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Buyers must examine purchase contract thoroughly

July 5, 2019
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Mr. Feichthaler,

I recently had a frustrating situation in the purchase of a property. I bought a house owned by a bank that owned it through a foreclosure. The standard contract was used, which said the seller (the bank) chose the firm where the title work and closing would take place, and pay for the closing fees and title insurance. There was also an addendum, that said the buyer would be responsible for any closing fees. But, since I was paying cash, I assumed the closing fees would only be $200 or so.

Well, the seller chose a title company in Fort Lauderdale, and when they sent the documents to sign, they charged me a $1,000 closing fee! I pointed out the contract said that seller paid closing fees and title, but they responded by saying the addendum overrides this, and that $1,000 is the "standard charge." I did get a good deal on the property, which helps me justify this, but I know the fees are a lot less here in Lee County. I did go ahead and pay the fee. Is there anything I could have done differently?

- Leanne M.

Dear Leanne,

I am happy to hear the purchase went well, but obviously that charge caused some unneeded stress. Many buyers assume the normal procedure will occur, so they do not consider what could happen if you deal with a title company that is not fair. The starting point, always, is the contract you signed. You are correct that the seller typically pays for title insurance and closing fees in a cash deal, so the standard contract would not have required you to pay a closing fee. However, this addendum sounds like it was drafted specifically to protect the seller and the title company, not you. If I had reviewed this addendum, I would have looked to see if you could be on the hook for any unforeseen charges, and require the seller to address it in the contract. This could be done by stating, clearly, that buyer will have no responsibility to pay closing fees in the cash transaction. The seller may or may not agree to such terms, but that should be part of the negotiation.

Without reviewing the agreement, I cannot be certain whether you had a right to cancel the deal based on their exorbitant charges. In every aspect of a transaction, it is vital the contract be written in a way to protect your interests and define your responsibilities, before being signed. Real estate transactions are a huge financial commitment, it pays to take the time to carefully review the contract and all addenda before signing. I wish you the best in this purchase, and hope you had a great July 4th.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 30 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Historical Museum, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 18 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

Mr. Feichthaler can be reached at, or (239) 542-4733.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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