Heads Up Residential Dirt Lawyers: Use Engagement Letters!

Standard

August 1 changes will make them even more important.

Lenders will no doubt be more in control of the closing process when the CFPB rules take effect in August. Several major lenders have announced that they will produce and deliver the borrower’s Closing Disclosure, the form that will replace the HUD-1. This form will be delivered to borrowers at least three business days prior to closing. This change may limit the closing attorney’s involvement with clients early in the closing process.

house parachuteResidential real estate lawyers will need to use engagement letters more than ever to establish that important attorney-client relationship, to explain the new closing environment and to quote fees and costs. These matters are too crucial to leave in the hands of lenders!

Also, a major change in the treatment of owner’s title insurance by the CFPB will require that attorneys explain the importance of the one document in the stack of closing papers that protects the purchaser. An engagement letter sent early in the process is the ideal place for this essential explanation. The closing table may be too late!

The CFPB will require that the full premium, not the discounted simultaneous issue premium, must be disclosed for the loan policy on the CD. The owner’s policy premium will be shown in the “Other” section of the CD and will be reflected as “Optional”.  The cost of the owner’s policy will be the total premium discounted by the cost of the loan policy and adding the simultaneous issue premium.  Some lenders may even show the full premium for the owners and loan policies on page two of the CD and a “rebate” for the discount on page 3. Confusing?  Definitely!

Purchasers strapped for funds may be tempted to skip this “optional” charge. Attorneys will need to explain how title insurance protects their clients. Savvy attorneys realize that owner’s title insurance protects them, too. It has even been suggested that it may be malpractice for an attorney not to recommend owner’s title insurance.

In this environment, I’m providing my dirt lawyer friends with a couple of paragraphs that can be edited to explain the importance of owner’s title insurance in engagement letters:

house protection hands“Title insurance protects the ownership of your home. The purchase of a home may be the largest transaction you’ll make during your lifetime. For a relatively low, one-time premium of $____, you can be protected against legal problems over property rights that could cost thousands of dollars, and even result in the loss of your home.

Lender’s title insurance is required for this transaction, but it does not protect your equity. You must purchase owner’s insurance for that valuable protection. We will perform a title examination for you, but the most thorough and competent title examination cannot protect against loss from hidden title defects created by misfiling and misindexing in the public records. Risks not created in the public records, such as fraud and forgery, are also covered by title insurance. Dollar for dollar, an owner’s title insurance policy is one of the most cost effective forms of insurance available to homeowners. I highly recommend that you purchase an owner’s policy and will make it available to you unless you let me know otherwise.”

When the closing process changes, let’s make sure important relationships are established and clients are protected early in the closing process!

Advertisements

Three New Lender Announcements in Early May

Standard

They keep rolling in as August 1 approaches!

town crierWe’re 60 business days away from implementation of TRID, and lenders continue to make announcements about how they will approach the closing process in the new environment. I am committed to keeping South Carolina closing attorneys informed about these continuing revelations, so here is a synopsis of the most recent developments.

Freedom Mortgage announced on May 7 that it will prepare and deliver the borrower’s Closing Disclosure and will employ Closing Insight™ as its method of exchanging information with settlement agents (closing attorneys in South Carolina). Other methods of exchanging information (e-mail, fax) will no longer be used, and closing attorneys were encouraged to sign up for this information portal by visiting www.closinginsight.com.

Chase Mortgage Banking recently repeated that it will deliver the borrower’s CD and will provide a copy of that document in the closing package. The closing attorney will prepare and deliver the seller’s CD and will provide Chase with a copy.

Chase stated it will rely on closing attorneys for transaction numbers such as seller credits, broker’s commissions, seller and purchaser attorneys’ fees, real estate agent bills, external mortgage payoffs, adjustments, prorations, taxes, recording fees and title fees. All of this information should be given to Chase ten days prior to closing.

Chase also stated that it will continue to use encrypted secure email (iSentry and/or Voltage) to provide documents to closing attorneys.

Bank of America announced on May 6 that closing attorneys should register with Closing Insight™, but that registration will not insure a place on BofA’s “Written List of Providers” (WLP). Those interested in being including on the WLP should apply at www.bankofamerica.com/suppliers, but applying does not insure that applicants will be added to the list. BofA representatives will engage prospective candidates for consideration as opportunities for expanding the supplier base become available. Those currently on the WLP do not need to reapply.

BofA also announced that it will absorb the cost of Closing Insight™. To our knowledge, no other lender has made a similar announcement.

It is encouraging that lenders continue to think through their processes and to provide us with additional information. The more knowledge we have up front, the fewer surprises we will experience after August 1. I promise to continue to distribute this news as it is announced to the letstalkdirtsc.com audience.

Accountants Develop ALTA Best Practices Guidelines

Standard

Dirt lawyers: Your CPA should be able to assist!

accountant guyThe American Land Title Association announced on April 28 that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has issued guidelines for CPAs to verify whether closing attorneys comply with ALTA’s Best Practices.

The guidelines provide a uniform framework to ensure CPAs will perform ALTA Best Practices compliance testing and reporting in the same manner and in accordance with AICPA standards. By engaging a CPA who will use the new guidelines, closing attorneys should be confident about the quality of the assessment process.

We are not aware of any lenders doing business in South Carolina who have indicated at this point that they will require third party certifications. However, Mississippi based regional BancorpSouth announced in early March that its approved closing agents must comply with Best Practices through a certification from an independent third party vendor acceptable to the bank. The deadline for obtaining the certification was stated to be July 31.

Wells Fargo announced it supports ALTA’s Best Practices as sound business practices that should already be in place. Wells stated in a memorandum to its closing agents that completing a certification by August 1 will not be a requirement, but the bank hopes closing agents will, at minimum, have already completed a self-assessment and addressed any identified gaps by that date.

SunTrust Mortgage announced that it will require closing agents to complete an ALTA Self-Assessment no later than July 1, 2015.

Lenders will likely refine their requirements as we get deeper into implementation. It would not be surprising to hear that any lender who does business in South Carolina will require third party certifications, particularly since CPAs are now “in the loop” and able to make assessments.

The bottom line at this point is that all residential closing attorneys who plan to remain in the business should become Best Practices compliant as soon as possible so they will be able to meet any requirements along these lines that their lenders may impose.

If you need help with Best Practices compliance, call your title insurance company! They are able, willing and ready to assist!

Five Things Dirt Lawyers Need to Know Before August 1

Standard

Prepare now for a smooth transition to the new CFPB regulations and forms

Our company has put together some general information about the CFPB regulations that become effective on August 1. I’m sharing a few tips with the letstalkdirtsc.com audience in an effort to assist with a smooth transition.

1 HandWhat transaction types are affected and exempt? The new rules and forms apply to most closed-end consumer credit transactions secured by real property. The following types of loans are affected:

  • Purchase money mortgages;
  • Refinances;
  • Mortgages on 25 acres or less;
  • Mortgages on vacant land;
  • Mortgages for construction purposes only; and
  • Mortgages on timeshares.

Consumer loans exempted from the new rules and forms are:

  • Reverse mortgages;
  • Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs);
  • Loans on chattel-dwelling/mobile homes only; and
  • Loans by creditors who originate less than five loans in a calendar year.

Creditors will be required to use a TILA disclosure and Good Faith Estimate (GFE), and closing attorneys will be required to use a 2010 HUD-1 Settlement Statement on the exempt loans.

Loans in progress (applications submitted prior to August 1, 2015) are not subject to the new rules or the new forms.

2 HandWhat are the new rules and forms? On November 20, 2013, the CFPB announced the completion of the new integrated mortgage disclosure forms along with their regulations (RESPA Regulation X and TILA Regulation Z) for the proper completion and timely delivery to the consumer.

The Loan Estimate – Currently, borrowers receive two forms from their lender at the beginning of the transaction: the GFE and initial TILA disclosure. For loan applications taken on or after August 1, the creditor will instead use a combined Loan Estimate form.

The Closing Disclosure – The HUD-1 Settlement Statement and the final TILA disclosure form have been combined into a single Closing Disclosure form. This new five-page form contains many loan terms and provisions in addition to the closing figures. Several earlier letstalkdirtsc.com blogs discussed which lenders that have announced they will prepare and deliver the Closing Disclosure. It appears that in all cases, closing attorneys will prepare the seller’s Closing Disclosure and a separate closing or disbursement statement to facilitate disbursement.

forms in out

3 Hand

How will the timing of a closing be impacted by Closing Disclosure delivery? The new rule requires borrowers to have three business days after receipt of the Closing Disclosure for review. The three-day review starts on the receipt of the form by the borrower. Absent some positive confirmation of receipt such as hand delivery, the form is “deemed received” three days after the delivery process is started (i.e., mailing). As a result, the combination of the delivery time period and the review time period results in six business days from mailing to closing.

After delivery of the initial Closing Disclosure, the following changes would require a re-disclosure and a new waiting period:

  • Increase of the APR by more than 1/8%;
  • Change in the loan program, for example, fixed rate to ARM; and
  • Addition of a pre-payment penalty.

Closing Disclosure Delivery Timeline Chart4 Hand

 

How will the communication of title and closing figures be handled? Lenders will continue to need accurate estimates of title and closing figures. Preparation of the Closing Disclosure will require a collaborative effort between lenders, closing attorneys and other vendors and may require fees to be submitted as early as two weeks prior to closing. Several lenders have announced that they will use electronic portals to send and receive information, eliminating the use of mail, e-mail and faxes between lenders and closing attorneys.

5 Hand

 

How are title charges reflected on the new forms? The list of charges involving title insurance and closing activities must be grouped together and preceded by the word “Title”.

The CFPB requires that the full premium, not the discounted simultaneous issue premium, must be disclosed for the loan policy. The owner’s policy premium will be shown as “optional” and will be the total cost of the owner’s policy discounted by the cost of the loan policy and adding the simultaneous issue premium. Confusing?  Yes!

The line numbers have been removed from the HUD-1 form, and there are now seven fee areas:

  • Origination charges;
  • Services borrower did not shop for;
  • Services borrower did shop for;
  • Taxes and other government fees;
  • Pre-paids;
  • Initial escrow payment at closing; and
  • Other

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

Software and title insurance companies are doing extensive training in the form of seminars, webinars and written communications. If you intend to be a residential dirt lawyer after August 1, get yourself and your staff trained!