SunTrust Requires ALTA Best Practices Compliance by July 1

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… AND indicates it will produce and deliver Closing Disclosures.

suntan lotionMaking a significant announcement with a tight deadline, SunTrust Mortgage revealed in an April 22 letter to its settlement service providers (closing attorneys in South Carolina) that it will require them to comply with ALTA’s Best Practices and to complete an ALTA Self-Assessment no later than July 1, 2015.*

The letter also announced that SunTrust, following the lead of Well Fargo, Bank of America, CitiBank and Chase, will produce and deliver Closing Disclosures to borrowers and will require closing attorneys to provide complete and accurate title and settlement charges up to two weeks prior to scheduled closing dates.

SunTrust also plans to handle Closing Disclosure revisions and expects closing attorneys to provide timely notice of any changes in the closing numbers, including changes that occur after closing.

Closing attorneys will be responsible for preparing and delivering the seller’s Closing Disclosure on purchase transactions. A signed copy of the seller’s Closing Disclosure will be required by SunTrust as a condition of funding approval.

SunTrust will require an attestation form from closing attorneys for each closing, confirming the ability to comply with the new rules and expectations.

* The letter directed closing attorneys to www.alta.org/bestpractices/index.cfm for more information on ALTA’s Best Practices and offered assistance from SunTrust via e-mail at TitleSettlementMgmt@SunTrust.com and mail at Title/Settlement Management, SunTrust Mortgage, Inc., Mail Code: VA-INSB-7882, 5600 Cox Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060.

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Attack on Your Escrow Account!

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Attackofthe50ftwoman smallDon’t fall for this theft scheme!

This particular brand of fraud might not have struck South Carolina closing attorneys, but similar schemes definitely have! I am passing this one along because it is hitting the direct operations of title insurance companies in other states on a regular basis.

The facts: A buyer contacts a closing office by e-mail only, never by phone or in person. The initial e-mail attaches an agreement to purchase an option on real estate for $95,000. The agreement does not contemplate that title to the property will change hands, only that funds will pass for the purchase of the option.

No real estate agents or attorneys are involved. (Of course, if this happens in South Carolina, the recipient of the e-mail and intended victim will be a closing attorney.) The document is not on a standard contract form, and fonts vary within the document. The word “authorization” is spelled “authorisation” throughout.

The agreement provides:

Escrow holder will release said funds to seller upon receipt by Escrow holder of a written authorisation (sic) from buyer that he is satisfied with the inspection of said premises and will complete the purchase.

The buyer sends a cashier’s check drawn on a credit union in a different state by overnight delivery in the amount of $98,000, which is $3,000 more than the option purchase price. The check is received by the closing office April 6th.

On April 7th, the closing office receives an e-mail from the buyer that reads:

You have my permission to release funds to the seller.

Also on April 7th, the seller e-mails wiring instructions to the closing office, directing $98,000 to be wired to the account of an unrelated third party. The closing office initiates the wire on April 7th. On April 10th, the closing office is informed that the cashier’s check is counterfeit, and that the credit union in question had changed its name over two years ago. The closing office attempts to recall the wire, but the account holder had drained the account.

Notice the red flags in this fact pattern:

  • No real estate agents or attorneys are involved;
  • The transaction is not a purchase of real estate, only an option to purchase;
  • The contract is unusual, and the fonts vary within the document;
  • The cashier’s check is from a little known credit union in a different state. Often the location will be remote enough to involve a different Federal Reserve;
  • The word “authorization” is spelled incorrectly in the contract and in an e-mail;
  • The seller instructs the closing office to wire funds to an unrelated third party;
  • The contract purchase price is less than the amount shown on the check, and the wiring instructions use the higher amount; and
  • E-mail is the only form of communication.

Timing is crucial to the scheme! The fraudsters know that they must withdraw the funds the moment the wire hits.

Take these steps to avoid being a victim:

  • Call the bank or credit union to verify the validity of the check;
  • Do not disburse against uncollected funds of any type;
  • Recognize the unusual initial contact and refuse to become involved in the transaction; and
  • Require live signatures and picture identifications to release funds.

Have you seen similar fraud scheme attempts?  If so, please share them with the letstalkdirtsc.com audience so we can all be more vigilant!

Five things lenders need to know before August

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Dirt lawyers: Educate your lender contacts!

Our company has developed resources to equip dirt lawyers to educate lenders about how the CFPB will impact them beginning August 1.  I’m sharing a few tips with the letstalkdirtsc.com audience because everyone will benefit if lenders are prepared.

As we have traveled the Palmetto state talking to lawyers, real estate agents and lenders, we have learned that many of the local folks are not familiar with the new rules, even the significant players in the market. We understand the corporate offices of national lenders may not have pushed this information down to the local level at this point. Any lawyer who will provide valuable information to local contacts now will be perceived as an important partner!

This is a primer, a very basic beginning point. As the software companies complete their updates, everyone involved will be trained on the details of the new rule and forms.  For now, let’s give our lender partners the following information:

1 flapWho will be responsible for preparing the Closing Disclosure? The lender will be ultimately responsible for preparing the CD (the document that replaces the HUD-1 and final TIL Disclosure). Four national lenders, Bank of America, CitiBank, Wells Fargo and Chase, have announced that they will prepare the CD. We anticipate that smaller banks may continue to rely on closing attorneys to prepare this important document. Closing attorneys will be responsible for preparing the seller’s side of the CD in all cases.

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Who will be responsible for delivering the Closing Disclosure? The rule requires that the borrower must receive the CD three days prior to closing. This actually translates to delivery six days prior to closing to accommodate transit time. The rule allows the closing attorney, at the lender’s discretion, to deliver the CD. The four banks who have announced that they will prepare the CD will also deliver it.

Closing Disclosure Delivery Timeline Chart

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How will closing attorneys and lenders communicate information contained in their respective systems? The big banks will most likely use some form of electronic communication. Some have already announced that they will use Real EC’s Closing Insight™ Most closing attorneys will work with settlement software companies (such as SoftPro) to connect with these systems. Regardless, information will have to be exchanged earlier to accommodate the delivery requirements of the CD.  Some experts have predicted that the numbers will have to be exchanged between lawyers and lenders no later than ten days prior to closing.

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Who will make changes to the CD? Changes to the CD may occur prior to closing, necessitating adjustments, re-printing, and delivery of the corrected CD at closing. Lenders and lawyers will have to discuss who will make the pre-closing changes. Changes to the settlement numbers on the CD may also occur after closing, requiring preparation and delivery of a revised CD. For example, if recording fees change, the CD will have to be revised. Previously, lawyers had the responsibility for these post-closing changes. Under the new rule, the lenders have primary responsibility, but they may delegate this responsibility to closing attorneys.

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How will closing attorneys communicate title and settlement fees for use in the new forms? Lenders will continue to need accurate estimates of title and settlement fees for the preparation of the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure. In addition, for transactions in which an owner’s policy will be issued, the rule prescribes special mathematical calculations for the disclosure of the owner’s and lender’s title insurance premiums, which may require receipt of rates for both a stand-alone and simultaneously issued lender’s policy, as well as the owner’s policy rate.

Good luck educating your referral sources!

Five Things Real Estate Agents Need To Know Before August

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 Dirt lawyers: Educate your real estate agents!

Our company has developed resources to equip dirt lawyers to educate real estate agents about how the CFPB will impact them beginning August 1.  I’m sharing a few tips with the letstalkdirtsc.com audience because everyone will benefit if real estate agents are prepared.

This is a primer, a very basic beginning point. The CFPB will not significantly impact the day-to-day processing of sales, but buyers and sellers will look to real estate agents for general information about the new rules and forms, as well as the impact on the loan process and the closing. As the software companies complete their updates, everyone involved will be trained on the details of the Loan Estimates and Closing Disclosures.  For now, let’s give real estate agents the following information.

1They should be able to explain the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure before August 1. The Good Faith Estimate (GFE), a form required by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), and the initial Truth-in-Lending disclosure (TIL), a form required by the Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA) have been combined into a new form, the Loan Estimate. For loan applications taken on or after August 1, the three-page Loan Estimate will replace the GFE and the TIL and must be delivered within three business days of the application. The new five-page Closing Disclosure will replace the HUD-1 Settlement Statement and the final TILA form.

2The timing of a closing will be impacted by Closing Disclosure delivery.  The CFPB has determined that borrowers will be better served by having three days after receipt to review the Closing Disclosure prior to the closing. Absent a positive confirmation of receipt of the form (i.e., hand delivery), the form is “deemed received” three days after the delivery process is started (i.e., mailing). Several lenders have already announced that they will deliver the forms six days prior to closing.

Closing Disclosure Delivery Timeline Chart

3Title fees may need to be adjusted at closing and explained. The full premium for the lender’s title policy must be reflected on the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure despite the fact that we have a “simultaneous issue” discount in our filed rates in South Carolina. The discount that title insurance companies in South Carolina offer lenders must be deducted from the charge for the owner’s policy. Also, the owner’s policy will be shown as “optional” on both documents. Closing attorneys may look to real estate agents to assist them in explaining the value of owner’s title insurance.

4Line numbers have been removed and there are now seven fee areas on the Closing Disclosure. The familiar line numbering on the HUD-1 will disappear. Instead, the fees and charges are placed on the Closing Disclosure in one of seven areas:

  1. Origination charges;
  2. Services borrower did not shop for;
  3. Services borrower did shop for;
  4. Taxes and other government fees;
  5. Pre-paids;
  6. Initial escrow payment at closing; and
  7. Other.

Individual charges within each of these major groupings are listed alphabetically. Columns are provided to separate charges owed by the buyer, seller and others, as well as columns for payments before and at closing.

5Clients will likely receive more than one Closing Disclosure. Since the buyer will receive the Closing Disclosure several days before the closing (and likely before the walk-through), the buyer will likely receive a new, adjusted Closing Disclosure at the closing. The CFPB has also mandated that changes in the financial numbers in any amount, must be re-disclosed, even post-closing.

Good luck educating your referral sources!

More CFPB News: A Possible Deadline Extension and a Useful Toolkit

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 Don’t get excited about the rumor!

gossipWhen Steven Antonakes of the CFPB spoke to a group of consumer bankers on March 25, he initiated a series of news articles and fueled a rumor mill among bankers and others that the August 1, 2015 date for implementation of the new integrated mortgage disclosures might be extended.

Mr. Antonakes was responding to a concern that some industry vendors may not be ready for the deadline.

Here’s the quote that caused the ruckus: “To the extent there is new information or we’re hearing directly from vendors that folks aren’t going to be ready…we should continue to talk about that. I can’t promise you (changes) but to the extent we will have a better understanding of the concerns, that is something we will consider.”

Lenders and others unquestionably got their hopes up that the August 1 date would be extended. But CFPB spokesman Sam Gilford quickly stated that the bureau has no current plans to delay implementation.

And Michele Korsmo, CEO of America Land Title Association said in an ALTA Advocacy Update of March 30, “Before anyone gets excited, I am telling you today that implementation of the new Integrated Mortgage disclosures will be required on August 1st, 2015.”

 Don’t count on the deadline being extended. Get ready!

Lenders continue to hope for leniency in the enforcement for a period of time after August 1, but no strategy for lenience has been implemented to date.

In other CFPB news, the bureau recently released a “Know Before You Owe” home loan toolkit, a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help consumers understand the closing process. The toolkit contains interactive worksheets and tips for obtaining additional information. I encourage closing attorneys to use this guide to educate clients.

We have all been concerned about owner’s titletoolbox insurance being called “optional” in the new disclosures. I was encouraged to see that this toolkit contains positive information about title insurance, including the fact that title insurance can safeguard the owner’s financial investment. Common claims were stated to be outstanding taxes and mechanics’ liens.

This toolkit might be a good tool for all of us!