When Buying, Selling and Closing on Real Estate in Florida

Due diligence varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Different states have unique laws that affect real estate transactions. Here are some important issues and documents to be aware of when buying, selling, and closing on real estate in Florida.

Title Search and Municipal Lien Search

Buyers purchasing property in Florida usually need to conduct two main types of searches: A title search and a municipal lien search. Both searches will provide information associated with a property or an individual. The difference between the two comes down to the specific details you will check.

A municipal search reveals information related to county or city liens, violations, and any unpaid assessments or fines against the property.

A title search reveals any clouds on the title that would prevent the transfer of marketable title to the property. Outstanding real estate tax information will be provided with this type of search.

If a buyer purchases a single-family home, they will want a survey prepared that outlines the boundaries of the property and will show things like encroachments and easements.

Everyone buying improved real estate in Florida should hire a licensed inspector to perform an inspection during the due diligence period.

Seller Disclosure Form and Property Inspections

Florida law requires residential sellers to disclose any material defects or known conditions about the property. That way, prospective buyers can make an informed decision as to whether or not to proceed with their purchase.

Sellers will normally allow buyers to conduct an inspection to ascertain the property’s condition. However, the seller will not be obligated to get a home inspector to point out issues they may not be aware of until then. This responsibility falls squarely on the buyer’s shoulders.

It is critical to include a seller disclosure form as part of a residential purchase and sale contract. This form is a question-and-answer document in which the seller will disclose conditions known to them, like electrical issues, the presence of mold, roofing issues, flooding, etc.

Contracts and Addendums

Real estate agents normally use a “standardized” purchase and sale contract to consummate a real estate transaction. The most popular contract forms are endorsed by the Florida Bar Association and various Florida Realtor associations.

While these lengthy legal documents can include terms like the property is being sold as-is, and have addendums related to issues like the property is a condominium or HOA and subject to the rules and regulations thereunder, a real estate agent can modify sum terms to favor one party over the other.

Before executing the contract, all parties should ensure they read the terms and write in an addendum if additional terms or revisions need to be incorporated.

Complying With Bank Loan Requirements

Mortgage lenders are, by law, required to provide buyers with the precise amount of money required to close a real estate transaction at least three days before the closing date. This will be done through a form known as the Closing Disclosure and provided to buyers to help them understand all the costs involved in the purchase.

The Closing Disclosure will provide information on the bank loan amount disbursed, monthly installments, interest rate, associated closing costs, and everything required for prospective property buyers to comply with bank loan requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a mail-away real estate closing?

A mail-away closing is a property closing option that doesn’t require the buyer or the seller to be physically present at the conclusion of a real estate transaction. The closing agent will send the closing documents to one or more parties for execution via mail delivery, fax, or email, for execution. The buyer and/or seller then sign the documents and will have them notarized before sending them back to the closing agent.

Is remote notarization valid in Florida?

Yes, it is. Effective January 1, 2019, notaries can notarize documents for signers remotely, provided they are both located in the same state at the time of the notarization.

Do I need an attorney for a mail-away closing?

Florida law doesn’t make hiring an attorney mandatory for the parties involved in a real estate transaction. That said, it would be in your best interest to retain a lawyer to review the contract (before signing), review the title work (title commitment and title policy), and the closing documents to protect your rights and ensure a smooth and efficient transaction.

How long does a mail-away closing typically take?

In most cases, the closing documents will be sent to the respective parties a few days before the closing date. The actual time it will take to execute the documents and complete the sale or purchase varies and can be anywhere from 2-3 days, depending on the specifics of the transaction.

Who pays for a special assessment when buying a condominium?

Most real estate contracts will have two options for who pays a special assessment. This is a negotiated term. For example, the contract will allow the parties to select that the seller pays any amount due before the closing date, and the buyer will be responsible for all amounts due after the closing date.

How do I conduct a pre-closing walk-through if I am out of state?

Some buyers have their real estate agent attend the walk-through on their behalf.

What are the potential risks or drawbacks of mail-away closings?

Mail-away closings done via email or signing software can be challenging for non-tech-savvy buyers and sellers. There’s also the tendency to rush through the closing process without thoroughly reviewing the documentation.

Get a Free Case Evaluation – Call (954) 458-8655 to Speak With a Home Closing Lawyer

Contact Larry to find out how he can help you. You can contact him by phone at 954-458-8655 or by e-mail through this website to schedule an appointment and learn more about Florida Real Estate Closings. He offers a free initial consultation.

Want to Know More?

To learn more from Larry and to see all of the real estate matters he can help with, read his Real Estate Lawyer page.

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