RESPA expert to shed light on new legislation

Mortgage banking and consumer finance expert Holly Spencer Bunting will educate real estate agents, mortgage lenders and members of the media about upcoming changes in RESPA regulations during a complimentary luncheon next month.

Federal Title & Escrow Company is hosting the event in the Dogwood Room at the Kenwood Golf & Country Club in Bethesda, Md. on Wednesday, September 16 beginning at 10 a.m. Bunting is an associate with the Washington, D.C. office of K&L Gates, concentrating on issues of federal and state regulatory enforcement, according to the firm's website.

She represents companies in the mortgage lending, title insurance and real estate industries in connection with regulatory compliance matters and defends clients subject to government audits, investigations and enforcement proceedings.

Additionally, Bunting advises clients about federal and state consumer credit and protection laws and regulations, including the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Consequently, Bunting has delivered several presentations on RESPA and compliance and written several articles about the consumer protection statute, including "Finally, a Final RESPA Rule," and "RESPA's New Average Charge Provisions – Available for Some."

10 things homebuyers should know about title insurance

You have the right to choose your title company. In an industry contaminated by affiliated business arrangements, kickbacks and other referral incentives, the Internet returns the power to the people. Don't let your mortgage lender or real estate agent steer you toward their preferred title company without doing your homework first. You could save thousands of dollars – yes, thousands – by selecting a title company on your own.

It's easy to save money on title services. Ask for quotes from several title companies and compare them with your real estate agent's or mortgage lender's recommendation. By shopping around and asking about discounts, a lot of times the home buyer can save thousands on closing costs.

Your mortgage lender will require title insurance. This isn't one of those cases where you can skirt the extra expense and hope for the best. If you are borrowing money for a real estate investment, your mortgage lender will want to make sure it's protected. Title insurance protects your money if it turns out the seller didn't legally have the right to sell the property in the first place. At minimum, you will be required to purchase a lender's policy. An owner's policy, while recommended, is not required. To save money on your owner's policy look into Standard v. Extended coverage.

Title insurance is a one-time fee. Unlike other types of insurance, there is no ongoing premium to pay for title insurance. Your mortgage lender is required to provide you with a Good Faith Estiamte for closing costs, including title insurance, and factor those costs into the initial disclosure. This three-minute video explains closing costs in laymen's terms: Closing Costs Explained Visually.

Ask about "standard" title insurance vs. "enhanced" title insurance. Some title companies push enhanced title insurance without providing the consumer with a proper disclosure that a less expensive standard policy is available. For many home buyers a standard policy will suffice. It costs less, too. Compare standard vs. enhanced title insurance, and make sure to ask your title company what types of insurance products they offer. Talk with your lender and settlement attorney to determine what policy is appropriate for your home investment.

Who pays for title insurance depends on where you live. Sometimes it's the buyer who pays, sometimes it's the seller. And sometimes the cost is split between the two. In the Washington Metro Area, for example, title insurance premiums are generally paid by the home buyer. It's important to note that title insuranceis regulated largely on the state level. If you're conducting a little Internet research, be sure to use regional qualifiers in your search (e.g. state, county, etc.).

Some closing costs are fixed while others are variable. The cost of your title insurance policy and government recordation fees are dependent on the purchase price of your home, and the bulk of settlement costs are typically paid by the home buyer. However, the seller doesn't get off scot-free.

Seller fees include a fee for mortgage release procurement and deed preparations. The settlement fee is often split between buyer and seller. Home buyer fees include a title examination/abstractor fee, location survey fee and a fee to process paperwork. A title company may charge additional fees unique to each transaction, but the extent of the fees should be disclosed up front.

Settlement costs factor into your loan's Annual Percentage Yield (APR). Home buyers should know the settlement process can be delayed due to recent changes to the Truth in Lending Act (effective Aug. 1, 2009). If the actual APR differs from the estimated APR by more than 0.125 percent, your mortgage lender must issue a new initial disclosure that reflects the accurate rate and wait a minimum of 3 business days to close the deal. To avoid surprises at the closing table, invest five minutes of your time at the beginning of the transaction to obtain a guaranteed quote online for settlement services.

If you're planning to refinance, your lender will require a title insurance policy. There are plenty of reasons to refinance such as reducing your interest rate and mortgage payment or consolidating debt.While a new owner's policy may not be necessary if you plan to refinance, your mortgage lender will still want to ensure the investment is protected, so you will likely need to purchase a new lender's title insurance policy. Here is an example of a title insurance rate card for a refinance.

Referral fees increase the cost of title insurance. The Government Accountability Office recently reported that 5 percent of title insurance premiums went toward insurance claims. A far greater percentage (some reports claim 50 percent or more), went to real estate agents and mortgage lenders for referral fees. This practice is illegal and punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine, yet it's very difficult to regulate. Home buyers' best protection against exorbitant title costs is education, simply knowing they have the right to choose their title company, asking about discounts and learning about what options are available. Not all title companies shell out referral fees, or kickbacks. In fact, some title companies cut out the middle man and credit the home buyer instead when he/she orders settlement services online directly from them.

Lenders, title agents most affected by new RESPA rule

Washington, D.C. – Mortgage banking and consumer finance expert Holly Spencer Bunting will address controversy surrounding the reformed Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act during a presentation and Q&A session next month.

The new RESPA rule, which aims to connect the dots between estimated closing costs set forth in the good faith estimate and actual closing costs disclosed in the HUD-1 form, will mostly impact mortgage lenders and closing agents.

"The rule continues to stir controversy," Bunting said.

While there's hope the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will delay implementation, settlement service providers are gearing up for Jan. 1, 2010 effective date, she added.

Mortgage lenders and real estate agents are encouraged to attend the free luncheon event, beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday, September 16 at the Kenwood Golf & Country Club in Bethesda, Md., presented by Federal Title & Escrow Company.

"At its core, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, is a consumer disclosure and anti-kickback statute intended to alert consumers about their settlement costs and to prohibit kickbacks that could increase mortgage costs," said Todd Ewing, president of Federal Title.

Claims that fraud, deception and general consumer ignorance led to the disastrous outcome of the real estate lending bubble fueled the overhaul of the home buyer protection statute. Bunting will provide an in-depth overview of the components of HUD's final RESPA rule and the new HUD-1 and GFE disclosure forms.

About the Holly Spencer Bunting

Bunting is an associate with the Washington, D.C. office of K&L Gates. She represents companies in mortgage lending, title insurance and real estate industries in connection with regulatory compliance matters, according to her biography on the company's website.

Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications including "The Review of Banking and Financial Services," "Mortgage Banking and Consumer Credit Alert," and "The Banking Law Journal."

About Federal Title & Escrow Company

In an industry contaminated by affiliated business arrangements, kickbacks and other referral incentives, the Internet returns the power to the people. Federal Title recognizes consumer-driven market pressures, as exemplified by the new RESPA rule, and seeks to offer home buyers substantial closing cost savings and a streamlined settlement process.

Federal Title has a reputation of being technically innovative and always at the forefront of the latest real estate trends. Years ago the company made a bold move by eschewing all Affiliated Business Arrangements and established its REAL Credit Program, which saves home buyers up to $1,100 on closing costs.

Talking title insurance: Investigate closing costs early

Your title insurance expenses are largely dependent on the cost of the home you plan to purchase. Sometimes homebuyers, especially first-timers, don't anticipate the added expense to the end of their real estate transaction. They may feel sucker punched by the settlement process.

Mortgage lenders require title insurance. ... If you were loaning somebody hundreds of thousands of dollars, you would probably want to protect your investment, too. And that's what title insurance does.

Still, some people believe title insurance is a racket.

"Title insurance is the biggest rip off of all the parasitic rip offs built in to the housing industry," reads one comment on a recent Kiplinger's article (which, by the way, misses the mark on title insurance premiums).

Title insurance itself is not a rip off at all. In the grand scheme of things, it's a small fraction of the money you're putting up to buy the property. As in 1 percent, according to the American Land Title Association. Furthermore, title insurance claims arise more often than you might think.

If there's a claim against your property and you don't have title insurance, you will have to pay to represent yourself in court. Once you finish paying the attorney's fees, you could still end up losing your property. Do you want to risk losing your home AND the money you paid for it?

More likely "the viking" probably allowed himself to get ripped off.

Conduct a little Internet research, and you'll find local title companies that offer competitive rates and generous discounts for escrow services. Homebuyers should note, however, title insurance premiums are set by the provider – not the title insurance agent.

For example, if 10 companies all use First American Title Insurance products, all 10 companies will charge the same insurance premium. Costs for settlement fees, title abstractor and examination fees, recording fees (which vary by location) and other fees that may apply may vary by company and may be negotiable.

Start investigating closing costs early in the home buying process. Get a free quote for title & escrow services from a local title insurance company like Federal Title. Understand the difference between an lender's policy and an owner's policy as well as the standard versus expanded policy.

If you know what questions to ask your real estate agent and mortgage lender about the closing process, you're chances of negotiating a great deal increase.

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