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Make sure to protect your money in any transaction

By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law | Jul 1, 2021

Eric Feichthaler

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

I was approached by the owner of a vacant lot next to my home if I wanted to buy her lot. We agreed on terms, which includes a $5,000 deposit, which would be held by seller and applied to the purchase price at closing. The seller is using a local law firm to handle the title work and closing. Is it OK for the seller to hold the deposit?

— Gary C.

Dear Gary:

It sounds like you received an unsolicited offer from a neighboring lot owner. But did you really? How do you know the person that contacted you is the actual owner? This is why it is always recommended that an escrow agent hold any deposits for a property being sold. Typically, the escrow agent will be the law firm handling the title work.

So, if your seller is really using a firm for the title work and closing, they can provide you the information for your escrow deposit. That way, if there is a dispute, or you discover that the seller may not actually own the property, you will have the ability to get your money back. However, if your “seller” was posing as the owner and now has your $5,000, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a return of your money.

Do not give money without verifying the entire situation, and do everything possible to protect your hard-earned money.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 33 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 20 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 eric@capecoralattorney.com, 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.