Friday, December 31, 2010

Wanted: A Maryland Sales Manager!

Is one of your New Year's resolutions to embark on a new career?

If you have title, mortgage, or real estate brokerage sales experience, we may have a great opportunity for you to lead the most gifted team of settlement officers and attorneys in the region. Becoming the Maryland Sales Manager gives you the following:

* The chance to lead this exceptional team of closers!

* A seat on this fantastic leadership team.

* The good fortune of working with me every day. :)

* The ability to meet and network with some of the very best real estate professionals in Maryland, including brokerage leadership, high-producing real estate agents, and seasoned loan officers.

* The security and strength of being part of something bigger, yet with local autonomy and leadership.

Sound good? Click here to apply or email recruiting[at]TRGC[dot]com. You can also reach out to me directly at Derek[dot]Massey[at]MASettlement[dot]com.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Get educated in 2011!

We are currently scheduling classes for 2011!

We offer a great mix of credit and non-credit classes for real estate agents and loan officers. Here are some of the classes we currently offer:

1031 Exchange: The various aspects of a 1031 exchange transaction, timelines, accommodator role, benefits and overall transactional structure.

Contracts: Contracts on a macro level and the Regional Sales Contract and common addendums.

Ethics: illegal flipping, predatory lending, the history of the code, articles commonly violated, recent decisions and case studies.

From Contract to Closing: After an offer is accepted, we discuss how to keep a contract current, removing contingencies, working with lender and title company and overall how to keep a transaction together until closing.

Negotiating Closing: the anatomy of an offer, understanding offers from buyer's and seller's position, evaluate the merits of an offer, how to support an offer.

Real Estate Agency: the history of agency, fiduciary relationship, terminology, review Virginia/Maryland agency law and required disclosures.

Real Property Rights / Public Records: the various land records web sites available to the public and other services.

REO Representation: the default cycle, REO tasks associated with a transaction, listing servicing, pre-foreclosure involvement and overall REO client expectations.

Safety in Real Estate: how to stay safe in the real estate business, how to practice "safe showings".

The Settlement Process: all the various stages of a settlement from contract ratification to post-closing.

Short Sale Strategies: the "default cycle" from origination to REO, deficiency disposition, phantom tax, listing, packaging, negotiation and case studies.

Title Insurance: the history of Title Insurance and its evolution, various title insurance policies and compare coverage, title insurance claims and prevention.

Transaction Red Flags: the various obstacles to anticipate and various issues that can delay or "blow-up" a transaction and how to address them.

Want to schedule a class? Reach out to your Title Service Rep or call/email us at (800) 530-9372 | info[at]MASettlement[dot]com today!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tech Tip: Get your email when you want it!

We've all been there.

An email arrives in your bloated inbox that you know you will have to address, but not until next week.

Or, you've just sent an email out to someone who should respond to you in one week. You want to make sure you're reminded to follow up in case they don't.

Your options have historically been to:

- Keep it in your inbox in the hopes of reviewing it next week.
- Add it as an item in your calendar.
- Add it as a "to-do" item in a tasking program.
- Set up a separate "hold" or "follow-up" mailbox to review later.
- Tie a string around your finger.
- Forget about it.

Until now.

With Laytr and NudgeMail, you can simply forward any email to a date in the future and you'll get it at that time. It's simple, easy, and a great way to keep your inbox at zero by putting in front of you only what you need to handle today.

Try it now! If you're getting this post via email, forward it to or, and put off reading it for a week. Don't worry, I'll never know. :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

What are "good funds?"

Think of an escrow account as a water tower, except with money. Money goes in, money goes out. For each particular real estate transaction, the amount of money coming in must match what's going out - to the penny.

Typical incoming funds:

- Loan funds
- Buyer's personal funds

Typical outgoing funds:

- Seller's loan payoff
- Broker's commission
- Tax payments
- HOA payments
- Title and lender closing costs
- Seller's proceeds

Another key requirement of real estate escrow is that the incoming funds must be irrevocably in the title company's account before it can disburse against them. In other words, they must be in the water tower such that no one can get them out. There are typically only two ways to accomplish that upon receipt:

  1. Wires
  2. Certified or cashiers checks

Wires are self-explanatory: A wire is a direct deposit of water into the tower.

What makes certified / cashiers checks superior to personal checks?

When a certified check is prepared, the money is pulled out of the account right then and there. Unlike a personal check - which can bounce due to the asynchronous nature of check writing and depositing - a certified check is not merely a promise to deposit water if there is enough water in the account, but it actually has the water attached to it.

I'm an agent or loan officer. What do I do with this information?

Remind your buyers that good funds are needed for settlements, particularly in table-funded states like Maryland. Instruments like personal checks, ACH orders and retirement account checks are NOT good funds, and cannot be disbursed against until they irrevocably clear in the title company's escrow account. Knowing and communicating this well in advance of closing will allow the parties to find the best solution for ensuring a timely settlement!

Flickr photo by doug_wertman

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why do we close at the end of the month?

I'm not breaking any ground by stating that more real estate settlements happen at the end of the month (defined as the last day or two) than any other time of the month. We're all well-versed in the stories and issues that come with end-of-month closings: courthouse recording offices backed up, lender packages not arriving in a timely fashion, settlement attorneys frantically scheduling and rescheduling to make the closing happen.

There are 20 days in a typical business month. If closings were evenly distributed throughout the month, 5% of the total would close on any given day, including - of course - the last day of the month.

In fact, 17%* of all settlements occur on the last DAY of the month!

That's a drastic increase in volume that puts on a strain lenders, title companies, recorders, couriers, brokers, and - ultimately - buyers and sellers.

In many industries, this kind of "cyclical strain" cannot be avoided. Christmas happens on December 25th, so rather than straight-lining their sales, retailers have to accept a crunch in November and December. Ocean City hotels can't count on robust sales in December and January, for obvious reasons. Even in real estate, we understand sales are better in the warmer months when homes look nicer and taking a ride to house-hunt doesn't require snow tires.

But why the monthly cycle in real estate?

I came up with a few:

  • A renter who closes mid-month will be paying rent and a mortgage for the remainder of that month.
  • A buyer's mortgage interest doesn't kick in until the beginning of the next month. (Except a borrower typically pays interest in advance at settlement for the days between settlement and the first mortgage payment).
  • A seller has already paid their mortgage for the month, and wants to "get what they paid for." (Except that a non-FHA payoff statement is good through a particular date, and the seller doesn't really pay any more than what's owed as of the "good-through" date of that statement).

So, unless we have a renter-buyer and/or a seller with an FHA mortgage, are there other reasons for closing at the end of the month? If not, why do we schedule them at the end of the month?

* According to our settlement schedule for Jan - Nov. 2010. Also, I cheated for August, and included the last 2 days of the month, as the 30th and 31st fell on a Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Flickr photo by Aarongeller

Friday, December 3, 2010 Launches Real Estate Agent "Ratings and Reviews", home of the Zestimate, Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, and many other online real estate resources, yesterday launched a "Ratings and Reviews" system for real estate professionals.

This new tool will allow consumers to review and rate real estate agents with whom they've previously worked. Zillow believes this will help potential buyers and sellers in selecting an agent that fits their individual needs, AND will help great real estate agents. Details on the program (with a TON of commentary) can be found here.

What do you think? Is this good for the industry? Good for consumers? For agents?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What should you ask your title company?

Congratulations! You have a ratified contract. Your buyers have signed on the line which is dotted. Your job is done, right?


Not true in any market, much less this one. Now comes the fun part - navigating from contract signing to settlement. An integral part of this process is selecting the title company.

So, how do you pick a title company? Likely you know someone and/or have worked with someone in the past. You have a relationship with them. And like all business, relationships are what drive this business. But let's say you are testing a new company out or want to dig a little deeper to see what is behind that friendly, helpful closing attorney?

Here are some great questions to ask which should help frame your decision:

1. What are your fees? All of them. No one likes hidden fees that do not pop up until the final HUD-1 is presented at the table. Ask your title rep for a fee schedule, or better yet, get the fees for your particular transaction. This can be done manually or via a web-based application, like ours.

2. When do you order the title search? This is the question which prompted this post. Some title companies wait until they hear the appraisal is back before ordering title. Why? It costs money to order title. See here what goes into a title search. However, I would insist that your title company order the search the day you hand over the contract. It's too important to wait. Otherwise, last minute title issues could arise that could have been addressed earlier.

3. How often is your escrow or trust account reconciled? Escrow/trust accounts should be reconciled monthly, no exceptions. If not, a shortage could exist which could come back and haunt your buyer should the title company find itself insolvent.

4. How many title insurance companies do you write for? This is a particularly interesting question today, and here's why it is important: title underwriters, like loan underwriters, are made up of people. People judge things differently. On a number of occasions, Title Insurance Company X will insure something that Title Insurance Company Y will not. It's the nature of the beast. I love my affiliated title insurance company, but I also want to know that I have others to call should I need to get a deal to closing. Is your title company bound by the underwriting staff of just one underwriter?

5. Where will the settlement take place? It all depends on your comfort level and convenience. Do they have a local office? Will they come to you? To the lender? To the buyer's home? Ask in advance, so you know what you're dealing with.

6. Do you have attorneys on staff? Titles can be confusing, and may require someone with a legal background to fully parse through recorded documents, legal proceedings and contract clauses to determine what needs to happen before or at closing. The title company attorney should never purport to fully represent your buyer, but they can provide guidance as to how to get the deal to settlement.

7. How many short sales and REO transactions have you handled this year? Short sales are REOs are different animals, and require much more work than refinance or straight seller-to-buyer deals. Is your title company well-versed in these nuances? How experienced are they?

We hope you find this helpful. As always, please email us at info[at]MASettlement[dot]com if we can ever be of assistance to your or your buyers!