Monday, January 31, 2011

Team Title: Who does what?

Ever wonder what your friendly title people do? Here's a breakdown of the four primary positions in a title company, and what each does.

Settlement Officer: Also called a Closer, Settlement Attorney, or Title Service Representative (TSR), the Settlement Officer conducts the settlement. She presents the documents to the buyers and sellers, and witnesses the execution of them. She is often the face of the title company for the real estate agents.

Processor: We call them Settlement Coordinators, and this team is the heart and soul of what we do. The Processor is the artist whose masterpiece is a final HUD-1 settlement statement. He compiles taxes, payoffs, HOA fees and other figures required for settlement, and presents a HUD-1 to the lender for final approval. The Processor and Settlement Officer work as a team to get the closing from contract to settlement.

Post-closer: Post-closing is an important function that has two primary purposes: (1) prepare the documents for recording, and (2) send the lender their documents. In a company like ours that handles closings in three different jurisdictions and with hundreds of different lenders, this is an extremely important task.

Title Reviewer: Often (but not always) an attorney, the Title Reviewer carefully reviews the chain of title for the property in question, and determines insurability. If there were never issues, their jobs might be easy. But alas, issues abound. Whether it's an unreleased deed of trust, a problematic easement or a survey issue, the title reviewer not only identifies problem files, but also helps to cure them.

We are always looking for the best people to build our teams. While we don't always have immediate openings, we never know when we may need to add a position or two. If you want to work with the best title team around, send us a resume at careers[at]MASettlement[dot]com today!

Image by renjith krishnan

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rick DeLuca's "Avoid the 20 Biggest Agent Mistakes"

National speaker Rick DeLuca spoke to a group of about 100 real estate yesterday in Ocean Pines, MD. The subject was "Avoid the 20 Biggest Agent Mistakes." Thought-provoking yet simple in nature, Rick's 3-hour talk gave each agent a handful of takeaways to produce more business in 2011. Rather than list the 20 mistakes (Rick would probably prefer that he do that), here is the CliffsNotes version:

Accountability/Partnership: Treat your real estate practice like a business. Set hours, deadlines, etc., and partner with someone on goals. Some agents come and go as they please with no one to report to. Change that. Go outside of real estate to find people to partner with. Great quote: "a hot market creates horrible work habits." Be disciplined about what you're doing every day.

Be "student of the industry." Know your market like the back of your hand. Know the actual numbers! You'll have much more credibility when you can recite the average sales price is, days on market, etc. for your town, neighborhood or project.

Don't have unrealistic expectations. Do fewer things, but do those things well and consistently. Right now agents do lots and lots of different things. Narrow that down and nail a few things.

Understand your contacts are not all created equal. You have some that bear more fruit than others - treat them specially. Rick copied his father's "shoe box" approach. Go through your old contacts - those who have given you business - and call them. Regularly. Who is your target? Is it the entire community? It shouldn't be. Target less. Aim for the "bulls eye" people, not the whole target. A waitress at Denny's referred 4-5 deals per year to Rick, including a$7.2M commercial deal. "Bulls eye" people are very special. Rick only had 17 of them.

Write handwritten notes!

Listen to your clients. "Don't be the answer to a person's prayers until you know what they're praying for!" While being interviewed for a listing, ask, "What are the 3 or 4 most important things you want from your listing agent?" Don't just give them what you think they want to know.

Understand social networking and technology are not fads. If you make a conscious decision not to do it, know you're going to miss on a certain segment. There does, however, need to be a balance. There are many new sites and programs out there to make your life easier. Even if you're not going to use them, maybe the folks in your database would be interested? Send an email with links to them.

Interested in more? Check out

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Valentines Day! You may now file your taxes.

Historically, homeowners seeking to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction could file their taxes immediately to get that refund.

Not this year.

Citing tax law changes enacted in December (and a corresponding need to update their computer system), the IRS will not begin accepting returns from taxpayers claiming the mortgage interest deduction or other Schedule A itemized deductions until Feb. 14.

For those of you who send HUD-1 settlement statements to your buyers, you may want to share this information with them.

Sources:, and

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blogs We Like

To write stuff, you need to read stuff (unless you're Snooki). Our goal is always to provide you with real estate information you can use in your business today, whether it's so you can provide your clients with the latest in title-impacting legislative changes, or new technology to get you in front of new clients. To bring you the best, we read the best. Here is but a sample of what we read:

1000 Watt Consulting Blog: Real estate marketing company 1000 Watt Consulting writes about the latest trends and products in real estate today.

Chris Brogan: While not real estate specific, Chris blogs daily about marketing, technology and progressive business practices. The leading source of breaking news and up-to-date information for the mortgage default servicing industry.

The Mortgage Reports: Loan officer extraordinaire Dan Green blogs daily about the latest in mortgage rates, programs and real estate trends.

naked capitalism: A compilation of articles and links about the mortgage industry.

The Notorious R.O.B. and 7DS Perspectives Blog: Real estate consultant Rob Hahn writes long, thought-provoking (and often controversial) posts on all things real estate.

The Phoenix Real Estate Guy: If you're going to read one "broker blog," read Jay Thompson's witty, informational and from-the-gut take on real estate.

Seth Godin's Blog: Best-selling author Godin writes daily quips on business, marketing and new media.

Speaking of Real Estate: Brought to you by the editors of REALTOR® magazine, this blog includes real estate stories as they’re developing and gives the reader the opportunity to provide input.

What about you? What do you read? We'd love to add to our library.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is my First-Time Homebuyer Credit subject to repayment?

Question: Frank Firsttimer purchased a home in March, 2009 and benefited from the $8000 tax credit. He just now received a letter from IRS stating that if he rents or sells the house within three (3) years of the purchase date, he has to return entire $8000. Is this true?

Answer: Yes. From

The credit must be repaid if, within three years of purchase, the home ceases to be the taxpayer’s main home. For example, a taxpayer who claims the credit based on a qualifying purchase on Sept. 1, 2009, must repay the full credit if he or she sells the home or converts it to business or rental use at any time before Sept. 1, 2012.

This is but one simple, straightforward scenario. What if the buyer bought in 2008 or 2009? There are a number of "if/then" different scenarios depending on when the person bought the property and what they're trying to do with it. Thankfully, the IRS has helped answer some of these questions with a couple of handy articles found here and here.

We always recommend you seek out the advice of a tax professional with any questions specific to your situation, but hopefully this post arms you with the basic information so you know what questions to ask.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Case Review: Maryland Appeals Court Upholds MERS-related Foreclosure

This is a guest post from Elisa Kerr, one of the six attorneys we have on staff here at Mid-Atlantic Settlement Services. In light of some recent successful challenges to foreclosures in other states, it's important to obtain an understanding of how Maryland courts will respond to the various foreclosure issues that are surfacing today, such as MERS, imperfect assigning documentation, and the inability of a foreclosing entity to provide an original note. This case should give us our first glance at how a Maryland appeals court sees things:


In a recent decision rendered by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (Anderson v. Burson, et al., No. 00434, Sept. Term, 2009, full case here), the Court upheld the rights of the foreclosing bank to foreclose on a property in Howard County, Maryland, finding that the Bank was a proper successor to the holder of the mortgage note and had the same rights as the original holder to enforce collection. The borrowers under the mortgage being foreclosed had challenged the foreclosure, claiming that the Bank did not have the right to foreclosure because it was not the current holder of the note. They were able to stall the foreclosure first by filing for bankruptcy protection, and then later by filing a request with the Circuit Court for a temporary restraining order to stop the foreclosure auction. The motions that were filed may have delayed the foreclosure but ultimately did not prevent the foreclosure from occurring.

What does this mean?

This case is noteworthy because it is one of the first cases to be decided since Maryland foreclosure proceedings have been put under microscopic scrutiny by our courts. In this case, the Court had been asked to review the chain of title to the promissory note under which the foreclosure lawsuit was filed. Despite the fact that the promissory note had been transferred or “assigned” a number of times, and also that the original note had been misplaced, the Court still found that the Substitute Trustees and Bank had produced ample evidence that the Bank foreclosing was, indeed, the holder of the note and had the right to foreclose.

Why is this important?

It is an indication that the Court was not interested in upsetting the status quo – that is to say, that the way in which assignments of mortgages and deeds of trust have been handled in Maryland in the past remains acceptable to the Court. Further, it is an indication that the Court has no plans to “upset the apple cart” by imposing additional recording requirements on banks that might slow or stop the sale of properties that are or have been recently in foreclosure. We have seen hiccups on foreclosure sales in other states so this decision is refreshing in that the courts are presenting a favorable opinion on how foreclosures are and have been completed in MD.


To read the case in its entirety, click here. We'll continue to keep you apprised of what's new with respect to foreclosures in this region.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My buyer wants to offer on a short sale. Now what?

Our attorneys and settlement officers have been busy providing training to agents on the nuances of short sales, and we recently launched our Short Trac Short Sale Coordination Program. We've closed hundreds of short sales over the past two years, so we have more than a cursory understanding of them and the lenders who approve them.

One question that we've heard a lot recently is, "OK, I have no interest in listing a short sale, but my buyers are interested in buying one. How do I avoid the black hole of 'offer and non-response'?"

Greg Doherty, an agent in Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage's Alexandria office, has created a very simple yet thorough questionnaire which he presents to listing agents BEFORE he'll submit an offer. With his permission, I'm reproducing the body of the letter here.


Dear [Listing Agent]:

Can you share any information about this Short Sale?

  1. Is the property fully available?
  2. Do you have any offers at the moment?
  3. If so, how many?
  4. If you do have current offers, were any of them written by you or someone on your team?
  5. How many lenders are involved?
  6. Who are the lenders?
  7. Have you submitted the “Package” to the Lender(s) ?
  8. Has the BPO been done?
  9. Do you have a time frame from the lenders?
  10. Are the sellers cooperating?
  11. Do you have a clear line of communication with the lenders?
  12. Are the lenders participating in the new government sponsored programs?
  13. Have you been notified by the bank regarding foreclosure status?
  14. Is there any additional info that you can share that would be helpful?

I appreciate your help. I look forward to working with you to reach a successful conclusion.

Thank you.


Greg Doherty, Realtor®


The answers to these questions - or sometimes the lack of answers - may provide some good insight as to how this deal may go for your buyer. Wouldn't you rather know before you submit the offer, and not six months later?

BONUS TIP: Ask your title company if they'll provide a "current owner search" of the property to determine how many deeds of trust are of record and what the approximate amount of indebtedness is. This will tell you just how much of a short sale it really is!

As always, our team is here and willing to help you should you need help with a short sale!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Introducing "Short Trac" Short Sale Coordination Program

In conjunction with Title Resource Group, our parent company, we are proud to offer Short Trac Short Sale Coordination Program! What is Short Trac? The Short Trac Short Sale Coordination Program is designed to help the seller coordinate and facilitate communications between the listing agent, the lender and the title company through the short sale process. This Program is offered in an effort to assist your clients through what can be a difficult process. What are the folks at Short Trac responsible for?

  1. The process of coordinating the short sale transaction;

  2. Reviewing the completed short sale packet;

  3. Delivering the seller’s authorization to the short sale lender;

  4. Reviewing all preliminary HUD-1s before being sent to short sale lender;

  5. Submitting the short sale packet to short sale lender (if there are multiple lenders, we will pursue the additional lenders);

  6. Delivering a minimum of weekly file status updates to the listing agent and seller;

  7. Forwarding all approval letters to the listing agent; and

  8. Forwarding the approval letters to local title agency branch to complete the closing.
Please note: Short Trac will not negotiate or attempt to negotiate a reduction in the loan amount in connection with the short sale.

What's the cost?

In addition to the normal title and closing fees charged by the title company, the seller will pay Short Trac a fee of $800.00 at closing. If closing does not occur, no fee will be due.

Want to learn more?

Contact your Title Service Rep or contact Short Trac directly at: | (888) 485-3432 | (303) 876-1311 (fax)

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Short Trac is not associated with the government, and our service is not approved by the government or your lender. Even if you accept this offer and use our service, your lender may not agree to change your loan. If you stop paying your mortgage, you could lose your home and damage your credit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Maryland Nonresident Withholding Tax Drops to 6.75% for Individuals

As we discussed here, Maryland imposes upon a nonresident seller an income tax withholding at the time of settlement. For the past several years, the rate has been 7.5% of the net proceeds of the sale.

We have recently learned that Maryland has dropped that rate from 7.5% to 6.75% for individuals (including estates, revocable trusts, etc.). The business tax rate remains the same at 8.25%.

Brokers will want to update their forms, and agents will want to advise their nonresident sellers of this change.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We're Looking for a Northern Virginia Branch Manager

As many of you know, we recently opened a direct, full-service title office in Tysons Corner, VA.

Now? we're looking for someone to run it.

The newly created Northern Virginia Branch Manager will manage our operation for Northern Virginia settlements. The successful candidate will coach and mentor a team of 4-6 settlement officers (we call them Title Service Reps, or "TSRs") and 2-3 settlement coordinators (you might call them "processors"). This is a producing manager role - we expect the individual to perform settlements as needed. This is a great opportunity to meet and work with some of the best brokers and agents in the area! Lastly, this position is a part the Mid-Atlantic Settlement Services Leadership Team.

Sound good? Click here to apply through LinkedIn. You can also forward your resume careers[at]MASettlement[dot]com.

PS - Don't forget we're still looking for a Maryland Sales Manager as well. We have received some great resumes and conducted some fantastic interviews, but we've yet to make a final decision.