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!