HOMEFINDER: Let notaries help avoid surprises

If you have ever purchased or sold a home, you’ve probably met a notary public.

Salvador Davis & Co notaries public Lisa Ehrlich

(Updated Feb. 8/15 to correct notaries’ roles with financial and non-financial issues on property title and on the process regarding deferred property taxes.)

If you have ever purchased or sold a home, you’ve probably met a notary public.

They’re the folks who hold all the legal documents for you to sign at the end of the process.

But, as two notaries public from Sidney’s Salvador Davis & Co. explain, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than you might think.

Lisa Ehrlich, a partner in Salvador Davis & Co with Laurie Salvador, and Shawna Farmer say from start to finish of a single home sale, the work can last up to three months.

“It’s not as simple as some people might think it is,” says Farmer. “We collect mortgage documents and information on behalf of real estate agents, lenders, mortgage companies and our clients.”

Notaries, adds Ehrlich, often are the ones who discover builders’ liens against properties, outstanding taxes, covenants and other surprises that a purchaser might not be aware of.

In Sidney, Ehrlich says, many seniors have taken advantage of property tax deferrals — and they might not remember how much money is owing to the municipality. While the purchaser is not on the hook for these outstanding taxes, Farmer says the property title cannot transfer to new owners until it’s paid. It’s all part of the negotiation process, she adds.

Other non-financial issues, like rights-of-way, mineral rights and building schemes can be present on a property title. While notaries do not clear those items unless hired to do so, they do compile and help clear financial charges on title during the process of buying or selling a house.

A typical home buying-or-selling process starts, for notaries, with meeting a client, asking if they have specific needs and then gathering up all of the legal documents. Ehrlich says the next step involves the real estate agent, lender or broker in order to get the title free and clear of any issues. It’s throughout this process that all disclosures must take place — again, so there are no surprises.

Closing day, “is a big day,” says Ehrlich. It means buyers are transferring over  a lot of money and sellers are receiving it. For many people, she says, it can be the biggest transaction of their lives.

At this stage, or even earlier, adds Farmer, they like to ask their clients about how they want to hold title. For couples buying a home, it can be done in two ways: as joint tenants where both own right of survivorship, or; as tenants in common where both parties own a share of the property and upon the death of one, the wishing of their will would be followed.

It’s complex, says Ehrlich, and part of life planning.

To make sure it goes smoothly, Farmer and Ehrlich say people need to trust their notary. In the case of Salvador Davis & Co, they say they get most of their business via referrals. That speaks loudly to their reputation in the community.

“It’s what we do,” says Farmer.