$3,000: personal check limit at closing

The Federal Title & Escrow Company team will make every effort to provide its clients with a precise Cash to Close amount, in advance of the closing date, so our clients can arrange for a wire transfer or obtain a cashier’s check for the exact amount.  

In some instances, due to last-minute changes in financing or sales contract revisions, the Cash to Close amount will change after the client has already wired her funds or obtained a cashier’s check.  

If the change results in an additional Cash to Close amount exceeding $3,000, the law prohibits the client from writing a personal check to Federal Title and the client will be required to wire or obtain a cashier’s check for the additional amount.

DC Code §31-5041.06(d)(3) states, in part, that a title insurance producer may accept a check in an amount not to exceed $3,000 that has not been finally paid before any disbursements.  

This means that Federal Title & Escrow Company is prohibited from accepting a personal check at the time of closing that exceeds $3,000.

Avoid the DC recapture tax 'surprise'

If you are an agent listing a property for a decedent’s estate/personal representative in DC, help your client and the prospective purchaser avoid a potential big surprise – the real property recapture tax.

DC Office of Tax and Revenue has recently been imposing a recapture tax against properties that were receiving senior citizen tax relief but ineligible due to the property owner’s death – i.e., a change in eligibility.

That is, upon the death of the owner, the personal representative for the estate would be responsible for notifying DC, within 30 days, that the property is no longer eligible for the benefit.

Since it’s unlikely the personal representative is aware of this requirement, the property continues to unjustly receive the benefit until such time as the property is sold.

Once the property is conveyed, DCOTR is notified by DCROD of the change in status and retroactively applies the proper tax status from the date of death through the date of conveyance. This often results in a hefty recapture tax amount then applied against the real property tax account.

As the settlement company, we are being proactive in our efforts to notify DC prior to closing and obtain the recapture tax amount such that it can be handled prior to or at the time of closing.

In some cases, due to timing, this is not possible and the purchasers are left with a recapture tax incurred by the decedent’s estate.

We advise all agents listing a property for a decedent’s estate to be aware of this issue, check the tax status to determine whether it is unjustly receiving the senior citizen tax relief benefit, and make the personal representative aware of the requirement to notify DC of the status change and be prepared to pay a recapture tax.

Split closings are (almost) never a good idea

The other day I handled a split closing – the buyer used Federal Title & Escrow Company and the seller used another title company – and things did not go so smoothly.

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, and almost certainly at a higher cost.

Since the "buyer’s title company" is responsible for sending out the payoff and issuing the title insurance, and consequently responsible for either releasing the mortgage lien on the property or following up to make sure it is released, most of the main functions will be handled by the buyer’s title company.

Really, all the seller’s title company will do is order a payoff (maybe), prepare the deed (maybe), and handle the closing for the seller, which is typically ten pages or less.

Despite having such a small role, the seller’s title company charges higher fees. They have to; they are handling virtually no major functions and are not issuing the title insurance and the only way to make it worth the title company’s time is to charge the seller a significant fee.

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 Closing Fees if Seller Used FTE Seller's Closing Fees Since They Chose Another Title Company Additional Cost by Choosing to "Split" the Closing
March 2014 $435 $705 + $270
February 2014 $435 $675 + $240
January 2014 $435 $770 + $335

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?

Well, most of the time, sellers don’t realize how much more it is costing them. That is why I 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 post their fees, you will have to call or email them – and shouldn’t the lack of transparency make you suspicious?

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 estimate closing costs when buying a new home

The searching is over. The bank has been contacted. The offer has been accepted, and now the dream of owning your new home is coming to fruition. So, what are the typical closings fees that you can expect to pay as part of your upcoming settlement?

Let’s take a look at what some of the typical closing costs are that you can expect to pay before the keys to your new home are placed in your hands:

Lender Fees

Typical fees that you can expect to pay to your lender for originating your mortgage:

  • Loan origination fee. Fee charged by the lender to originate your mortgage, and is typically 1%-2% of the loan amount, depending on the lender you select and the loan program for which you qualify.

  • Application and underwriting fees. Fees charged by the lender to process your loan application and underwrite the loan. These fees are typically rolled into the total Loan origination fee.

  • Appraisal fee. Fee charged by the lender to have your pending new home appraised to ensure the value of the home is equal to or exceeds the purchase price of the property and the loan amount you are requesting.

  • Tax service fee. Fee charged by the lender to have an independent company ensure there are no delinquent taxes or outstanding tax liens against your property.

  • Flood certification fee. Fee charged by the lender to ensure your new home is not located in a flood zone, and therefore there is no requirement for flood insurance.

  • Credit report fee. Fee charged by the lender to ensure that you are credit worthy of being given a loan and that your financial liabilities do not exceed your financial assets.

  • Interim interest. Mortgage payments always pay for interest in arrears. Interim interest is therefore charged by the lender from the date of settlement until the end of the month. For example, if you close on August 15th, you will pay interim interest from August 15th through August 31st, and your first mortgage payment will be due on October 1st. Your October 1st mortgage payment will therefore pay for all the interest accrued in September.

  • Escrows. Whether your lender requires it or you choose to have an escrow account to pay your homeowner’s insurance and property taxes, you will be required to establish your account at the time of settlement. Depending on how close your settlement date is to the next due date for your property taxes, depends on the number of months that the lender will need to collect. However, the lender will need to collect at least 2 months for the buffer they keep in the account at all times.

Settlement/Title Company Fees

Fees that are typically paid to the title company to search the title of the property and issue an owner’s and lender’s title insurance policy:

  • Settlement fee. Fee charged by the title company to conduct your settlement. Under the new Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) guidelines, this fee now also includes the costs for any title search, courier fee, notary fees, etc.

  • Owner’s Title Insurance fee. Cost of owner’s title insurance to protect you, as an owner, against title claims that could arise against the property. You typically have the option of selecting either the standard policy or enhanced policy. Our title policy a comparison chart outlines the major differences between coverages. The cost is determined by the purchase price.

  • Lender’s Title Insurance fee. Cost of lender’s title insurance policy to protect the lender against title claims that could arise against the property. The cost is dependent upon the loan amount.

Government Fees

Fees that are paid to the state and local government of the jurisdiction in which the property is located to record your deed and mortgage and transfer the property:

  • Recording fees. Fees charged to record your deed and mortgage. Said fees vary depending on the jurisdiction in which the property is located. Recording fees are also charged to record any releases for any current/prior mortgages found against the property, to record any Powers of Attorney used by any party to the transaction at the time of settlement, etc.

  • Transfer/recordation taxes. Fees charged by the state/local government to transfer title to the property.

Miscellaneous Fees 

Fees that are paid to third parties for inspections, surveys, etc.:

  • Termite inspection. Fee paid to inspect the property for any termite or other bug damage.

  • Survey. Fee paid to have a location survey done of the property to ensure there are no boundary line issues.

  • Condo/HOA Dues. If the property is in a condominium association or homeowner’s association, dues are typically required to be paid for the upcoming month. For example, if you purchase the property in August, the dues for September will typically be required to be collected at the time of settlement.

  • Condo/HOA transfer fees. The condominium or homeowner’s association management company may charge a fee to transfer the property account from the seller to the new purchaser.


Charges that have been or will be paid by one party to the transaction that are reimbursed by the other party to the transaction.

  • Tax prorations. Property taxes are prorated between buyer and seller depending on when the last tax bill was paid and when the next bill is due. Tax prorations are dependent on the jurisdiction in which the property is located, as each jurisdiction has different tax due dates and tax periods.

  • Condo/HOA dues. Any condominium or homeowner’s association dues are prorated between buyer and seller based on the last month paid. For example, if you are settling on August 15th, and the seller has already paid the August dues, the buyer would reimburse the seller for the dues already paid from August 15th through the 31st for the time the buyer will own the property.

All of these fees can be overwhelming; however, all of these closing costs will be disclosed to you by your lender in your Good Faith Estimate (GFE).

In addition, if you want to get ahead of the game before you even submit your first offer, you can always calculate your own total closing costs by using Federal Title's brand new mobile app CloseIt! 

The app allows you to input different loan products, property locations, purchase prices and much more to produce a detailed picture of cash to close and what your proposed monthly mortgage payments would be. And best of all, the app is free!

  • Ways to save at closing

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  • What are closing costs?

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  • What's title insurance?

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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.