Does Facebook’s move into real estate signify the end of the Realtor?

Standard

Social media has long been involved in real state. Aren’t all your real estate agent contacts your “friends” on Facebook? Aren’t you connected with them on LinkedIn? Don’t you regularly see their listings on all your social media outlets?  But the plot thickens!

According to a November 13 story in HousingWire, Facebook announced last week that it is significantly expanding the real estate listings section on its Marketplace, which is Facebook’s attempt to take on Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Redfin, Craigslist, eBay and other e-commerce platforms.

facebook

The HousingWire story, which you can read here, reports that Facebook currently allows individual homeowners to list their homes for sale on Marketplace. The new development is that Facebook is significantly expanding the real estate listings section on Marketplace. The new feature is said to be “rolling out gradually” and is currently only available via the mobile app in the United States.

And, according to the same report, Facebook is going full force into rental listings via partnerships with Apartment List and Zumper.

Facebook plans to upgrade its platform to include custom filters for location, price, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, rental type, square footage and pet friendly designations. Also included will be the ability to upload 360-degree photos for individual rental listings. When the potential renter selects a property, he or she will complete s contact form on Marketplace, and the property manager or agent will contact him or her directly.

Facebook says it will not participate in any transactions. It will simply connect the parties. Real estate agents are probably safe for now, but it’s a brave new world out there as social media infiltrates all aspects of our professional and personal lives! Dirt lawyers who fail to embrace social media may be left behind sooner rather than later.

Advertisements

National Association of Realtors® Reports on TRID Survey

Standard

Real estate practitioners should expect changes in contracts

NAR

The Research Department of the National Association of Realtors® surveyed members in August about their awareness and preparation for the changes in residential closings being implemented by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in October of 2015. The most dramatic change is eliminating the current disclosure forms in favor of a Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure, collectively called the TILA RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID).

The results of the survey were detailed in an Executive Summary entitled “TRID: REALTORS® and the New Closing Process”.

The best news from the report is that 71.2% of the respondent members rated their level of preparedness as average or better. Many stated they are taking action and working with their industry partners to prepare for a smooth transition. More than 80% of respondents indicated they have taken some form of TRID training.

Dirt lawyers should expect to see changes in residential form contracts. More than half of respondents indicated they will adjust contracts to reflect longer closing time frames, and almost a third indicated they plan to adjust contracts to include new contingencies.

Take a look at the following chart for more information on how Realtors® plan to deal with the new rules.

NAR Realtors Chart

Although it is anticipated that the changes may introduce new burdens on lenders, closing attorneys and REALTORS®, many of the respondents indicated the number of delayed closings has been low in the past, and they will continue to work with their industry partners to help make the transition smooth.

Real estate lawyers who have not reached out to their REALTOR® contacts should do so soon and often to assist with the transition!

Three Lenders Make CFPB Announcements

Standard

Two additional lenders will deliver the borrower’s Closing Disclosure

extra extra kid- citi chaseCiti and Chase have joined Well Fargo and Bank of America by announcing that they will deliver borrowers’ Closing Disclosures after the CFPB rules take effect on August 1, 2015.

Citi’s announcement was made on January 28, 2015, followed by Chase’s announcement on February 26. Both lenders stated that closing attorneys will continue to be responsible for sellers’ Closing Disclosures in purchase transactions. Closing attorneys will be required to deliver copies of sellers’ Closing Disclosures to the respective lender.

Citi’s announcement shared some information with its settlement agents that has previously been made clear by the rule itself. That is, there will be several weeks or months after August 1 when the old forms will be used because it is the application date as of August 1 that triggers the use of the new forms, and early use of the Closing Disclosure is not allowed. Citi also pointed out that the new rules do not apply to home equity loans.

Closing attorneys should note that their software systems will have to accommodate old and new versions of the forms because of the transition and because all loans will not be subject to the new rules.bandwagon - one way (smaller)

Union Bank announced on February 26 that it will use the web-based tool Closing Insight™ to simplify the multi-party closing process and support efforts to ensure regulatory compliance. The announcement stated that no other means of communication or document delivery will be accepted.

We will continue to read and keep you informed!

Don’t Expect Uniform Closing Procedures in 2015

Standard

And … Bank of America makes a big announcement.

changes comingLenders will not collaborate on a standard and consistent process for closings under the new CFPB rules effective August 1, 2015, at least not according to Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo’s December 10, 2014 Settlement Agent Communication answered nine FAQs from settlement agents, the first of which sought confirmation on whether to expect standard closing procedures from lenders. Wells responded with a “no,” and stated that each lender is accountable and must determine its own method for achieving compliance.

This mega lender had announced on September 24 that it will control the generation and delivery of the buyer/borrower Closing Disclosure (“CD”), the form that will replace the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The stated rationale was that the new CD is governed by the Truth-in-Lending Act (“TILA”), not the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), and the risks and penalties for lenders are more severe under TILA.

Bank of America announced on December 17 that it will follow suit by generating and delivering the buyer/borrower CD.  Both banks have indicated settlement agents will generate the seller’s CD. Other lenders have not announced whether they will follow this procedure. It is entirely possible that settlement agents (closing attorneys in South Carolina) will prepare the CDs for other lenders.

The December 10 memo did state that Wells will work closely with settlement agents to determine fees, prorations, and other content required for the CD and, importantly, Wells will not assume the responsibility for disbursing loans. This quote from the Communication provides some comfort with regard to Wells’ attitude about keeping local settlement agents involved in the closing process:

“The settlement agent is critical and continues to be responsible for executing the closing including document signing, notarization, disbursement of funds, document recordation and delivery of final documents post-closing.”

Also comforting was the promise of training plans for settlement agents in collaboration with American Land Title Association, title underwriters and other service providers. The plans are said to include many educational communications and an information guide.

Bank of America stated that it will use Closing Insight™, an industry tool developed by Real EC Technologies®. All documents, date and information will be exchanged through Closing Insight™, discontinuing the use of e-mail, fax and other document delivery methods.

Bank of America also indicated that the requirement for the buyer/borrower to receive the CD three business days prior to closing will intensify the need for the bank to work very closely with the settlement agent to schedule the details of the closing.

stay tunedFor more information about Real EC ® Technologies and Closing Insight™, Bank of America invited settlement agents to visit their website at www.bkfs.com/realec.  The December 17 memo indicated that many title and escrow production systems are working with RealEC® Technologies to enhance current integrations in support of Closing Insight™. The bank suggested that settlement agents reach out to their title and escrow production system provider directly.

Stay tuned!

Lions, and Tigers and Seller Financing, Oh My!

Standard

If you are closing seller financed transactions on primary residences including contracts for deed (hereafter referred to as seller financing), or if you have clients who are accepting seller financing, you should take the time to educate yourself and your clients on the current pitfalls.  Please refer to Martha McConnell’s excellent article entitled Seller Financing – the New ‘Jabberwocky’!” in the Summer 2014 issue of Chicago Record Title for a detailed report on what has led to this serious concern.

lions1 Because it is a complicated issue, I am not sure I can express a bottom line in any kind of succinct manner, but I will attempt to do so here.

The CFPB has been given the power to supervise and regulate laws that impact seller financing, including the SAFE Act, TILA, the Ability to Repay and Qualified Mortgage Rule, HOEPA and the Loan Originator Rule.

Under the applicable federal rules, it is possible that sellers engaging in seller financing may have to become licensed as “loan originators” or “mortgage brokers”.  The loans may have to be fully amortized, and it is possible that these seller/lenders may have to make determinations and disclosures that have not previously been required. Certain exclusions are available, but the rules are complex and detailed, and should be handled with care.

Inconsistencies between the federal and state versions of the SAFE Act, both of which require licensing and registration of loan originators, is another area of concern.

Clients who fail to become licensed or to fall into an exclusion may find they are unable to foreclose, and may, along with the attorneys who closed the transactions and the title policies that insured them, be subject to claims and litigation. In addition, the CFPB has broad enforcement powers including the power to impose civil monetary penalties ranging from $5,000 to $1 million per day.

This is an area of the law that is going to require monitoring and thought in the coming months. Legislation in South Carolina to address the inconsistencies in our version of the SAFE Act may be one avenue for improvement. In the meantime, please take great care if you or your clients venture into seller financing.

Georgia On My Mind

Standard

GA Supreme Court takes a page from our playbook and prohibits “witness only” closings

On September 22, 2014, The Supreme Court of Georgia issued an opinion approving the State Bar’s Formal Advisory Opinion No. 13-1, which states that a Georgia licensed lawyer may not ethically conduct a “witness only” closing.

georgia with flagThe Court indicated a “witness only” closing occurs when an individual presides over the execution of closing documents but purports to do so merely as a witness and notary and not as someone who is practicing law. In order to protect the public from those not properly trained or qualified to render these services, lawyers are required to “be in control of the closing process from beginning to end,” according to the opinion.

The opinion also requires the closing attorney to review the closing documents, resolve errors in the paperwork, and detect and resolve ambiguities in title and title defects, indicating, “A lawyer conducting a real estate closing may use documents prepared by others after ensuring their accuracy, making necessary revisions, and adopting the work.”

The closing lawyer must “review and adopt” the work used in a closing, even if he or she didn’t prepare that work.  Georgia law allows title insurance companies and others to examine title records, prepare abstracts and issue related insurance.  And other persons may provide attorneys with paralegal and clerical services, so long as “at all times the attorney receiving the information or services shall maintain full professional and direct responsibility to his clients for the information and services received.”

The obligation to review, revise, approve and adopt documents used in closings applies to “the entire series of events that comprise a closing.”

I’m a South Carolina dirt lawyer, so I don’t have the background to comment at length on this opinion, but from my bank of the Savannah River, it seems this opinion places closing lawyers in a precarious position, not unlike the position of our Bidding on a homepractitioners. We don’t necessarily have to perform all aspects of closings, but we do have to supervise and take professional responsibility for the entire closing.  We have learned how difficult it is to supervise third parties and take responsibility for their work.  The Georgia Bar asked for this opinion.  I hope they like it!

Surely Dave Whitener is smiling down from heaven at this effort to rein in the unauthorized practice of law!

Who Will Get On the Wells Fargo Wagon?

Standard

Wells Fargo announces it will generate and deliver the Closing Disclosure

wells fargo 2
Wells Fargo announced on September 24, 2014 that it will generate and deliver the borrower’s Closing Disclosure when the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule becomes effective on August 1, 2015.

Software companies, title insurance companies and closing attorneys have been speculating about this for many months. Now we have an answer, at least as to this mega-lender. Whether other lenders will fall in line remains to be seen.  The stated rationale is that the process will allow Wells Fargo to consistently meet compliance and regulator expectations.

The announcement stated that Wells will continue to collaborate with closing attorneys to determine fees and other content required for the Closing Disclosure and to ensure that the lender has accurate information.

For purchase transactions, the closing attorney will continue to be responsible for the seller’s information and will prepare and deliver the seller’s Closing Disclosure. A copy must be provided to Wells Fargo.

The Closing Disclosure must be delivered three business days prior to the closing, and Wells Fargo anticipates this requirement will require that all the parties work together more than ever on scheduling closings.

Conducting closings will continue to be the responsibility of closing attorneys, but with increasing focus on compliance with the lender’s closing instructions, according to this announcement.

This announcement has a huge impact on the closing process. The closing attorney will continue to be responsible for gathering information required to generate the document that replaces the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, but Wells Fargo, not the closing attorney’s office, will actually generate and deliver the form.

Please recall that Wells Fargo is the lender that endorsed ALTA’s Best Practices. My best advice for residential closing attorneys in South Carolina who want to remain in the game after August, 2015?  Get your office in compliance with Best Practices now so you will be prepared to implement the hardware/software changes this announced “collaborating” with lenders will require.

StageCoachLogo