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Posts Tagged ‘closings’

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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Up, Up, and Away

Rates on the Rise, But Sales Remain HOT

Mortgage rates spiked over the last two weeks. In fact, since the end of April, the average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by nearly 25%.

Pressure From The Fed Kept Rates Low

The Fed had helped keep mortgage rates low through a bond purchase program called Quantitative Easing (QE for short). But, recent announcements by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke signaling a slow down or end to QE spooked the market.

Mortgage rates jumped and have continued to rise since those announcements.

Real Estate Market Continues Hot Streak

Despite rising rates, the real estate market remains hot. Realtors continue to be overwhelmed with activity and many sellers are seeing multiple offers near or at asking price.  Homestead’s numbers are no different. After an incredible year of growth in 2012, we have seen a 30% year over year increase in closings. And, despite the jump in interest rates from April to June, our new orders have not slowed.

Homestead’s growth is both a function of a strong market and of our strong commitment and passion to making the closing process easier for our customers and clients. Our values of caring, empathy, flexibility, loyalty and a hands-on, education based approach have cemented a loyal following of Realtors and do-it-yourself sellers.

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DEED PROCESSING NOTICE – Don’t Fall For it!

Home owners are being targeted for a simple, yet effective scam. At least two companies are offering to send copies of “grant deeds” for a charge of $86. They recommend that homeowners obtain this deed in order to confirm their ownership in the property. Yet, these public records are readily available for almost no cost.

Why Do Many Officials Call This A “Scam?”

These companies send official looking notices that often include warnings of late fees, compliance response deadlines, or the phrase FINAL NOTICE. While these sales pitches are not illegal, they are deceptive. As the Lake County Recorder of Deeds in the Chicago area noted: “It is not against the law, but it breaks the spirit of the law . . . It is very, very deceptive.” Officials Warn Homeowners of Deed Scams, Chicago Tribune.

The companies often charge $86 for the deed but also include a $35 late free for not meeting a fictional deadline. It is only in the fine print that they disclose that this is not a bill and that you could receive the same information from the County Recorder (or register of deeds).

Deeds Can be Obtained Inexpensively or Free

In fact, copies of deeds, mortgages, or any recorded document may be obtained from your local Wisconsin Register of Deeds office, for a very nominal fee. Generally the fees are $2.00 for the first page, and $1 for each page thereafter. Deeds are usually one or two pages.

In addition, homeowners should have received a copy of their deed from their title company when they purchased. Homestead Title and many other title companies will provide a duplicate to their customers at no charge.

Homestead Title Company is always happy to assist Dane County homeowners with such requests.

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2011 December Home Sales Report – Wisconsin REALTORS® Association.

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The Banks’ Dilemma:

To Foreclose or Accept a Short Sale?

Over the past 4 years, short sales – house sales in which the bank holding a mortgage agrees to accept less than the full amount due – have proliferated. Short sale experts have worked hard to dispel the myth that banks never negotiate and never accept less. But now, a recent New York Times article suggests that there may be some truth to that myth.

In a recent article, the Times reported that banks are resisting short sales and putting more focus on foreclosures. In fact, there are some incentives for banks to foreclose, even when a short sale will reduce risk and financial losses. New accounting rules allow banks to delay the “write down” of their loss until the house later sells. In a short sale, by contrast, the bank must take the loss immediately. In addition, the bank with which realtors and home owners negotiate are only one interested party; they are the servicer. Short sales usually also need to have the approval of investors, underwriters, and/or private mortgage insurance companies. And, while the recent foreclosure freeze highlighted the risks associated with foreclosure, banks face many risks in short sales, including fraud. A bank’s decision to agree to a short sale may involve far more than a simple cost-benefit analysis assumed by Realtors, attorneys, and distressed homeowners.

The Times article states that banks are “historically reluctant to do short sales” and suggests that they may be more likely to foreclose, even in the face of a good offer. This has not been our experience, based on anecdotal evidence. Rather, most banks appear very open to negotiating short sales, especially when there is a bona fide buyer in the wings. A large number of short sales are closing. Homestead Title is analyzing data over the past 3 years to determine the percentage of sheriff’s sales in Dane County in relation to the percentage of foreclosure filings.

Homestead Title offers expertise and guidance throughout the short sale process. Owner and attorney Peter Zarov often teaches seminars on foreclosures, short sales, and distressed properties. We will continue to provide updates, information and resources on these topics.

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At least three major lenders have suspended foreclosures in nearly two dozen states, including Wisconsin. Allegations of misconduct and flawed practices in foreclosure lawsuits prompted GMAC, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase to put the brakes on foreclosures and halt post-foreclosure REO sales of properties in at least 23 states. Indeed, many title insurers have also suspended issuing title insurance policies for REO sales from these companies. Now, according to the New York Times, lawmakers in Washington and many states are calling for a freeze on all foreclosures. Foreclosure Furor Rises; Many Call for a Freeze, Oct 5, 2010.

At issue are flawed or false affidavits – sworn statements by the lenders’ employees who were to have reviewed the files for accuracy and correct documentation. Rather than actually review the files, these companies allegedly used “robo-signers” — employees who signed thousands of affidavits per month with no knowledge of the content and, in many cases, without even bothering to read the Affidavits.

Some Affidavits dealt with lost or missing assignment of mortgages. The bank that made the original loan often assigned or sold their loan to another bank. That bank, the new owner of the mortgage, must prove to the court that they have standing to file the foreclosure action; in other words, they are the proper party with an appropriate interest to foreclose.  They need to produce the original Assignment of Mortgage document as proof. During the hay-day of loose lending practices, many banks lost or even never had the original Assignment of Mortgage documents.

The solution: sign an affidavit that swears that the bank keeps original documents like this and the signer can’t find the original after a thorough search and investigation for the lost affidavit.

The problem: the person signing that affidavit allegedly never made a thorough investigation and has no knowledge of the file. How could he when he signed thousands every month.

In most foreclosures, the home owner never contests the foreclosure action because the homeowner had stopped paying many months earlier. These flawed affidavits usually present only procedural flaws, not real defenses on the merits. Thus, they likely only serve to slow the process and delay the inevitable.  In some cases, however, the injustice may rise beyond a lack of due process. 

No one knows the affect that this temporary moratorium will have on the real estate market or the foreclosure crisis. Yet, it certainly has created more risk and costs for lenders during the foreclosure process.  One affect may be to encourage lenders to seek foreclosure alternatives, such as short sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosure. Only time will tell.

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