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Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer to Sell My House in South Carolina?

Posted by Hopkins Law Firm | Jul 19, 2022 | 0 Comments

South Carolina is one of 22 states in the US that legally require an attorney to supervise real estate closings. Furthermore, South Carolina is one of only a select few states where the attorney must be physically present at the closing. Typically, the buyer is typically the party responsible for hiring the closing attorney. However, as the seller, you're welcome to hire your own South Carolina real estate closing attorney, and may want to do so if you're dealing with a sizable real estate deal.

South Carolina's Real Estate Closing Process

The Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Pawleys Island market is appealing to full-time and part-time residents, as well as commercial ventures. If you have purchased property in other states, do not assume that your experience in South Carolina will be identical. (Real estate law varies from state to state.) For example, South Carolina does not require a full home inspection but does insist on a termite inspection.

And, unlike most states, a lawyer must oversee all real estate closings in South Carolina. According to South Carolina law, a lawyer must help the buyer and seller:

  • Resolve any title issues (such as liens, judgments, unpaid taxes, or mortgage debts),
  • Detail any easements and right-of-ways that allow others access to the property,
  • Sign a series of documents (required by state law),
  • File these documents with the appropriate governmental entity, and
  • Make payments in compliance with the purchase agreement.

This is not a simple process. Thankfully, an experienced real estate lawyer will ensure that all steps are properly completed – protecting your financial and legal interests.

Responsibility Of South Carolina Real Estate Owner Selling Property

While you may think selling a home is mostly waiting on the right buyer to come along, you are legally responsible for a few things. State law in South Carolina (South Carolina Code Section 27-50-40) mandates the seller to provide a disclosure of the property. You'll have to truthfully describe the characteristics and conditions of the home as you know them, including:

  • If the home was used as a rental
  • Any issues with the electrical or plumbing systems, foundation, or roof
  • Problems with the HVAC or water system
  • Infestations of termites, ants, or other pests
  • Presence of asbestos
  • Nuisances from noise and odors
  • Use of hazardous materials like methane, radon gas, or underground storage tanks
  • Regulations required by the community's HOA

The South Carolina Real Estate Commission offers a Residential Property Condition Disclosure Statement form that must be used to note all disclosures.

The seller who provides disclosure information they know “to be false, incomplete, or misleading is liable for actual damages proximately caused to the purchaser and court costs. The court may award reasonable attorney fees incurred by the prevailing party,” according the South Carolina state law.

Being honest on the disclosure also saves you problems in the future. When you list known issues, the buyer cannot return months later and demand repairs or money for a problem your previously revealed.

Who Attends South Carolina Residential Real Estate Closings?

Of course, the Buyer and Seller are present at closing unless documents have been signed remotely or in advance. The Buyer and Seller will review and sign documents separately. Note, if husband and wife own property jointly titled in both their names, then they will both need to be present at closing. The realtors often choose to be present at closing, and occasionally loan officers will also attend.

What do I Need to Bring to Closing?

You will need two forms of current identification — typically this is a driver's license and a social security card. You may also bring other forms of government issued ID like a passport, military ID, voter's registration, etc. The buyer will bring any necessary money to close in the form of certified funds. The seller will also need to bring the keys to the property!

Real Estate Closing Attorney's Fees

A South Carolina real estate closing attorney typically charges a flat fee for conducting the closing. In most cases, the fee is several hundred dollars, and in some situations, it may be over $1,000. Many real estate clients only see the real estate closing attorney at the closing itself and may wonder why these fees are in place. However, there is quite a bit of work that closing attorneys must do to prepare for the closing and ensure that the property is being properly transferred from the sellers to the buyers.

First, the closing attorney will conduct a title search to check the status of the property. The title search will confirm that the seller has full ownership of the property and is in a position to transfer it to the buyer. The title search will also show if there are any easements, encroachments, or other restrictions on the property. The attorney will also prepare an opinion on the title that is presented to a title company. This document will be used in the event that the buyer wants to purchase title insurance.

After The Closing

A closing attorney's work does not end when the parties leave the office. After the closing has been completed, the closing attorney will update the title to the property on local registry of deed websites and will record the deed and mortgage (if there is one). In addition, the closing attorney is responsible for disbursing fees, including brokerage fees, taxes, loan payoff amounts, seller proceeds, insurance premiums, and inspection fees.

After the transaction has been completed, if any issues arise with the transfer of the property, the closing attorney may be consulted if necessary to help resolve the issue.

The closing attorney does not simply sit with the parties at the closing and have them sign documents. The closing attorney's guidance is a necessity to ensure the transition of ownership goes smoothly and that the parties understand the legal requirements of the deal.

Contact a South Carolina Real Estate Lawyer

The South Carolina real estate lawyers at the Hopkins Law Firm are experienced in a variety of real estate transactions, including residential, commercial, refinancing, and equity loan matters. If you're considering buying or selling real estate in South Carolina or are already negotiating a contract we'd love to help you close on your transactions. To schedule a closing with our real estate lawyers, call (843) 314-4202 or contact us online today.

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