The importance of choosing a title company

Choosing a title company is often an afterthought. And that’s understandable, since in the home buying process, decisions will have to be made in regards to a real estate agent, a lender, a home inspector, a moving company, a termite company, a home insurance company, and on and on.

However, the selection of a title company can be a critical step in the process as well, and not just because of the pricing.

Post closing issues arise with surprising frequency. Perhaps a tax bill has been overpaid and now the buyer needs a refund from the city or county tax office. Or maybe there is a tax classification issue. Only a local title company with experience can navigate you through these types of post closing issues.

Here is another scenario that occurs all too often: a property owner contacts us for a refinance or to sell the property and the title work reveals an unreleased trust, meaning that even though the prior loan was paid off, the lien was not properly released from the Land Records.

Obviously, this was the responsibility of the prior title company that handled either the prior refinance or the purchase of the property, so the ideal and quickest solution is to go back to that prior title company.
But what if that prior title company is no longer around or was a national title vendor? Good luck finding the paper trail, especially if that loan was paid off a long time ago.

Of course you could go directly to the lender, but with all of the takeovers and changes among lenders, they often have difficulty finding old information. If you had used a respected, local title company, you would have a local contact that would personally research and resolve the issue for you.

So keep in mind the reputation and the experience (as well as the price) of the title company that you select.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac conforming loan limits for 2014 released

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) published today the maximum conforming loan limits, which is the ceiling on loans eligible for backing by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The limits listed below are for some counties in Maryland and Virginia, as well as for the District of Columbia. To get a complete list of the county limits for 2014, please click here.

State County 2014 Conforming Loan Limit
DC District of Columbia $625,500
MD Anne Arundel $494,500
MD Frederick $625,500
MD Howard $494,500
MD Montgomery $625,500
MD Prince George's $625,500
VA Alexandria $625,500
VA Arlington $625,500
VA Fairfax $625,500
VA Falls Church $625,500
VA Fauquier $625,500
VA Loudoun $625,500
VA Manassas $625,500
VA Prince William $625,500

Using Power of Attorney? Think again

Fannie Mae recently issued new restrictions on the use of power of attorney (see bulletin details). As a result, these new restrictions will apply to virtually every real estate transaction. 

One important restriction is that if you are doing a cash-out refinance, you cannot use a power of attorney. There are no exceptions to this rule.

If you are doing a non-cash-out refinance or a purchase, you will need to satisfy these key requirements in order to use a power of attorney:

1. Prior to closing, the Principal (the person not attending the closing and appointing the Attorney-in-Fact) must provide the title company and lender with a written statement detailing the reasons he or she cannot attend the closing.

2. If no borrowers will be present at closing, the Attorney-in-Fact (the person signing on behalf of the Principal) must be the Principal's relative or Attorney-at-Law. A "relative" is defined to include a fiancé, fiancée or domestic partner of the Principal.

3. If at least one borrower will be present at closing, the Attorney-in-Fact signing for the absent borrower(s) does not need to be the Principal’s relative or Attorney-at Law.  So, for example, if an unmarried couple is buying a house together, and only one of them can be present at the closing, it would be permissible for that person to be designated as the Attorney-in-Fact for the absent Principal,

4. The Attorney-in-Fact cannot be:

  • a real estate agent with a financial interest in the transaction or any person affiliated with such real estate agent;
  • a title company providing the title insurance policy or any affiliate of such title insurance company, or any employee of either such title insurance company or any such affiliate;
  • the lender to the transaction, any affiliate of the lender, any employee of the lender, the loan originator, the employer of the loan originator, or any employee of the employer of the loan originator

An exception to the above restrictions is if the real estate agent, title company employee, or lender is a relative of the borrower. (This applies in cases where use of POA is allowed, so not in the case of a cash-out refinance.)

Close It! nominated for Tabby Award

We've got exciting news to share! Our iOS app is one of three finalists for a Tabby Award in the Business Products and Services category.

Launched in May of this year, Close It! has already received more than 5,000 downloads. The app is available for iPad and iPhone (the former is the version that's in the running for this particular award).

Close It! is like Turbo Tax for real estate transactions. If you've downloaded the iOS app, you know already know how easy it is to accurately calculate your buyer's total cash to close or your seller's total cash in pocket.

If you haven't downloaded Close It! yet, what are you waiting for?! Download Close It! >>>

For those who have never heard of the Tabby Awards, it's a worldwide competition for the best iPad, Android and Windows 8 tablet apps.

At least a dozen countries are represented this year. More than 40 apps, including Close It! were selected as finalists in 18 categories.

An international panel of judges will choose the winners on November 13 in New York City.

How to choose a really good real estate agent

The idea of buying a home is simultaneously enchanting and daunting. For instance, it's fun to daydream about color palettes and kitchen / bathroom renovations and coming home to your very own Home Sweet Home. It's less fun to think about what the transition from daydreaming and dream home entails.

A really good real estate agent can walk you through the steps of homebuying and even help you negotiate an offer that might lower your upfront and ongoing costs of home ownership.

Really good real estate agents are familiar with the neighborhoods where you'd like to live. They know how long houses have sat on the market and can tell you the difference between listing prices and recent purchase prices.

The question is how do you find a really good real estate agent?

Talk to friends & relatives

Whether through Facebook or other social media platforms or (gasp!) face-to-face, ask your friends and relatives who've had recent homebuying experiences what real estate agents they recommend. And find out why.

Was their agent especially skilled at contract negotiation? Did he or she have encyclopedic knowledge about the local market? What about their communication skills? Did their agent return phone calls and emails in a timely manner?

These kind of details will help to paint a colorful picture of what it's like to work with a real estate agent. And presumably, if it's coming from your friends and relatives, it's coming from a source you know well and one you can trust.

Read online reviews

If you don't have friends or relatives with recent homebuying experiences in your area, the Internet may be the next best thing. Sites like Angie's List (paid subscription required) and Yelp (no subscription necessary, but be sure to check the "filtered reviews) have tons of reviews about local real estate professionals.

Real estate sites like Redfin, Zillow and Trulia post agent reviews as well. The downside of online reviews is you most likely don't know who the source is. More than likely the review is bias, but reading multiple reviews should allow you to get a fairly balanced picture.

Contact top prospects, interview them

Once you've made a short list of prospects, call them and ask more questions. For added peace of mind, find out if your prospective agents have additional references.

Pick their brains about the neighborhoods where you'd like to live. Find out, on average, what percent of the listing price do their clients typically pay. Obviously a real estate agent who negotiates deals for less than the asking price is someone you want negotiating your home purchase.

The more research you do at the beginning of the agent selection process, the better your chances of finding a really good real estate agent and having a pleasant homebuying experience.

Once you've made it through the all the steps, consider posting your own agent review to give future homebuyers an idea of what it was like to work with your agent selection.

And if these tips don't help to ease your mind about how to select a real estate agent, feel free to reach out to our office and ask for even more agent recommendations. We closed roughly 1,500 deals last year, so we know a lot of real estate agents (mortgage lenders, too).

  • Ways to save at closing

    Title charges are the largest chunk of closing costs and can vary by hundreds of dollars.

    Learn more

  • What are closing costs?

    The real estate closing process involves loan steps, legal steps and title steps.

    Learn more

  • What's title insurance?

    Insure your legal ownership just like you'd insure the building, but for lots cheaper.

    Learn more

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Our blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. Rate tables and figures that appear on our blog are deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For current rates & policies, refer to our Quick Quote and Consumer Guide. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on our blog.