Don’t Expect Uniform Closing Procedures in 2015

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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!

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Tell it to Grandma!

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DSC_1879aWhen my friend and mentor Chris Abbinante was President of American Land Title Association, he encouraged real estate professionals to explain what we do in terms our grandmothers can understand. He said when we can explain the value of our profession to our grandmothers; we will be able to be to enlighten our clients. Knowledgeable clients who recognize our value are more satisfied, more willing to pay our fees and more likely to return for future transactions.

  Our jobs are important and honorable! We assist consumers in realizing the American dream. We hold their hands during their most significant purchases. We examine the titles to identify and eliminate risks. We draft documents to protect their interests. We explain documents to confirm clients understand their obligations.

We are entrusted with and carefully handle closing funds. We vigilantly maintain our trust accounts so client funds will be safe. We protect our clients’ private, sensitive information. We are mortgage fraud watch dogs. We provide clients with the best title insurance products available so that the title to their investment will be protected from third parties by reputable and solvent companies. When they leave our offices, they hold keys to the home where their family will live. There is a reason we call the scheduled event a “closing”. It is the end, the culmination of the process of dreaming about, finding, and obtaining a home.

Commercial practitioners assist clients in procuring properties for their business activities or for investment purposes using the skills that no other professional can provide. We form their business entities. We assist with accumulating multiple properties for a single endeavor. We assist clients in satisfying the requirements of their lenders. We know when to call on other professionals…surveyors, inspectors, appraisers, environmental engineers, attorneys and bankruptcy attorneys. We protect clients’ equity and assist in their business pursuits. After their closings, they can begin to build their office buildings, shopping centers and residential subdivisions. Commercial practitioners also assist clients in achieving the American dream.

Learn to articulate your story. Own your story! Tell your story, like you would tell Grandma, to real estate agents, builders, lenders, developers, service organizations and others. This is Marketing for Dirt Lawyers 101. You will see results!