Phone-a-Friend for a Lifeline


Phone-a-Friend for a Lifeline

(Quick Questions: Surveys, 3% Gain, Earnest Money and More)

By Angela Pascoe, Cook & James Managing Paralegal

In my experience, when people have a question and need a lifeline, they value the ability to phone a friend to confer and get some quick feedback. As closing coordinator for agents and brokers over the past 20+ years, I’ve noticed someone always has a “quick” question and it’s a particular pet peeve for most that when they cannot get anyone on the phone to assist them.

Here at Cook & James we’re different. We actually welcome your questions and will answer and return your call every time.

We love helping our colleagues and collaborators have the best closing experience possible. We are here to be an extension of your team and therefore can help you with your questions and concerns and be a sounding board for ideas. Here are a few of the more common topics that tend to surface over and over.



While there is no rule of thumb to how current the survey should be, it’s usually a good idea to have one. I’ve had situations where a porch was added to a house but a tiny corner encroaches on a neighbor’s property. Or someone erected a fence that’s not completely on the property. If there have been any modifications or improvements at all, a buyer really needs to be sure that the survey of record at the courthouse reflects the current landscape.

One tip. If a current survey isn’t recorded at the courthouse, the owner may have one that they just haven’t filed. It’s usually a good idea to ask the current property owner if they do have a survey because it could save time during the transaction.

Georgia’s 3% Gain Tax

If your seller is not a Georgia resident, they are typically responsible for paying a 3% tax. Prior to closing, a calculation will be done which includes what it takes for you to sell the property, the cost basis, closing fees, etc. then the out-of-state seller must pay taxes on any gain.

It’s important to note that, while the buyer isn’t responsible for paying the gain tax, the buyer is ultimately responsible. And the state of Georgia can sometimes place a lien on the property until this tax is paid. Here at Cook & James, we can help with providing all the proper affidavits on both sides of the transaction.

Earnest Money

We get asked all the time if we can hold a buyer’s earnest money and, yes, we can. In any amount. And we’ll provide all the proper documentation to meet legal requirements for tracking all the funds.

And speaking of funds, it’s really important to make sure you’re compliant and there’s a money trail for everything. Many times, a buyer will think it’s ok for Uncle Ed to loan them $1,000 to put down on the house – not so!

The lender must approve everything and clearly understand where all the funds originated. The reason for this is that people were laundering money through real estate, so governing bodies developed specific laws to keep everything above board.

It must be YOU putting down the earnest money. We can help write the contract to reflect where all the money originates so everyone is compliant.

Deceased Owner

For sellers trying to sell a property owned by a family member that has passed away, first and foremost, the deed needs to be out of the estate. It can be somewhat time consuming and you definitely want to consult your own expert to be sure the estate was properly probated.

If it has not been probated, there may be multiple options for marketable title. Each case is different and should be reviewed to understand all the options; people should consult their professional advisors for individual situations.

Landlocked Property

A property is landlocked when you can’t get off a property without going through someone else’s land. There are a few work arounds in this situation, but the two most common tend to be driveway easements and working with the neighboring landowners to buy a strip of land to allow access.

Being landlocked is a less-common question for us, but we do get it, especially in rural areas and raw land purchases. In these cases, a surveyor can be most helpful.

Aging Clients

One of the most popular features of Cook & James as a firm is that we are flexible. This includes our signature “at home” closings in which we bring the closing to you which is especially helpful when there is an aging or homebound client that can’t easily travel to a closing!

Since 2005, the Cook & James attorneys have traveled to people’s homes, offices and more. Just ask and we’ll be happy to help.

Because we want to help you achieve success, we feel strongly about being available to our collaborators and colleagues to ensure the most seamless closing.

We consider it an honor to be a valued resource and we enjoy sharing our expertise. We not only believe in the Golden Rule but that we should all practice what we preach. Everyone wins when we can help get to the closing table as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Angela Pascoe, managing paralegal at Cook & James, works closely with the attorneys and is responsible for managing all real estate matters at Cook & James. Not only does she bring more than 20 years’ experience in the field of real estate law, she works as a team player across all departments reinforcing the Cook & James mission and commitment to deliver excellent client service. 

Legal, CJHeather James