Attorney at closing? Absolutely necessary or overkill?

26 Replies

I'm too weeks from closing on a four family house in Delaware county PA (my first property) and my attorney and my agent have conflicting schedules on closing day. I am aware some states require you have an attorney present during closing but Pennsylvania does not. My agent is telling me none of her clients ever bring an attorney to closing and as long as he's reviewed all of my documents prior to closing i don't really need him there. But of course she'd say that, shes trying get this closing over with on closing day at a time convenient for her. I've already paid the attorney a flat fee that pays for him coming to closing. At the same time i don't want to incur more cost by pushing back closing unless its necessary. If my lawyer has reviewed all documentation prior to closing do i need him at closing??? would it be worth it to pay a little more and push closing to a day that works for him or is him being there overkill????

That would be incredibly foolish in my opinion . I’m in pa and I’m sure glad my attorney was there at closing! . Look Your going to be signing a slew of paperwork and some of that may not be in your best interest to just sign off on . you want a careful eye who does this everyday to be right there over seeing what each paper means legally for you and telling the implications of each signature . I would say Don’t take a risk if you don’t need to . There are enough risks in real estate already

Originally posted by @Dennis M. :

That would be incredibly foolish in my opinion . I’m in pa and I’m sure glad my attorney was there at closing! . Look Your going to be signing a slew of paperwork and some of that may not be in your best interest to just sign off on . you want a careful eye who does this everyday to be right there over seeing what each paper means legally for you and telling the implications of each signature . I would say Don’t take a risk if you don’t need to . There are enough risks in real estate already

 thanks for your response! Much appreciated! very helpful!!!

I’d rather my attorney rather than the agent be at closing. The agent has probably been helpful, but at closing, all they really do is collect the check.

That said, in PA, a lawyer isn’t necessary, and most people do closings with a title rep. I haven’t had or needed an attorney (yet) and unless it’s something complicated, most everything should be drawn up before you actually sign.

We dont use attorneys at all in MD/DC/VA, so I dont even see the point of using one at all.

Originally posted by @Mike McCarthy :

I’d rather my attorney rather than the agent be at closing. The agent has probably been helpful, but at closing, all they really do is collect the check.

That said, in PA, a lawyer isn’t necessary, and most people do closings with a title rep. I haven’t had or needed an attorney (yet) and unless it’s something complicated, most everything should be drawn up before you actually sign.

 thanks for input!!

As an agent in PA, I can say that in the past few years I have only had two closings where an attorney was present, it's a very rare occurrence in PA outside commercial deals. One was because the buyer had multiple family members who were attorneys and they were handling title and closing anyway. The second was because the other agent's client was from old money & the lawyer represented the family in all legal matters. Unless there is something particularly unique or complicated about your transaction, it certainly isn't necessary. Could you not incur the additional cost if you moved closing a day or two forward instead of pushing it back?

I would want my attorney at the closing. There are always documents at closing that pop up last minute. Also, a 4 unit building sounds like an important deal and it’s your first deal so I would say reschedule and have him there. If the property is rented he will make sure all the escrows are brought to closing, check on state certs, inspections etc. 

Usually a title company has an attorney there and after a few closings (at least for residential) they’re really all the same, at least to me, so I don’t need an attorney for that.

Maybe if it’s a larger multifamily or definitely if I’m using investors money but no other reason. Attorneys are expensive.

@Carlton Wood A lot of good debate here but in my opinion it is very unnecessary to bring an attorney to closing. Reviewing the docs is great for your first deal so you can really learn it but it is a lot of extra expense for something that is very regulated and often very routine. If something is weird about a deal like a tax lien or something to that effect than an attorney is absolutely needed, but often title companies are more than capable of handling any issues. A lot of title companies I have come across actually hire attorneys as their closing agents so you get everything for the price of your title insurance. 

Originally posted by @Dennis M. :

That would be incredibly foolish in my opinion . I’m in pa and I’m sure glad my attorney was there at closing! . Look Your going to be signing a slew of paperwork and some of that may not be in your best interest to just sign off on . you want a careful eye who does this everyday to be right there over seeing what each paper means legally for you and telling the implications of each signature . I would say Don’t take a risk if you don’t need to . There are enough risks in real estate already

that sure would make for a long closing... if you had to have an attorney review each doc in real time .. ESH.

Its regional though out West NO attorney goes to a closing unless its some 100 million dollar deal or something.

and we NEVER have the buyer and seller at the same time and NO one cuts checks on the spot .. its usually a two or three day process.

buyer goes in and signs loan docs have to go back to the bank for review before they will fund.. bank funds the next day.

they wont release the funds until they get their recording numbers.. once that happens its too late to wire.. and NO one does checks its all wires.. they will then courier their checks to the brokers offices and wire sellers there proceeds..

I don't know how you guys do it when you try to cram all that into one closing.. and I would NEVER accept a paper check for sellers proceeds from an attorney firm.. it always has to be wired.. I want my funds good the minute they hit my account.

but that all said you attorney should get a copy of the closings docs review them in his office give you the go ahead you go in and sign..

I know one issue is every thing these days is so last minute and the East coast closings attorneys are making changes to the HUDs during the closings  its quite foreign to how we do things.  I close a bunch in PA probably 150 plus deals in the last few years never once went to a closing..  nor do I want to.

Originally posted by @Carlton Wood :

I'm too weeks from closing on a four family house in Delaware county PA (my first property) and my attorney and my agent have conflicting schedules on closing day. I am aware some states require you have an attorney present during closing but Pennsylvania does not. My agent is telling me none of her clients ever bring an attorney to closing and as long as he's reviewed all of my documents prior to closing i don't really need him there. But of course she'd say that, shes trying get this closing over with on closing day at a time convenient for her. I've already paid the attorney a flat fee that pays for him coming to closing. At the same time i don't want to incur more cost by pushing back closing unless its necessary. If my lawyer has reviewed all documentation prior to closing do i need him at closing??? would it be worth it to pay a little more and push closing to a day that works for him or is him being there overkill????

 In all my years, never had an attorney at closing, except a couple of times in Texas with some really complex seller financing, but then that was the seller's attorney, not mine. Why don't you have Escrow or whomever is doing the closing send you a copy of all of the paperwork and you can sit with the attorney before you need to sign. I agree with your agent. Have your attorney review the paperwork, ask the attorney your questions, resolve any items needing resolving, and take a deep breath, sit back and relax.

Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :
Originally posted by @Dennis M.:

That would be incredibly foolish in my opinion . I’m in pa and I’m sure glad my attorney was there at closing! . Look Your going to be signing a slew of paperwork and some of that may not be in your best interest to just sign off on . you want a careful eye who does this everyday to be right there over seeing what each paper means legally for you and telling the implications of each signature . I would say Don’t take a risk if you don’t need to . There are enough risks in real estate already

that sure would make for a long closing... if you had to have an attorney review each doc in real time .. ESH.

Even here in Illinois - where an attorney is REQUIRED - an experienced RE attorney knows how to blast through the docs. IE, "Ok, so these 30 pages are all standard forms you don't need to worry about, initial here, sign there, etc. This says you'll pay $x/mo, this says you won't run a meth lab on the property."  The CD gets looked at hard, deed and survey is reviewed hard, and we go home. Usually takes longer for funding to hit than to review the docs. But I have been with others who go through every single page like its their first time seeing these forms, and that's easily a 2+ hour ordeal.

Best transactions are when seller has already signed everything via their POA and the buyer's atty has POA to sign everything as well. No point in even showing up.

Originally posted by @Matthew Olszak :
Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs:
Originally posted by @Dennis M.:

That would be incredibly foolish in my opinion . I’m in pa and I’m sure glad my attorney was there at closing! . Look Your going to be signing a slew of paperwork and some of that may not be in your best interest to just sign off on . you want a careful eye who does this everyday to be right there over seeing what each paper means legally for you and telling the implications of each signature . I would say Don’t take a risk if you don’t need to . There are enough risks in real estate already

that sure would make for a long closing... if you had to have an attorney review each doc in real time .. ESH.

Even here in Illinois - where an attorney is REQUIRED - an experienced RE attorney knows how to blast through the docs. IE, "Ok, so these 30 pages are all standard forms you don't need to worry about, initial here, sign there, etc. This says you'll pay $x/mo, this says you won't run a meth lab on the property."  The CD gets looked at hard, deed and survey is reviewed hard, and we go home. Usually takes longer for funding to hit than to review the docs. But I have been with others who go through every single page like its their first time seeing these forms, and that's easily a 2+ hour ordeal.

Best transactions are when seller has already signed everything via their POA and the buyer's atty has POA to sign everything as well. No point in even showing up.

YUP  I dont give POAs as a general rule i want to sign my own docs I dont trust the attorneys that much LOL.. but i hear ya.

we dont do the POA thing out our way.. docs are done and reveiwed well ahead of closing so any changes need to be made they get made

Like with my new home communites i am buidling.. I go in day one and signed 23 deeds... thats the only thing that needs notarizing the rest of my docs are docusign.. and done.. LIke i am in Vegas this month and closed 5 deals today all docusign other than the deeds. and now some states are electronically filing the deeds so just run out get notary at local affiliate title company come back home sign the huds and settlement statements and scan and return.  all done.. NOw to be fair we always pay cash so no loans.. 

and sometimes i have to get the FHA amendatory clause signed in wet ink..

but for my Oregon stuff Deeds all pre signed sitting in the files at WFG  ready to fill in buyers name  :)

I cut certified check to my attorney at closing he distributed it out to the sellers mortgager the city the tax man his fees and various other entities to back bills that need paid up  . He writes up the sellers agreement he goes back and fourth with the sellers attorney on who splits or pays what he does many things I wouldn’t know and confirms the sellers attorney isn’t having me sign stuff that could get me into trouble . Maybe you pros can easily weed through a closing alone and do great without out one but starting out from scratch like this fella it sure wouldn’t hurt especially since he stated that it’s already paid for . If he already paid the attorney to come and it’s his first deal it only makes sense 

Originally posted by @Gregory Hiban :

As an agent in PA, I can say that in the past few years I have only had two closings where an attorney was present, it's a very rare occurrence in PA outside commercial deals. One was because the buyer had multiple family members who were attorneys and they were handling title and closing anyway. The second was because the other agent's client was from old money & the lawyer represented the family in all legal matters. Unless there is something particularly unique or complicated about your transaction, it certainly isn't necessary. Could you not incur the additional cost if you moved closing a day or two forward instead of pushing it back?

 if i pushed it back a couple days it would incur some cost as closing is at the end of the month and on a Friday. wondering if its worth the extra costs to have lawyer there

Originally posted by @Amanda Sokol :

I would want my attorney at the closing. There are always documents at closing that pop up last minute. Also, a 4 unit building sounds like an important deal and it’s your first deal so I would say reschedule and have him there. If the property is rented he will make sure all the escrows are brought to closing, check on state certs, inspections etc. 

 thanks for your input!

Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :
Originally posted by @Dennis M.:

That would be incredibly foolish in my opinion . I’m in pa and I’m sure glad my attorney was there at closing! . Look Your going to be signing a slew of paperwork and some of that may not be in your best interest to just sign off on . you want a careful eye who does this everyday to be right there over seeing what each paper means legally for you and telling the implications of each signature . I would say Don’t take a risk if you don’t need to . There are enough risks in real estate already

that sure would make for a long closing... if you had to have an attorney review each doc in real time .. ESH.

Its regional though out West NO attorney goes to a closing unless its some 100 million dollar deal or something.

and we NEVER have the buyer and seller at the same time and NO one cuts checks on the spot .. its usually a two or three day process.

buyer goes in and signs loan docs have to go back to the bank for review before they will fund.. bank funds the next day.

they wont release the funds until they get their recording numbers.. once that happens its too late to wire.. and NO one does checks its all wires.. they will then courier their checks to the brokers offices and wire sellers there proceeds..

I don't know how you guys do it when you try to cram all that into one closing.. and I would NEVER accept a paper check for sellers proceeds from an attorney firm.. it always has to be wired.. I want my funds good the minute they hit my account.

but that all said you attorney should get a copy of the closings docs review them in his office give you the go ahead you go in and sign..

I know one issue is every thing these days is so last minute and the East coast closings attorneys are making changes to the HUDs during the closings  its quite foreign to how we do things.  I close a bunch in PA probably 150 plus deals in the last few years never once went to a closing..  nor do I want to.

 thanks for taking the time to respond! very helpful! BTW enjoyed your podcast!!

@Carlton Wood - in my state the agent does nothing at closing.  But in my state an attorney is required.  So the client and the attorney dictate the schedule and if the agent can't make it, no big deal 

A friend once compared closings of commercial transactions to jazz performances, where everyone is playing around the same theme and improvising where needed, but also where a few select players have opportunities to launch into solos.  An attorney (an ego-driven profession, if ever there was one) will frequently want his or her own solo at a closing regardless of whether that solo is necessary to complete the group performance. If the attorney has something to offer, the solo is worthwhile. Otherwise, it can be a distraction.

As with solos in good jazz, there is no hard and fast rule as to whether you need an attorney's "solo" for every single performance. If the facts and situation call for it, get an attorney into the closing room. It's all about anticipating what can happen before the transaction is finalized.

@Carlton Wood @Dennis M. @Mike McCarthy

In Pennsylvania, there are title companies that lawyers own and title companies that non-lawyers own. There are some differences. For example, insurance rates for lawyer-owned companies are lower than non-lawyer companies. Some lawyer-owned companies, however, may charge you some fee as "attorney review" fee (or something like that) if you are not a client.  

So one possible strategy is to work with a lawyer that also owns a title company. You might pay a bit more but most of them won't charge as much since they are already getting profit from the sale as the title agent. 

For lawyers, there are some ethical issues to worry about here under such arrangement. But that's not really your problem as the client/customer. 

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it for legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.

@Carlton Wood

As you can see, opinions on this vary quite a bit. If I was new to closings, I'd probably want my attorney there more than I would want my RE agent there. Most of the closings I've been at happened in a state that used closing attorneys rather than title companies, though, so maybe that's just more of the norm for me. It's not the case for PA.

As far as incurring additional cost to have both the attorney and agent there, I really think it's going to come down to your comfort level. Is the additional cost worth the comfort you would gain from having them both there? Or, are you ok making the decision to have the attorney review the important docs beforehand rather than being at the closing? Does the attorney feel confident about that scenario?

Originally posted by @Justin Windham :

@Carlton Wood

As you can see, opinions on this vary quite a bit. If I was new to closings, I'd probably want my attorney there more than I would want my RE agent there. Most of the closings I've been at happened in a state that used closing attorneys rather than title companies, though, so maybe that's just more of the norm for me. It's not the case for PA.

As far as incurring additional cost to have both the attorney and agent there, I really think it's going to come down to your comfort level. Is the additional cost worth the comfort you would gain from having them both there? Or, are you ok making the decision to have the attorney review the important docs beforehand rather than being at the closing? Does the attorney feel confident about that scenario?

 makes sense! Thanks!

Congrats on Delco house!  Very rare for an attorney to be at closing in Delco.  More common in Jersey where they have a 3 day attorney review period.  The agreement of sale in PA is very thorough and more standard in PA than in NJ. If you wanted an attorney to look through paperwork ahead of time I would never tell you not to as a realtor but I don't think they are necessary at closing.