Split closings are never a good idea

The other day I handled a split closing and things did not go smoothly. A split closing is where the buyer uses on title company and the seller uses another title company.

A closing already has many different parties involved: buyers, sellers, buyer’s agent, seller’s agent, loan officer. But two title companies?

For a closing in the DC metro area, it just doesn’t make sense to complicate the transaction further by adding a superfluous second company.

Superfluous? Yes, that’s right, because the "seller’s title company" is going to perform the exact same tasks that the "buyer’s title company" would have performed on behalf of the seller – and almost certainly at a higher cost.

Since the “buyer’s title company" is responsible for handling mortgage payoffs and consequently following up to make sure they are released, issuing a title insurance commitment to the buyer and lender on behalf of the seller, recording the deed, and administering the escrow functions, most of the seller requirements will be handled by the buyer’s title company anyway.

Really, all the seller’s title company will do is order a payoff (maybe), prepare the deed (maybe), and arrange for the seller to sign her documents, which is typically 10 pages or less.

Despite having such a small role, the seller’s title company charges higher fees. Here is a look at the closing fees from the last three closings in our office for which the seller chose to use another title company:

Closing Date Seller's Fees using Federal Title Seller's Closing Fees w/ another title company Additional Cost of "Split" Closing
Feb. 2016 $425 $705 $280
Apr. 2016 $425 $675 $250
Oct. 2016 $610 $950 $340

So if the seller is paying so much more, it must mean that the seller is being provided with better service, right? Wrong.

By adding a second title company you now have your classic "too many cooks in the kitchen" scenario. Only one of the three closings above went smoothly; the other two had issues. Think about it, when has hiring more lawyers made for a smoother transaction?

So if it costs more to split the closing, and the service is not better (and often worse), why do people do it?

Most often, it is the seller’s real estate agent who insists on a split closing without explaining to the seller that they are likely to pay more. In many cases, the real estate agent’s broker may own or have an affiliation with another title company so there is a profit motive for the agent to refer the seller to another title company for a split closing.

Another common reason why an agent will refer the seller to another title company for a split closing is simply because the location of the other title company is more convenient to the agent’s location.

Most of the time, sellers don’t realize how much more a split closing is costing them. That is why we strongly urge sellers to obtain quotes and make sure that it makes sense.

We've posted a seller's fee schedule on our website. Unfortunately, since most title companies do not publish their fee schedules, you will have to call or email them – and shouldn’t the lack of transparency make you think twice?

Beware of possible malware attack

Several real estate agents and lenders who work with Federal Title recently received an email purporting to be from a Federal Title employee with the same name as a local real estate professional and with a file attachment for download. The email is a scam, and we implore you to delete the email immediately.

If you ever have questions or concerns about an email you received from Federal Title, please do not hesitate to contact us to verify its authenticity. Also, know that we will never ask for or provide personal / financial information through unsecure channels.

Our technology team suspects the email sent last Thursday at approximately 6 pm was a malware attack. Malware is software that’s intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems.

A malware program might log keystrokes of a user to obtain sensitive login information. Malware can create a computer zombie, allowing a hacker to use that computer to conduct other malicious attacks usually without the owner’s knowledge. An estimated 50 to 80 percent of spam sent worldwide is attributable to zombie computers.

This is not the first time a hacker has impersonated a title company, real estate professional – even a consumer – in an attempt to install dangerous malware or gain access to sensitive information. We want our clients to be aware of another common scam we have observed, one that attempts to steal the consumer’s down payment funds via a fraudulent wire transfer. This kind of attack is unfortunately becoming commonplace, and once the funds have been wired to the scammer’s account they are gone.

The Federal Trade Commission posted a bulletin that explains how scammers phish for mortgage closing costs. They offer a few ideas to help real estate professionals and their clients avoid phishing scams.

  • Don’t email financial information. It’s not secure.
  • If you’re giving your financial information on the web, make sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with https (the "s" stands for secure). And, instead of clicking a link in an email to go to an organization’s site, look up the real URL and type in the web address yourself.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date

We also want to remind you that Federal Title takes Internet security very seriously. We use military-grade email encryption technology and adhere to the American Land Title Association’s Best Practices for the proper handling of each and every individual’s non-public personal information, i.e., social security and bank account numbers.

Unfortunately we anticipate malware and phishing scams will remain a threat to our industry for the foreseeable future. The best way to defend against such attacks is to be skeptical of any email that contains an attachment download or requests sensitive information – and always exercise extreme caution when providing sensitive information online.

Clarifying a common misconception: title insurance premiums

We've said it before, and we want to make it absolutely clear because we continue to get questions about title insurance premiums. Title insurance premiums are NOT created equal.

While you no doubt have heard that title insurance underwriters are legally required to file their rates with the local insurance commission, underwriters do not file identical rate schedules.

It is true that title companies who are agents of the same underwriter must charge the same title insurance premium. But sometimes title companies become agents of multiple underwriters, using one title insurance underwriter for one jurisdiction and a second underwriter in another jurisdiction, etc.

Federal Title is a prime example of this. We use different underwriters depending on the jurisdiction, allowing us to pass extended savings on to our homebuyers.

We receive calls fairly regularly from confused agents and lenders who are wondering why our Quick Quote reflects a title insurance premium on a Maryland property that is hundreds of dollars less than the other quotes. It's not because our quote is incorrect, it's because our underwriter charges a lower premium.

That title insurance premiums are created equal is a common misconception we wish to clarify for our agents and lenders, because we believe they are our best ally when it comes to looking out for the best interest of our homebuyers.

Fewer hands in the pie means more pie to go around

Happy Pi Day! What better day than Pi Day to remind homebuyers about all the hands in their "pie" so to speak when it comes to real estate closings.

It's no surprise that everyone wants a piece of the proverbial pie, from the real estate agent's commission to the lender's fees to the government's taxes and, yes, even the title company's charges.

Having to share some of your pie is a fact of life. Having to give up all of your pie is a tragedy of life.

Just like homebuyers, we don't like having to give up our entire pie. That's why we have held firmly as an independent title company – we will not share our pie, or profits, with referral sources through Affiliated Business Arrangements or Marketing Service Agreements.

Not all title companies feel the way we do. They happily share their pie with their referral sources because they believe they can make it up by taking more pie from unassuming homebuyers. Unfortunately, they are often right.

Homebuyers who understand how much dough is at stake, however, are often surprised by the cost difference between one title company to the next. When made fully aware of these differences, most homebuyers choose to spend less.

With fewer hands in the pie, as our company founder Todd Ewing likes to say, there's more pie for everybody. In this case it means a cost savings of up to $750 for our clients.

The cost savings we extend to our homebuyers is part of our revolutionary REAL Credit™ program, which reflects costs passed through to consumers who close with other, affiliated title companies. To date, the cost savings hovers above $8 million.

That's a lot of pie.

Refinancing home loan will require new lender's title insurance policy

Refinancing home loan will require new lender's title insurance policy

For those who closed with Federal Title in the recent past and who may be considering refinancing their mortgage, we'd like to let you know we can provide you substantial savings on your closing costs.

In addition to providing a reissue rate discount on your title insurance premium, Federal Title also offers repeat clients a $200 credit applied toward settlement fees. When you order settlement services through our website, you can save an additional $100.

We'd like to remind you that it's your legal right to choose your own settlement service provider. Often times borrowers are not aware or informed of this right and end up spending more on closing costs than they should.

Get a free and anonymous Quick Quote from us and see how it stacks up to your mortgage lender's title company.

As you may know, we are the leading independent title company serving the DC metro area, and our settlements are conducted by licensed attorneys – not inexperienced notaries. Our online reviews tell our story.

  • Ways to save at closing

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  • What are closing costs?

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  • What's title insurance?

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

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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.