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ALTA Comments on CFPB Report on Consumer Experiences at Closing

Press Release

Our members strongly support efforts to identify and alleviate the pain points consumers have experienced during the home closing process,” said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “While we are focused on technology and the ability for us to receive, sign and return, and retain electronic documents, we cannot lose sight of the importance of personal interaction during the closing process. At the end of the day, consumers are not buying a home from a computer.”The American Land Title Association (ALTA), the national trade association of the land title industry, released the following statement today from CEO Michelle Korsmo in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s report on consumer experience during the mortgage closing process:

“Improving the closing the process through technology by providing electronic documents to the homebuyer will help give the consumer more to time to digest the information about their purchase prior to the closing. We agree with the CFPB that any implementation of new technology in the home closing process should not reduce opportunities for consumers to ask information or replace the ceremony of the closing process which indicates the importance of the transaction. Based on our members’ unique vantage point working with all the parties at the closing table, the Bureau should not only focus on technological innovations but also on improving consumer education about the closing process. The new integrated mortgage disclosure forms that the CFPB developed and will be implemented in August 2015 will help ensure the personal interaction and explanation remains part of the closing experience for consumers.”

“We look forward to continuing to work on this important initiative with Director Cordray and staff at the CFPB on this important consumer initiative.”

Annual Principles of Abstracting Class slated for May 4-5

The annual Minnesota “Principles of Abstracting and Land Records Management” two day course is being offered on May 4th and 5th in St Paul, MN at the Country Inn and Suites. The course is designed for County Recorders, Title Insurers, Abstractors, and those who deal in land titles. Participants have included Homeland Security professionals who place towers on various sites, Dept of Transportation professionals who deal in Right of Way projects, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and various Utility companies that place easements such as Excel Energy and  Comcast.

The two day course will help prepare attendees to improve their land title search skills, stay in touch with changes in laws, or prepare for the state abstractor licensing examination.  Topics this year include foreclosures, short searches and comprehensive name searching. You can register by mail or online at http://www.landrecs.com/pages/seminar-list.php

MN Dept Commerce Takes Action against Embezzeling Closer

Used with Permission of Robert Franco, Source of Title
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has summarily suspended the real estate closing license, resident insurance producer license and Notary Public commission of Kuntee Singramdoo and charged her with embezzling over $230,000 in real estate closing proceeds and using the money to pay off her own creditors or her family members’ creditors.

Singramdoo, a resident of Lakeville, was an independent closer hired by Walsh Title & Real Estate Services, where she provided real estate closing services, sold title insurance policies and notarized real estate documents. The Commerce Department complaint alleges that Singramdoo engaged in a pattern of misappropriating, converting and/or embezzling settlement proceeds by issuing Walsh Title checks for her own benefit or for the benefit of her family members.

The alleged embezzlement includes at least 184 checks issued between February 2004 and June 2007 to 24 different creditors including $68,109 to U.S. Bank, $48,863 to Wells Fargo, $800 to JC Penney, $4,764 to Macy’s, $6,286 to Goodman Jewelers, $800 to Bloomingdale’s, $6,866 to Honda, $2,734 to American Express and $2,323 to Discover.

Singramdoo admitted under questioning from Commerce Department investigators that she embezzled the funds but at this time has only paid back $10,000 to Walsh Title.

Singramdoo accomplished the embezzlement by entering her own creditors on the HUD-1 mortgage loan form as if the debts belonged to the buyer or seller and subsequently issued checks directly to the creditors in her name. She also changed HUD-1 mortgage loan documents after closings to reflect the fraudulent payments.

“This brazen embezzlement scheme is a warning to everyone to pay close attention to the loan documents you are signing during the closing of a mortgage,” said Glenn Wilson, the commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Commerce.

What Happens When Your Title Underwriter is Defunct?

A statement in A.M.Best’s special report posted by the freelibrary reports:

Title insurer failures are more bad news for homeowners trying to sell or refinance property in the current down market; as such transactions can trigger a title search and a potential claim. Recourse for policyholders can be difficult and, at best, slow, as very few states cover title insurance under their guaranty funds.

 

With the recent bankruptcy of LandAmerica, Commonwealth Land Title, etal, I wonder what has become of the liability for their title policies? For those who have legitimate title claims written by those underwriters, including lenders in this messy foreclosure and short sale market, what happens? Clearly, the title commitments that are being closed today show many title issues, with judgments, foreclosures and under-water sales commonplace. It seems some of the title problems were missed because of poor search and examination procedures, and lessened searches during a busy market. Anyone care to speak up? 

 

Read the full report here.

Real Estate Titles US – Inexpensive Title Education

A new online education company, RealEstateTitles.us (RETUS) has been formed specifically for title professionals. Its purpose is to provide high quality, inexpensive education for those involved with real estate titles. That includes: Closers, Abstractors and Title Searchers, County Recorders, Real Property Attorneys, Title Examiners, Title Agencies and Title Insurance Underwriters. The company offers primarily Professional Development courses for its customers, as most states have no education requirements for these professionals, but also offers some continuing education classes for those states that require CE. Additional License and Pre-license courses are planned for the future.

“RETUS Online courses provide quality education at lower costs for the consumer, as they don’t have to spend money for hotels, meals or travel, and they have the flexibility of working on their own timeframe. Even 15-20 minutes can be very worthwhile in studying important title concepts- and they can enter and exit courses as time allows.” 

The online courses have all been prepared by subject matter experts in the land title field, some being written or edited by Jeanine W. (Jeanne) Johnson. Courses coming soon include

  •  “A Settlement Agents Guide to Closing,” which will cover the full spectum of closing, including the newest changes to the HUD-1 Settlement Statement;
  •   “Introduction to Title Insurance and Land Titles,” that gives a history of title insurance and is a primer of key concepts in the title industry;
  •  “Real Property Ownership and Land Title Use,” which covers legal descriptions, platting, land use controls, rights of the government in planning. Especially helpful in dealing with new construction, land development and commercial properties.

Take a free test drive of the new title education courses for your state by clicking on your state, then the information button on the US MAP.

Definition of Marriage Changed in Dictionary

I caught a Closer Licensing Course last week.  Among the many issues that we discussed in drafting legal documents, was a conversation about marital status.  We talked about the fact that in Minnesota, you are either married or not.  If you are separated, you are still married.  If you are divorced, you are not married.  We also talked about the fact that marriage is recognized anywhere within the United States.  If you are married in Pennsylvania, we accept that marriage in Florida.  But the question came up as to whether or not we recognize marriage between two men or two women?  My response was that I had not run across that issue.  I suggested that they may want to talk to their underwriter.  Rule of thumb however it is that we accept marriages created anywhere within United States.

Interestingly enough, I saw a blog articles today in the Adjunct Law Prof that Marriage is no longer limited to opposite-sex unions, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which defined marriage as “the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage,” in a post.

Any thoughts from title insurance underwriters or title agents?  Has anyone come across this issue? What was the response? And how does that affect title searches? We always searched Mrs. John Smith if we knew Mary Smith was married to John Smith. How do we search Jim Jones, married to Tom Brown?

 

What Kind of Bones do You Have?

Someone once said that there are 4 kinds of bones in every organization.

• There are the “wishbones,” those who spend their time wishing someone else would do all the work.

• There are the “jawbones,” who do all the talking but very little else.

• There are the “knucklebones.” They knock everything anyone ever tries to do.

• And finally, there are the “backbones” who carry the load and quietly do the work.

In an environment where many title insurance abstractors, closers and title examiners are out of a job, it is easy to guess who will be kept on.

Who Has to Sign the Mortgage Documents?

One of the most common sources of confusion at closing seems to be who must sign the mortgage docs. It seems to befuddle even experienced closers of title companies and title agencies. Does the Deed have to match the Mortgage and does the Mortgage have to match the Note? Many are sure that when there is a husband and wife, the closer should prepare the Warranty Deed in both names in joint tenancy, and then prepare the mortgage to exactly match the names on the Warranty Deed. They are not quite sure about signatures on the Mortgage Note, however, because lenders sometimes require others to sign the Note as well.

Truth is, in Minnesota (not necessarily all states) it takes “one to buy and all to sell,” meaning a person can buy real estate without their spouse going into title. There may be good reason for that. Say one spouse has significant financial exposure due to the business she owns. The husband may want to go into title in his name alone, so that should a bad business climate come along and the wife has judgments filed against her, the judgments will not attach to the property.

Also, far as joint tenancy – that may not be the best solution for all spouses. For example, Harry and Mabel, both elderly, have lost their spouses. A winter romance comes along and they decide to be married. They pool their funds and buy a home together. Both wish for their children to inherit their respective halves upon their death. They want to take title not as joint tenants, but as tenants in common.

However, Minnesota, as many states do, has an automatic interest of the spouse in the homestead. Now how do we know if they are living in the property as their homestead? Answer is: we don’t. Therefore, to be prudent, we ask spouses to subordinate any interest they might have, by signing the mortgage. They don’t have to be in title to sign the mortgage. But by signing the mortgage, we have cleared the potential interest.

Best Practice: ALL parties who show in title must sign all mortgages, and rule of thumb is to get their spouses to sign as well. Yes, I recognize that some real estate is unlikely to be homestead, but to be safe, get your underwriter to sign off on not getting the spouse’s signature. After all, that apartment building could also contain the apartment that your client claims as home.

As far as the Mortgage Note, it is simply a personal pledge to repay the full amount of the debt. So if son and daughter-in law, for example, need a little assistance in buying their first home, Mom and Dad may help it happen by, in effect, guaranteeing the loan. Mom and Dad sign the Mortgage Note but do not have to go into title (unless the lender demands it.)

As a disclaimer, this is NOT intended as legal advice, and those who prepare legal documents should be careful to seek legal advise to fulfill the intentions of the title holders. This is merely information from a seasoned closer and title examiner who has seen problems crop up due to misunderstanding how it the documentation works.

Info On Home Closing

Home Closing 101: An Educational Initiative of the American Land Title Association