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Getting Professional Help with the Home Closing Process: An Interview with Aman Barber III of East Penn Abstract, LLC

Tell us a little bit about your experience, firm's history, and the areas of law that you practice.

I have been practicing law since 1993 when I graduated from Villanova University School of Law. In 2008 I started my own law firm, Fiore & Barber, LLC, located in Harleysville and the Lehigh Valley. At the same time, I started East Penn Abstract, LLC, a title insurance agency.

On the legal side, I represent individual and business clients throughout Pennsylvania in real estate matters, contracts, commercial litigation, estate planning and administration, and personal injury matters. My firm handles a number of other legal matters. East Penn Abstract, LLC provides title insurance and closing services for residential and commercial buyers. As part of the title insurance process, I attend all closings and address any legal matters that arise during the closing. Generally, there is no legal fee for attending closing as counsel.

What's the role of an attorney in home closings in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania does not require a buyer to have counsel at closing. The purchase of a home, whether the first time or not, is usually the biggest purchase a person makes during their lifetime. There are many documents and forms to be signed. Having an attorney with you to explain the documents and the process can provide a full understanding of the rights and responsibilities a buyer has with respect to their mortgage and loan documents. Additionally, a lawyer can help negotiate a resolution to any items that remain outstanding or unresolved at closing.

What are the basic steps involved in the home closing process?
The title agent acts as the intermediary between the buyer, seller, and the lender. The title agent determines what needs to be paid at closing to provide clear title; items such as local, county and school real estate taxes, water and sewer charges, mortgages against the property, liens and/or judgments against the property or seller, and transfer taxes.

The agent also obtains the loan documents and charges from the lender and the realtors' charges. The agent creates a settlement sheet (HUD1) that shows the amount of money required from the buyer, including any new loans, and the payments of all charges necessary for the transaction. At closing, the title agent collects and disburses all the funds in accordance with the settlement sheet.

What are the key points about buying or selling a home in Pennsylvania that people should be knowledgeable about?
The agreement of sale, once executed, controls most of the rights and responsibilities associated with the transaction. You should have an attorney review the agreement of sale before it is signed. Buyers should know that they have the choice in selecting a title agent from whom to purchase title insurance. East Penn Abstract, LLC offers legal services in addition to title insurance and closing services for no additional charge, including review of the agreement of sale.

What are one or two things that the seller can do to help make the home closing process easier?
Review the settlement sheet before closing, and find out whether or not you need to make your mortgage payment for the month of closing, or if it has been included in the payoff figure obtained for closing.

Remember to bring all keys and garage door openers to closing.

What are one or two things that the buyer can do to help make the home closing process easier?
Select a title insurance agent early in the process, even before executing an agreement of sale. Review the settlement sheet before the closing and if possible, review the loan documents prior to going to the closing table. Last-minute changes, even small ones, tend to have ripple effects on other parts of the transaction that can delay or derail closings.

Bring photo ID and a cashier's check for the funds required to close. What's the best way for people to reach you and your firm? abarber@fiorebarber.com, 215-256-0205, 610-462-1452 cell

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