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Archive for the ‘closing’ Category

Keeping Everyone Safe and Healthy

We are excited to help you with your real estate transaction!  Or mission and passion is to make the closing process easier, smoother, and less stressful — even in a pandemic. We have taken many precautions to keep you and our team safe and healthy.

Closing Procedures:

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Closing Room or Drive-Up Closing:  You can sign your documents in our closing room or from your car as a “drive-up closing.”We will be limiting our closing rooms to 6 people to assure social distancing.

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Call When You Arrive:  When you arrive, wait in your car or outside and call us at 608-467-4600 to let us know you are here.  We will either bring documents to you or let you know when your closing room is ready.

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Masks: We require all clients and customers to wear masks in our office. We can provide masks to those who don’t have their own. For those uncomfortable or unwilling to wear a mask, we offer drive-in closings.

We will be sanitizing all surfaces frequently and offering hand sanitizer and wipes. We will not be offering food, beverages, or reading materials.

We are following state and local health guidelines to protect you and our team. We appreciate your understanding, even if you don’t agree with our level of precautions.

Covid-19 Agreement:

Please do not come to closing if you have any symptoms or risks associated with Covid-19.  We can make alternative, remote signing arrangements.  Do not come to closing if:

  1. You have had a cough, flu symptoms, or fever higher than 100 in the last 14 days.
  2. You have been around anyone showing symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 14 days.
  3. You are living with anyone who has been quarantined in the last 14 days.
  4. You or anyone in your household has tested positive for Covid-19 and have had any symptoms in the last 14 days.

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Twenty-Five years ago, Michael Jordan announced his return to the NBA with two words: “I’m Back.” Homestead Title doesn’t pretend to be as exciting as MJ and our return to the closing room is not as dramatic. But, we are excited to announce: We’re Back. We will return to the closing room with a larger in-office staff during the last week of May.

Phased Re-entry

Our return to the closing room will be cautious, safe, and gradual. Here’s our timeline and plan.

Timeline:

Wednesday May 27, 2020: Customers have the option to close in their car by “Drive-in” or in the closing room. All closings will be at our West office this week as we gradually return to full staff.

Monday, June 1, 2020: Customers can choose to close in their cars or in either our West or Monona offices.

With health and safety concerns and child care challenges, we anticipate many requests for “Drive-In” closings and will continue to offer this as an option for the foreseeable future.

Closing Procedures:

All parties will be offered the option to close in the safety of their cars, in our closing room, or from home as a mail away or digital closing (when available).

Closings in our office will be a little different, with adjustments to keep you and our team safe and healthy:

  • Limits on the Number of People: We will limit our waiting room and closing rooms to 6 people.
    • We’ve reorganized seating to accommodate social distancing.
    • We may need to have Buyers and Sellers sign separately (within the same 1 hour block)
    • Realtors and Lenders may not be able to be in the room (they are welcome to wait in one of our waiting areas or outside)
  • Masks or Face Coverings are required in our closing room. We recognize that this may feel uncomfortable or even unfair to some people.
    • Just as restaurants don’t allow patrons without shoes, many businesses are moving to a policy of “no shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service.”
    • If someone is uncomfortable with a mask, we can still accommodate a Drive-in closing.
  • Food and Beverages: We will not be offering food, coffee, or self-serve beverages. We may offer soda in unopened cans by request.
  • Hand Sanitizer: There will be LOTS of hand sanitizer. We urge everyone to use hand sanitizer early and often during closings.
  • Cleaning: We will be wiping down surfaces throughout the day and after every closing.

Buying and Selling (even refinancing) a home can be incredibly stressful. Our mission and passion is to reduce that stress while making the process easy, smooth, and fun. That includes making people feel healthy, safe, and comfortable.

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Mortgage rates continue to hover near historic lows and virtually everyone is refinancing.  This is a friendly reminder to make sure everyone comes to closing.  This includes a spouse who does not own the property.

Wisconsin has an antiquated law that requires all spouses to sign any “conveyance” of  a married person’s “homestead.”  A mortgage is a conveyance because it conveys to the bank the right to take the property if the borrower ever defaults on their loan.

This law is not part of Wisconsin’s Marital Property Act.  Rather, it is in the statute that addresses the formal requirements to convey rights and title in real estate.  Some of those requirements are obvious:  identify the parties; identify the land, sign the document.   There is also a requirement that all spouses must sign if the property is the married person’s homestead.  This is true even if only one spouse owns the property.

This means that Jane Doe, the sole owner of her home, cannot mortgage her property without the signature of her husband.

There is an important exception for purchases where the entire mortgage is being used to fund the purchase (a “Purchase Money Mortgage”).  When buying and mortgaging, only the spouse who will be on the deed needs to sign.  When Jane Doe buys property without Jack, her spouse does not need to sign the purchase money mortgage.

We often here the complaint:  Why does my husband need to sign, he doesn’t own the property and didn’t sign the mortgage when I bought the property.  Wisconsin’s “homestead statute” is clear that non-titled spouses must sign any deed or mortgage on the homestead/residence except for the original mortgage when they purchased. If the non-titles spouse fails to sign, the Mortgage will not be valid.

If you are married and refinancing you personal residence, make sure your spouse comes to closing.

If you have questions about refinancing, the answer is very likely “do it!”  Rates are historically low.  You can also call us for referrals to a great lender.

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A pandemic can significantly impact the way we do business. Homestead has moved all of our closings to the parking lot, doing “Drive-in” or “Car-Hop” closings.  Customers love it for the health, safety, and social distancing.  Yet, there has been a surprising, unintended consequence. Healthy closings lead to dead batteries!

JumpCarWe have had SIX customers need to jump their cars in the last 3 weeks! 

When coming to closing, don’t forget your photo-ID, a checkbook, the keys, and jumper cables!

In all seriousness, we now advise customers to turn their car off, including the radio or anything that might drain their battery.

Homestead Title is always available to provide title insurance, closing solutions, or a jump for your dead battery.

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Homestead Title has handled dozens of digital or e-closings in the last few weeks. We have been able to accommodate sick sellers, a borrower in lock-down in India, and parties who simply did not want to risk their health for a sale or refinance.

The way our industry handles these closings has been a moving target, sometimes changing by the day or even hour. Welcome to the new “normal.”  Here’s the latest.

Remote Online Notary

We have conducted e-closings using Remote Online Notary (RON). This is a fully digital closing experience, where every signature is digital (like docusign).  Even the notary signs digitally.  This requires a computer with Google Chrome or Firefox, a webcam and microphone, a decent internet connection, and use of an approved e-closing “platform” or service like Pavaso or Notarycam. Homestead is Pavaso certified to conduct closings and act as a remote online notary.Pavaso

Pros:  Parties don’t need printers, scanners, mail, or UPS and can sign everything on their computer from anywhere.  There is no paper whatsoever!

Cons:  The technology can be very challenging. Failing to answer security questions or having technology challenges can cause delays. Not all title companies have this capability (Homestead does!!). RON cannot be used for Power of Attorney documents or for most lenders, meaning it is limited to sellers.

Homestead uses Pavaso and our own Notary (we don’t rely on third party notaries).

Video Conference Closings

We have handled closings via video conference, using Zoom, Facetime, or WhatsApp.  These are “wet” or “ink” closings — the parties sign documents on paper during a video conference with our attorney, who verifies their identities and signatures on camera.  They deliver the originals back to us and our attorney “Authenticates” their signatures. Wisconsin law allows an attorney to Authenticate the validity of a signature, with the same effect as a notary, based on familiarity with the signature.

videoPros:  Virtually everyone can figure out the technology (it’s a simple video conference call), we can use this for signing a Power of Attorney, it is fast and easy.

Cons:  The parties need access to a printer and scanner. They still need to send the originals back to us (usually by UPS and we provide the label). The closing must be a pre-sign at least one day prior to closing.  This cannot be used for lender documents that require Notary Stamps and same-day signing.

In-Person Closings:

We are still handling the majority of our closings at our office.  We are doing these as “drive-in” or “car-hop” closings.  Parties do not need to leave their car.  We provide social distancing and limit contact.  We will continue drive-in closings during the Emergency Order, which was extended to May 26, 2020.

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We’ve fielded numerous calls from Realtors asking: What can I do if my client is sick and can’t come to closing?

The answer depends upon whether the party is the buyer or seller and whether the parties planned ahead.

Sick Sellers

Many title companies can accommodate the seller with an e-closing using a Remote Online Notary (RON). Homestead has conducted a large number of Seller e-closings (some sick and some practicing social distancing). Sellers need a computer with Google Chrome or Firefox, a webcam and microphone, and a decent internet connection.

In additions to an e-closing, some sellers may be able to pre-sign documents and have an attorney they know “authenticate” their signatures.  In rare cases, our attorney will authenticate their signature if he is either familiar with them from past transactions or has  had a video conference signing along with another party familiar with the seller.

If e-closing is not an option, the Seller may be able to use a Power of Attorney (See Below).

Sick Buyers

Sick Buyers can present a bigger challenge.  Lenders are not yet ready to allow fully digital closings and we generally need in-person, ink signatures. The big exception: Cash Buyers can sign remotely without needing a digital notary.  The vast majority of buyers have financing and will need another option.

  • Power of Attorney:  This option works best when the POA is already in place.  It is not ideal when first addressed with a sick party because it may require that they visit a notary in person. POA’s present a few issues:POA2
    • Visiting a Notary: Some real estate professionals have recommended that sick Buyers have the POA notarized at a Bank drive-through.  This seems unfair to the bank employees and socially irresponsible.
    • Authentication by an Attorney:  A safer option is to ask if the Buyer has an attorney who can “authenticate” their signature without the Buyer being physically present. We may be able to accept a scanned copy of the authenticated signatures along with a mailed original at a later date.
    • Remote On-line Notary: A third option is to see if the lender will accept a digital, RON notary for the Power of Attorney. This is a long shot but worth a try.
    • HEALTH WARNING:  We are very cautious about working with a power of attorney appointed by someone known to have Covid-19. Most people appoint someone they know well and we need assurances that the Signing Agent has not been in contact with the sick person in the last 14 days.
  • Delay:  If the parties have not contemplated a delay, they will need an Amendment to allow for an extension of time to close.  Many parties have planned ahead and included extension terms in their offer.  The Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA) released Addendum CV to address Covid-19 related issues. The Addendum allows for extensions of time if a delay is caused by:
    • Office closures such as banks, title companies, register of deeds, appraisers, etc. or
    • Sickness, isolation, or quarantine by any party.

Please let us know of any sick party as early as possible.  Homestead will work with you to find safe, healthy, and proactive solutions.

Planning Ahead

The best plan is one that is already in place. Parties should discuss the benefits and drawbacks of Addendum CV with their Realtors or attorneys.  In addition, parties may consider appointing a power of attorney (who does not live in their household) in case they are unable to attend closing.

Finally, planning for health challenges is something everyone (not just Buyers and Sellers) should consider, especially in times of uncertainty. It is wise to have a will, power of attorney, and power of attorney for health care. A power of attorney for a real estate transaction only allows someone to sign closing documents. A power of attorney for health care is far more important. It allows your agent (a loved one) to make critical health care decisions that are consistent with your wishes in the event that you are unconscious or incapacitated.

Homestead Title can draft a general Power of Attorney.  We cannot advise you on wills or drafting a Power of Attorney for Health Care. Attorney Peter Zarov, however, can consult with you about these needs to provide assistance or referrals.

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To protect the safety and health of our customers, clients, and staff, Homestead Title has made some significant adjustments:

  • We offer Digital, E-Closings to Sellers and Cash Buyers
  • We are handling in-person transactions as “Drive-Up Closings”

So, how well are these working? 

Digital, E-Closings

We’ve handled many digital closings over the last week and the reviews are positive.  Closing from home is obviously convenient and safe. And the time it takes to close is similar (actually a little longer to authenticate identities). Yet, just as working from home can be awkward and less efficient, so too are digital closings.  The technology is good and easy, but not perfect.  Voices sometimes echo or lag, video can cut out, and explaining documents is slightly harder. Anyone who’s participated in Zoom or other video conferences knows what we mean.  Given our current circumstances, the positives far outweigh the negatives.  In normal times, this will be one more tool in our tool-kit, but will not replace in-person closings.

Drive-In Signing

driveinHomestead Title is handling all in-person transactions at our WEST office as “Drive-Up Closings.” We’ve received fantastic responses as customers appreciate our efforts to protect their health. And, the process has worked very well: Customers call when they arrive, we bring documents and a clipboard, and they sign in the car.  Customers take a little longer to sign. And we answer questions from 6 feet away or by phone.  We can’t wait to return to the closing room, but we’re proud to keep our customers and team safe.

With both Drive-In and E-Closings, we are offering to send all copies via secured, encrypted email.

Some of these adjustments are temporary.  In healthy times, we will not be doing “Drive In” closings — if we do, we’ll serve burgers and shakes on skates!  We likely will handle more e-closing when things return to normal. Yet, we anticipate most closings will return to the closing room with happy buyers, sellers, Realtors, and lenders celebrating together.

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Homestead Title will be taking extraordinary measures to protect the health and safety of our customers, clients, and team.

Remote Staff: More than 85% of our team are working remotely from home.  We have had remote capabilities for over 15 years and you may not notice a difference.  We still ask for patience and understanding as it is hard to work with co-workers who are toddlers, pets, and family.

Driveup2Drive-Up Signings: All in-person transactions will be “Drive Up Closings” at our WEST office until Wisconsin’s Emergency “Safer at Home” Order expires (currently set for April 24). Here’s what you should know:

  • In-Person Signing at 555 Zor Shrine (WEST): All closings will take place at our West office as “drive up closings.”
  • Strict Lock-down of our Office: We are not admitting anyone into our office other than essential staff.
  • Alert Us When You Arrive: Call our main number and we will have our closing officer come right out to your car with documents to sign.
  • Only Signers at Closing: We urge only signers come to Drive-Up Closings. Others can come, but they will not be allowed in our building and will be asked to stay in their cars in the parking lot.

E-Closings are hereDigital Closings: We can do fully digital, remote closings for Sellers or Cash Buyers. The mortgage industry is moving fast to add financed buyers, but we are not yet aware of any Banks or Credit Unions that can do a fully remote closing.

Our mission statement is to make the closing process easier, smoother, and less stressful for our buyers and sellers. For the next few weeks or months, we need to add: “… and safer.”

 

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We can close many transactions digitally from the comfort and safety of your home.

In response to the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, the State and our underwriters have passed emergency rules to allow digital closings and remote notarization!

E-Closings are here

We will be able to accommodate almost all sellers and many buyers with “Remote Online Notaries,” (RON).  This will allow for fully remote, digital closings without the need to leave home.

Buyers with a loan will need their lender approval to conduct a fully digital closing.  Lenders have many considerations and challenges, including investors, underwriters, mortgage insurance, and legal issues. Some may not be able to offer this service right away and others may allow only some documents to be signed digitally.

Homestead currently uses Notarycam and is trained and setting up Pavaso – two nationally recognized, approved platforms.  We “host” closings with a certified, remote-online notary.  The Wisconsin DFI has temporarily allowed Wisconsin notaries to also become online notaries (without the need for including an out-of-state notary) and our team is also adding this service.

Please contact us if you wish to close remotely and we can determine whether this is an option and coordinate with you.  

 

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The self isolation and quarantines of the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic creates challenges and disruptions, including in real estate.  The title and mortgage industries are putting forth efforts to overcome these challenges.

Remote Digital Closings May be Available Soon!

A major effort is underway from title underwriters, legislatures, and administrative agencies to allow “Remote Online Notaries,” (RON) in Wisconsin.  This would allow for fully remote, digital closings without the need to leave home. While it would primarily be available to Sellers, some Buyers can also sign remotely.

E-signing2

Buyers with a loan will need their lender approval to conduct a fully digital closing.  Lenders have many considerations and challenges, including investors, underwriters, mortgage insurance, and legal issues. Some may not be able to offer this service right away and others may allow only certain documents to be signed digitally.

Homestead Title is already conducting digital, remote closings for “Cash” Buyers (where none of their documents are notarized and there is no lender).

Look for important updates on Digital Closings in the coming days.

 

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