Frequently Asked Questions about Real Estate
Do I need a real estate agent?
Maybe. Real estate agents are often knowledgeable about local neighborhoods and schools, and their advice can be helpful, especially for buyers who are not familiar with the area and for sellers who are seeking a broader market.
Real estate agents can also assist you by handling some of the details involved in buying or selling real estate, such as advertising properties, arranging viewings, negotiating contract terms, holding earnest money, and scheduling inspections.
Typically, a real estate agent is compensated by a commission that is paid from a seller's proceeds of sale. However, a real estate agent will not guarantee to a buyer the condition of a property or the status or quality of the title.
Do I need an attorney?
Yes, especially if you are a buyer. The purchase of a home is often the largest investment that a person makes during his or her lifetime. Only an attorney can look out for your best interests and provide the peace of mind of knowing that your investment is secure.
Only a licensed South Carolina attorney may close a loan or other real estate transaction. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can advise you about the status or quality of a seller's title after searching and examining the public records.
Do I need a title search?
Yes. A title search is the only way to determine whether an owner or seller has marketable title and whether the title to property is free and clear of any liens or title defects.
You may purchase property without a title search; however, we do not advise clients to purchase real estate without a title search, and we cannot certify the title without performing a title search and examination.
Title searches at Ingram Law Firm are performed only by licensed attorneys rather than title abstractors or paralegals. Our attorneys do more than simply review or examine someone else's title search, and we ensure that title issues or defects are resolved or cured before a transaction is closed.
What is title insurance?
Title insurance is a one-premium agreement to indemnify a policyholder for actual losses caused by defects found in the title or interest to an insured property in an amount not exceeding the face amount of the policy and that are in existence on the date on which the policy was issued.
In other words, title insurance is an agreement to reimburse an insured for a loss that arises from a defect in the title to real property.
Lenders often require borrowers to purchase the lender's title insurance policy as a condition of making a loan. A loan policy protects only a lender's interest from covered losses that result from title defects.
An owner's policy protects the property owner's interest from covered losses that result from title defects. An owner's policy never expires as long as the insured owner has an interest in the property.
Why do I need to apply for a “primary residence” or “legal residence” tax assessment?
Whenever property changes hands, the county tax assessor “resets” any special tax assessments or discounts that apply to the property when the new deed reaches the tax assessor’s office.
However, if you live on the property and use it as your residence, then you must apply in person at the county tax assessor’s office for a “special assessment as legal residence,” which allows the assessor to tax the property on a discounted 4% assessment ratio if granted.
You must prove that you are eligible for the discounted residential assessment. Residency may be proved using any of the following:
your most recent South Carolina tax return,
your South Carolina driver’s license with the property address and vehicle registrations for vehicles registered at the address in your name, or
any other proof required or accepted by the tax assessor (e.g., Bond-for-Title, utility bills, or other documents proving residency).
If you do not apply for the discounted residential rate, then your property will be taxed by the county at the higher “regular rate.”
Contact Ingram Law Firm if you have additional questions regarding real estate transactions or closings.