FAQs

Q. What do I need to bring to settlement?

A. You must bring a valid government-issued identification, such as a driver's license or passport, and a certified or personal check for the funds needed for settlement (see Do I need to have certified funds or a certified check? for an explanation of our settlement funds policy). In addition to these items, you may want to bring copies of other useful documents, such as your Agreement of Sale, including addendums or modifications, your home-inspection report and any disclosures or supporting documents that you have received from your mortgage lender. While it is not necessary to bring these documents, they may be useful, if a question, concern or problem arises at the settlement.

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Q. When will I know the final amount of money I need to bring to settlement?

A. The paralegal will complete the settlement statement as soon as she receives the loan package which could be right before settlement. If a final number is not available prior to settlement, use the good faith estimate provided by your mortgage broker and get a certified check made payable to Ward & Taylor, LLC in that amount. We will either refund any overage or you can write a small personal check for any difference.

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Q. Do I need to have certified funds or a certified check?

A. If the amount you need for settlement is more than $10,000.00 you will need a certified check or a cashier's check (or you may wire transfer the funds to our office prior to your settlement). If the amount you need is less than $10,000.00 you can write a personal check.

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Q. When do I need to obtain a certified check?

A. If the amount of funds you need for settlement is more than $10,000.00 you will need to bring a certified or cashier's check with you to settlement. This means that you will need to allow yourself adequate time to obtain the check from your bank or financial institution prior to coming to settlement. Buying a property can be a complicated and stressful process, so be sure to allow yourself adequate time on the day of, or prior to, settlement to obtain certified funds, if needed.

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Q. What is the difference between Attorney State and Title State?

A. In a Title State, title insurance companies are permitted to prepare documents for and conduct real estate settlements. In an Attorney State, state laws require real estate settlements to be conducted by an Attorney licensed to practice in that state. Generally, these states also have very strict laws regarding the real estate settlement process, including the handling of settlement funds. These laws are designed to protect both the buyer and the seller in the transaction from dishonest settlement agents. [Consider for future use - - - Attorneys may, and often do, conduct real estate settlements in Title States. If you would like to discuss the benefits, including potential cost savings, of having one of our Attorneys conduct your settlement in Pennsylvania [or Maryland], feel free to call our office and ask to be connected to one of our attorneys.]

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Q. What does the attorney's office do for the buyer?

A. The attorney's office provides a number of services. Some of the most important are the following: (a) prepare the HUD-1 settlement statement; (b) prepare the deed which will transfer ownership to the buyer; (c) order a survey and title search for the property; (d) obtain title insurance for the property; (e) pay off all existing liens and/or judgments; (f) help resolve problems.

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Q. Does the buyer's attorney also represent the seller?

A. No. The buyer's attorney only represents the buyer. However, if there are problems prior to settlement the buyer's attorney can work with both parties to resolve any issues. Although usually sellers do not have an attorney for settlement, they can retain an attorney to advise them if they feel it is necessary.

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Q. What is a survey?

A. The survey will show any existing structures on the property, where the property lines are located and if there are any encroachments. If there are any encroachments or zoning violations the attorney will contact you prior to settlement to discuss these issues with you. If you are borrowing money to buy the property, a survey will usually be required by your mortgage company.

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Q. What is a title search?

A. A title search will find any liens or judgments against the property or the buyers and sellers involved in the transaction.

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Q. What is title insurance?

A. Title insurance protects both the lender and the owner of the property from any claims made with regard to the title for the property.

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Q. How much is title insurance for a Pennsyvania settlement?

A. Please follow this link to calculate the cost. PA Rate Calculator

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Q. What is the buyer responsible for?

A. You must contact an insurance company prior to settlement to obtain homeowners insurance for the property you are buying. You should arrange for a pest/termite inspection and a home inspection. If you would like a radon inspection you are responsible for this as well. If you have a realtor, your realtor will arrange for these inspections. You are also responsible for meeting all deadlines stated in the Agreement of Sale. You will also have to contact the electric company to transfer service into you name. The same holds true for phone, cable and any other utilities.

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Q. What can I do to assist in the settlement process?

A. One of the most important things you can do is fill out the buyer's information sheet that you receive from our office and return it to us as soon as possible. Providing any necessary information to your lender, real estate agent or the attorney's office in a prompt manner will go a long way in making the settlement process go as smooth as possible.

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Q. Who do I call for homeowner's insurance?

A. You have the choice of calling any insurance company or broker to obtain your homeowner's insurance. You may want to call around and get several quotes before you decide what company to choose. If you do not have an agent, contact us and we will be happy to recommend someone.

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Q. When do I do my walk through inspection?

A. Typically, the walkthrough inspection is completed a day or two before settlement. The purpose is to make sure the house is in the same condition at settlement as it was when the contract was signed. The seller does not need to have the house empty for the walkthrough.

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Q. When am I a first time buyer for transfer tax purposes?

A. In the City of Wilmington, you are a first time buyer eligible for the exemption if you have not purchased a residence in the City in the last three years. In unincorporated New Castle County, you can never have owned residential property anywhere (including other states or foreign countries) to qualify for the exemption. The exemption is not available for properties in the City of Newark, the City of New Castle, the Town of Middletown, the Town of Newport, the Town of Elsmere, the Town of Odessa and the Town of Smyrna.

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Q. Who is my contact person in your office and how do I contact them?

A. The paralegal assigned to your file is your contact person. The initial letter we sent you lists the paralegal and all the contact information. If you do not have that, you can call our office at 302 225 3350 and they can look up who it is and give you the direct telephone and fax line and email address. Also, you can get the information through the ExpressInfo link on our web site.

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Q. How do I schedule the date and time for my settlement?

A. Contact the paralegal assigned to your file.

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Q. What are your office hours?

A. Generally from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. However, we can schedule to meet before or after those hours by making special arrangements. We will try to be flexible to meet your needs.

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Q. Where can I find directions to your office in Wilmington? Middletown? Dover?

A. You can get directions on our web site by clicking Settlement Locations and then Get Directions. This will link you to Map Quest.

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Q. Will you accept a check from an out-of-state attorney or title company?

A. No. However, if you contact our office before settlement we can give you our wiring instructions and you can have the money wired into our account.

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Q. Can my funds due at closing be wired to your office?

A. Yes. Contact our office prior to settlement and we will give you the necessary wiring instructions.

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Q. Can your office wire funds from the sale or refinance of my home into my account?

A. Yes, our office can wire funds from your sale or refinance into your account or another account designated by you (such as a settlement attorney's account in another state). If you would like us to wire your funds, you must contact the financial institution at which the account is located and obtain written wire transfer instructions. Unfortunately, simply bringing a voided check from the subject account to settlement is not sufficient, due to certain federal regulations and the requirements of most financial institutions. If you have any questions about the wire transfer of your funds, please contact your paralegal.

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Q. When should I be talking to my Paralegal?

A. Anytime you have a question about your settlement you can call your paralegal. If he/she cannot answer your question(s) they will direct to the appropriate person.

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Q. What happens if I have a problem with my survey?

A. An attorney will review your survey prior to settlement. If there are any issues the attorney will call you to discuss the problem and let you know what options are available.

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Q.When should I know how much money I will need to close?

A. In most instances, we will be able to provide you with a final settlement figure 24 to 48 hours prior to your settlement. Unfortunately, our ability to provide you with a final settlement figure is dependent upon receiving information from several other outside sources, such as homeowners' associations, tax assessment offices, cities and towns (for properties with municipal water or utility service), oil companies (for properties with oil heat and/or hot water), realtors and mortgage lenders, just to name a few. Settlement figures are subject to change up to the moment of settlement. If you receive a final figure, you should always bring your personal checkbook to settlement, just to cover any incidental changes that arise at, or prior to, settlement. If your settlement figure decreases and you have already obtained or written your check, we will provide you with a refund of any excess amounts at settlement. If you are not able to obtain a final settlement figure prior to settlement, you should use the Good Faith Estimate of Closing Costs obtained from your mortgage lender as a guide and be prepared to provide a personal check for any shortfall, or receive a refund for any excess funds, at settlement.

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Q. Does the firm accept cash? Debit or credit cards?

A. While we do accept cash, we suggest that you bring a certified or cashier's check (or wire transfer your funds prior to closing) for amounts over $10,000.00 or a personal check for lesser amounts. If you bring cash we may have to provide you with change in the form of a check. Additionally, we are required by federal regulations to report certain cash transactions to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Unfortunately, we are not able to accept payment for settlement by debit or credit cards.

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Q. Who do I make the check payable to?

A. All checks should be made payable to Ward & Taylor, LLC.

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Q. What happens if I have a problem with my home inspection?

A. If you have a problem with your home inspection, you should discuss the problem with your realtor immediately. If you would also like to discuss the problem and your options with one of our attorneys, you should call our office and ask to be connected to one of our attorneys. In most instances, home inspection problems may involve significant legal issues which should be addressed by an attorney and not by a paralegal.

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Q. What happens if I have a problem with my final walk through?

A. If you have a problem with your final walk through, you should discuss the problem with your realtor immediately. If you would also like to discuss the problem and your options with one of our attorneys, you should call our office and ask to be connected to one of our attorneys. In most instances, such problems may involve significant legal issues which should be addressed by an attorney and not by a paralegal.

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Q. I just bought my home and I have a problem, what should I do?

A. Generally speaking, when you purchase an existing home, you are buying it in its "as is" condition, meaning the condition the property was in at the time that you signed the Agreement of Sale, subject to any promises made by the Seller in the contract or supporting documents. If the problem is a condition that the Seller agreed to fix in the contract, the Seller is clearly responsible. In addition, in Delaware, the Seller has the obligation under State law to accurately complete the Seller's Disclosure Form and also must disclose hidden defects that would not be found out in a normal inspection of the property.

Therefore, the first thing you should do is look at the Seller's Disclosure Form and see if the problem which you are experiencing was disclosed by the Seller. If it was fully disclosed you will probably not have a recourse against the Seller. However, if the defect was not fully disclosed in the Disclosure Form, and it is a condition which the Seller knew or should have known about based upon the surrounding circumstances, the Seller may have committed fraud by failing to disclose a known defect and the Seller should be responsible for the cost to correct it.

Next, you should contact a licensed contractor to evaluate the condition and provide a written proposal to correct the problem. You may want to get more than one estimate. Be sure that the person you talk with will be willing to go to court and testify on your behalf if necessary. I recommend that you get the estimates right away so that we know how much we are fighting over. That will dictate what tactic should be used. You would handle a $500.00 problem differently from a $5,000.00 problem.

After the contractor has discovered the nature of the problem, you need to ascertain from the contractor whether or not this condition is something that the previous owner of the property had to be aware of. This is usually determined by the kind of problem, the physical evidence surrounding that problem, and common sense. For instance, rotten wood and water stains could be signs that a roof leaked for a long time. In one instance, the contractor found a pan in the attic placed by the Seller to collect leaking water. Clearly the Seller was aware of the problem and fraudulently failed to disclose. If the problem is of such a nature that the Seller would not have been aware of it, you will probably not be successful against the Seller because there was no fraud. Therefore, the surrounding circumstances are important.

After you have determined the cost of correcting the problem, you must decide what course of action to take. Attorney's fees in litigation can be expensive. It would not make sense to hire an attorney to go to court to fight over a $500.00 problem. The attorney's fees could exceed the amount you are hoping to collect. In this instance, you could proceed to the Justice of the Peace Court and represent yourself. The filing fee is $30.00 and either party has the right to appeal the decision to Court of Common Pleas. You could follow this course of action for any claim up to $15,000.00. If you lose, if your claim is substantial, I recommend that an attorney be obtained. However, in Delaware, attorney's fees are generally not awarded, and you will have to pay for your own lawyer.

After you have obtained the estimates and have a good understanding of the facts surrounding the problem, contact us so that we can discuss the proper course of action. I recommend that you not delay this process. The sooner you initiate action after discovery of the problem the more validity your claim will have. Also, the statute of limitations will bar you from bringing a claim more than two years after your purchase of the property or the discovery of the fraud.

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Q. Can your attorneys assist me with a Will or estate planning?

A. Yes. Ward & Taylor, LLC provides a variety of legal services, including the preparation of wills, powers of attorney and advanced care directives. If you have questions about the services we offer, you should contact our office and ask to be connected to an attorney.

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Q. Can your attorneys assist me in setting up an LLC or corporation?

A. Yes. Call an attorney in our office to schedule a meeting to discuss your needs and then we can quickly and easily form the entity best for your circumstances.

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