Whether you are buying a home, making a real estate investment or selling your home Testa Law Firm will be there to guide you through it. When you contact our office someone will always be available who is familiar with your file and can answer or research your questions. All of your phone calls and inquiries are welcome and your calls will be returned in an expeditious manner. Our job is to make the real estate transaction smooth and efficient and that is what we strive to achieve.

Servicing all of the Finger Lakes and Central New York Regions (including Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, Oswego, Tompkins, Cortland and adjacent counties), Attorney Daniel Testa concentrates in the practice of real estate law. Below are some of the matters Testa Law Firm offers representation on.

  • Home Buying and Selling
  • Representing Buyers, Sellers and Lenders
  • Flat Fee Closings.
  • Short Sales
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Contract review & drafting
  • Landlord/Tenant- leases, disputes, etc.
  • Evictions
  • Zoning
  • Property disputes
  • Tax grievances

Real Estate FAQs

What Are Your Fees?

In most cases a simple residential real estate closing is billed at a flat rate ranging from $500 to $850.00 depending on the complexity of the transaction. Commercial transactions are billed at an hourly rate. We are happy to work with you on the best fee arrangement to suit your needs.


Do I Have to Use the Bank Attorney if I am a Buyer?

No, all parties involved in a real estate transaction are entitled to their own representation. It can sometimes be confusing when the bank offers you the services of their attorney. The bank attorney represents the best interest of the bank not the buyer. Bank attorney services are often times offered to a buyer at a discounted rate. Testa Law Firm will match the bank attorney rate. We recommend retaining your own attorney who will represent your interests.


How long does the closing process take?

The closing process generally takes 60 days if there is a lender involved. With a cash purchase the closing takes about 30 days. It is important to remember that the contract often gives an elastic “on or about” closing date, this is because there are a variety of factors that can impact the closing time line. Please see Please link this to the Real Estate Closing Process“The Real Estate Closing Process” for more detail.


How is Real Estate Transferred?

The basic mechanism by which real estate is transferred is a deed. In order to be effective, a deed must adequately (and accurately) describe the property being conveyed, and it must identify the person making the transfer, and the person receiving it. In addition, the deed must be signed and delivered to the recipient. In most jurisdictions, there is an additional step: the deed must be recorded. The reason for recording is that most jurisdictions maintain “Official Records” which list the parties to a transfer of real property. This is very important, because it enables owners to be “registered” on the official records and to give notice to the world that a piece of property has changed hands.

In Cayuga County you must file the Deed along with an RP-5217 and TP-584 with the County Clerk. The fee to file a deed is $40.00 plus $5.00 per page, the RP-5217 is $125.00 and the TP-584 is $5.00. These are typically the buyer’s expense.

The seller must pay deed stamps which are claimed on the TP-584. The cost of Deeds Stamps is the $2.00 for every $500.00 of the purchase Price.

Click here to view a complete list of Cayuga County Clerk Fees.


What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance is your policy of protection against the loss if a claim is made against your ownership because of fraud, forgery, judgments, unpaid real property taxes, liens, or other defects in title. The title insurance company will, at its own expense, defend the title and will pay losses within the coverage of the policy if they occur.

In most cases the buyer will be required by the lender to obtain a Lender’s Policy of Title Insurance in order to obtain financing. In some cases the buyer may also elect to purchase an additional Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance. If the property is a foreclosure it is recommended to also obtain the owner’s policy.


What is a Mortgage?

A lender making a loan that is to be used in connection with a purchase of real estate wants to be guaranteed the money will be paid back, and they want more than a signature on a promissory note. One security mechanism is for the borrower to use the real estate in question as security for the loan. That is, the borrower agrees that if he/she cannot make the payments on the loan, the lender can “look to the property” for repayment. The legal method by which this is done is called a mortgage. A mortgage is a document by which the borrower agrees that if he/she cannot make the payments on a loan, the lender may step in and sell the real estate and apply the proceeds of the sale to repay the loan. A Mortgage may also be known as a “Deed of Trust.”

The lender will require that the mortgage be filed with the County Clerk. The fee to file a mortgage is $40.00 plus $5.00 per page. You will also have to pay the Mortgage Tax. In Cayuga County the Mortgage Tax is figured as follows:

1% mortgage tax over $10,000.00 ¾% mortgage tax under $10,000.00 One or two family dwelling over $10,000.00 deduct $25.00.


What is Full Disclosure?

In any transaction, the parties should deal honestly and forthrightly with each other. Anything less is a species of fraud – either deliberately lying, or telling half truths when questions are asked. The rule of full disclosure is one that requires the seller of property to disclose fully all he/she knows about the property being sold.

The Seller of a property is required to fill out a property condition disclosure. Click here to view a Property Condition Disclosure.

The Seller must disclose everything they know about the property even if it may prevent the buyer from purchasing the property.

Ex. The basement of the property floods in the Spring. It is November and there are no signs of flooding the seller must still disclose that the basement floods in the spring.

Failure to fully disclose information can result in a lawsuit. The seller and only the seller fills out the Property Condition Disclosure. The seller should not be coached on how to fill out the disclosure. If the seller does not know the answer to a questions on the disclosure the seller much state as much.

Real Estate Closing Process

Purchasing and selling property is most likely one of the largest financial transactions you will make which is why the closing process is so in depth. There are many players in a real estate closing. You have the seller’s’ attorney, buyer’s attorney and most often you also have a bank attorney, 1 or 2 Realtors and a bank rep or mortgage broker. I am going to give a brief synopsis of the closing process in upstate New York.

The Cayuga County Contract, for instance, is a 12 page document that needs to be signed by both the seller and the buyer AND approved by both parties attorneys. If the contract does not have attorney approval by both parties it may not be considered a valid contract.

The attorney approval clause in the Cayuga County Contract is important as it gives the attorney the chance to review the contract and make any changes or clear up anything that may concern him/her before the parties are bound to the transaction.

You should not enter into a contract without prior review from an attorney or one without an attorney approval clause.

Please note that the Cayuga County Real Estate Contract authorizes the seller’s attorney to start title work immediately and if something falls through the buyer’s deposit goes towards covering any costs incurred.

Title Documents/Role of the Seller’s Attorney

In New York the seller’s attorney needs to provide the buyer’s attorney with title documents. These documents include an original updated abstract of title, an updated property survey, a copy of the proposed deed, a smoke/alarm carbon monoxide affidavit pursuant to New York Public Health Law, the RP-5217 and the TP-584, and the statement of taxes and copies of the tax and water bills.

* If the property is located in Cayuga County and has a septic system and a well, both a septic dye test and a water test need to be done by the seller, and their attorney needs to provide a discharge permit issued by the County Health Department.

It can take up to 30 days to get these title documents back. The attorney is depending on the title company and the surveyor—If a brand new abstract is needed it can be a lengthy process. Normally the survey will take about 3 weeks to get back.

Once the attorney has all of these documents in place and has reviewed the Abstract for any potential issues with title, they are sent to the buyer’s attorney. How quickly the seller’s attorney can get these documents in order will set the pace for the closing, so be sure to choose a competent Real Estate Attorney.

The role of the seller’s attorney is to make sure that the seller provides clear and marketable title to the buyer and to represent the seller interests during the transaction

Title Commitment/Role of the Buyer’s Attorney

Once the Buyer’s Attorney receives all of the documents from the seller’s attorney they will review the documents and begin the process of getting the commitment for title insurance. Most banks will not issue the mortgage without title insurance. This is the buyer’s responsibility and is included in your loan estimate. * If you are paying cash for the property you do not need title insurance but it may be recommended in order to protect you from future claims to the title.

It should take the buyer’s attorney about 7-10 days to review all of the title documents and get the commitment for title insurance. If the buyer’s attorney or the title company finds any problems with the abstract that the seller’s attorney missed it will need to be remedied at this time.

If there is not a bank involved with the closing, the buyer’s attorney will schedule the closing once all documents have been received and reviewed and has determined that the title is clear and marketable.

The Bank Attorney and Scheduling the Closing

Once the Buyer’s Attorney has received the commitment for title insurance they will forward everything to the bank attorney for final review. At this point 2 attorney’s have reviewed the documents and there should not be any issues.

The bank attorney will then look to underwriting to see if the loan has been cleared to close. Once they receive the clear to close from the bank they will prepare the closing disclosure statement which will break down all of the buyer’s closing costs and will give the amount needed for closing. Now we can schedule a closing date.

The Closing

Expect the closing to take about an hour. Most likely the buyer, the seller and the attorney’s will be at the closing. Sometimes there may be a closer from the title company and the real estate agents.

If you are the seller you can pre sign documents and have your attorney attend the closing on your behalf. Some sellers choose to do this if they are out of town or have a valid reason not to attend.

The buyer has to sign all of the bank documents at the closing and usually has to do this in person. The buyer will have the most documents to sign at the closing.

Once everything has been signed one of the attorneys will file all of the necessary documents with the County Clerk’s office.

Congratulations you have now sold or own a new home!

Expect the closing process in New York to take 45-60 days. Also note that the closing date in the Cayuga County Real Estate Contract is considered to be “on or about”. This is not a time is of the essence date and should not be depended on as the actual closing date but rather a guideline.

If you have any questions in regards to the Real Estate Closing process or if you need a real estate closing Attorney please contact Daniel Testa, Esq. at (315) 255-3368.

Free Consultations

Every new or potential client is offered a free 30 minute personal consultation with Daniel upon request. It is our goal to assure that each client feels well communicated with and satisfied with our services.

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