How to change your chosen title company after you have a ratified sales contract

Most homebuyers know by now that it’s their legal right to choose their own title company and that shopping for title services is one of the most effective ways to reduce costs at the closing table.

(For those who haven’t heard this, read our content on Marketing Service Agreements and Affiliated Business Arrangements and see for yourself how these common deals jack up closing costs for consumers.)

But what happens if a homebuyer doesn’t learn about this important right until after her sales contract has been drafted, accepted and signed by all parties? And is it possible to change title companies once a title company has been designated in the contract and an earnest money deposit has been delivered to that designated title company?

The short answer is you can change your mind with the consent of the seller, through a simple addendum to the sales contract. View our a settlement agent-change sample addendum.

Once the addendum is completed and signed by all parties, the homebuyer can then use the new title company listed on the addendum.

Even if the earnest money deposit was already delivered, with the addendum in place, the new title company would simply reach out to the old title company holding the funds and arrange for a wire transfer. That’s it!

How might a homebuyer find herself in a situation where she wishes to change her company after all parties have signed a sales contract with a designated and undesired title company?

First and foremost, we encourage every homebuyer to get closing cost quotes from several local title companies and compare costs and online reputations to avoid this situation. We also remind homebuyers that title companies don’t necessarily include all the same services in their settlement fee. Sometimes additional services, i.e., document fees, processing fees, amount to hidden costs, so it’s important to ask what services are included and what extra costs may be charged.

And while it’s technically illegal for real estate agents to fill in the name of a preferred title company if their brokerage has a professional affiliation with that title company, the practice persists. In these cases, homebuyers may not realize until after they have a ratified sales contract that they could have chosen their own title company.

It’s important to ask your agent if his company has a professional affiliation with the title company he’s listed in your sales contract and what benefits or incentives the real estate agent or brokerage may be receiving by recommending that title company. Sometimes the answer is there is no affiliation; the agent is familiar with a certain company and recommends that company from the perspective of good service and pricing.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with an agent directing their client to use their favorite title company, except that it may lead a homebuyer to falsely believe she does not have a choice, or once a title company’s name is written into the contract and that contract is ratified, the decision is set in stone and the title company can’t be changed.

A homebuyer maintains a right to choose her own title company and also has the right to change her mind and choose a different title company.

This isn’t an invitation to change title companies several times prior to closing or to change for no good reason. Keep in mind any addendum to a ratified sales contract must be signed by all parties, including the sellers. You may risk delaying closing, annoying your sellers or even causing your deal to fall through by abusing your right to change title companies after you have a ratified sales contract.

We put this post together specifically to help those who learned after the fact they could have chosen their own title company and would like to exercise that right. Two primary reasons a homebuyer may choose to change title companies might be she’s found a title company that charges lower prices and/or provides better customer service than the company initially listed on the sales contract.

Have you stopped by our new location on 14th Street?

We are pleased to announce a second Federal Title office located at 1803 14th Street, NW is now open for business.

Our new location is two blocks south of U Street and three blocks north of Logan Circle in the heart of the burgeoning 14th Street Corridor.

Use our main phone number (202) 362-1500 to get in touch with that office or send your general inquiries to info@federaltitle.com. Be sure and bookmark our Contact Page to keep our information for both locations at the ready.

Stephanie Dudley will lead our team at our U Street / Logan Circle location as managing attorney. Stephanie has been with our company for about three years now. She received her Juris Doctor from The Catholic University of America in 2005 and has been working in the title industry as an attorney and settlement processor ever since.

Attorney Chris David and settlement coordinator Shantae Holland have made the move with Stephanie from headquarters in Friendship Heights to the new location.

Next time you're in the U Street or Logan Circle neighborhoods, look for our logo on a blue awning, and be sure to drop in and say hello. We look forward to serving you from a location that's even closer to the neighborhoods a growing number of homebuyers are calling home.

Federal Title now a trusted & verified SSI agent

Federal Title is now a trusted and verified title agent, having completed a standardized risk management process through risk management firm Secure Settlements Inc.

We successfully demonstrated to SSI that we meet federal regulatory requirements. Our implementation of the American Land Title Association's industry best practices was also helpful in attaining this new distinction. 

Mortgage industry risk management is a relatively new market niche, and SSI is the first company to offer title agents a standardized risk management process. Increased risk management in the mortgage industry is also a byproduct of the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010, which mandated new consumer financial laws and created an agency known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

Banks are under the CFPB microscope, and they in turn are taking a hard look at third-party service providers to ensure business practices and services are on the up-and-up in terms of the new requirements mandated by Dodd-Frank. Because of the potential for regulatory penalties and legal damages 

We choose to view the increased scrutiny of the CFPB, as well as regulations mandated by Dodd-Frank, as an opportunity to improve our business and further distinguish ourselves from other title companies in the region.

SSI's "Trusted and Verified" seal of approval is a visual queue to our clients that we're looking out for the best interest of all parties involved in the real estate transaction. 

What to do when the home seller has dementia?

A Power of Attorney allows a person with dementia ("the principal") to name another individual ("the agent" or "attorney-in-fact") to make financial and other decisions when the person with dementia is no longer able. 

As with any Power of Attorney, the decision in regards to who to appoint as the attorney-in-fact should be made after careful consideration.

In addition, a successor agent should be named in the event the original agent is unavailable or unwilling to serve.  

The Power of Attorney does not give the appointed person the authority to override the decision making of the person with dementia. The person with dementia maintains the right to make his or her own decisions as long as he or she has legal capacity.

However, just because there is a Power of Attorney, it does not mean that the title company will allow it to be used for the sale of the property. If you plan on using a Power of Attorney for an individual with dementia, be prepared to answer the following questions: 

  1. When was the Power of Attorney executed?
  2. When was the principal diagnosed with dementia?
  3. What is going on with the current transaction?  
  4. How are the funds to be disbursed?
  5. Who is the attorney in fact and what is that person’s relation to the principal?

When dementia is involved, there is always a concern that the principal may not have been competent at the time the Power of Attorney was executed. 

The best way to persuade the title company to use the Power of Attorney is to obtain an affidavit from the principal’s physician setting forth the approximate date that the principal was diagnosed with dementia and a statement that at the time of the execution of the Power of Attorney, the principal was mentally competent and did have the capacity to understand the nature and significance of the Power of Attorney that he or she signed.  

Without this document, most title companies will hesitate to allow the use of a Power of Attorney for an individual with dementia, based on a fear that the Power of Attorney might in the future be declared invalid if it was executed after the principal lacked the capacity to make decisions. In the event of a future challenge to the validity of the Power of Attorney, the title company will want to prove that it properly vetted the validity of the document. 

So what can be done if the title company will not allow the use of the Power of Attorney and the individual is no longer able to make his or her own financial decisions?  

A guardian or conservator will need to be appointed by the court.   

A guardianship or conservatorship is not common, but it can be granted by the court when it finds that a person is totally or partially legally incapacitated. 

Since the procedure for obtaining a guardianship or conservatorship varies per jurisdiction, you should consult with an attorney if you are considering this possibility. 

MRIS to offer custom, specially licensed version of Close It! to members through partnership with Federal Title

MRIS, the industry-leading Mid-Atlantic Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and Federal Title & Escrow Co. today announced they have launched MRIS Close It!, a desktop and mobile app that provides quick and concise closing cost estimates.

"MRIS Close It! accurately answers questions real estate agents commonly hear such as 'how much cash do I need to close?' and 'how much can I expect to net from the sale of my home'," said Andrew Strauch, Vice President of Product Innovation at MRIS. "Through this new core product, our customers now have the ability to quickly and easily answer these questions for homebuyers and sellers on the fly."

Through the partnership, MRIS, which facilitates nearly $125 million a day in real estate transactions, now offers a custom, specially licensed version of Close It! to calculate total cash-to-close and net proceeds for real estate transactions. MRIS Close It! allows users to instantly create, edit and share HUD-1 Settlement Statements and net sales sheets.

"I am going on 37 years in this business and MRIS Close It! is as easy as it gets to calculating closing costs for buyers and sellers," said Scott Miller, MRIS customer and Associate Broker at RE/MAX 100. "My clients and I can rely on MRIS Close It! for quick and helpful closing cost estimates."

Federal Title, a technology pioneer in the title industry, initially launched the consumer-facing Close It! app in May 2013 to simplify homebuying costs. The app, along with the MRIS version, can compare costs in different jurisdictions and show the difference in closing on the first of the month compared to at the end of the month. Many features are customizable including the mortgage rate and down payment amount and allow the user to differentiate between FHA, VA loans and cash purchases.

"We created the most accurate app on the market that simplifies the closing process," said Federal Title founder Todd Ewing. "It removes the guesswork from the equation and is the ultimate closing costs calculator."

The app is a new core product for MRIS customers and is included in their MRIS subscription at no additional charge. To learn more about MRIS Close It! and to download the app for iPhone/iPad, please visit http://www.mris.com/CloseIt.

ABOUT MRIS 

MRIS is Real Estate in Real Time™. We’re a leading provider of real estate information technology and services, and are frequently ranked among the most productive Multiple Listing Services (MLS) in the nation, facilitating over $45 billion in system wide sales in 2013. In its core market, MRIS supports over 45,000 real estate professionals spanning the Mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia. MRIS provides a portfolio of technology solutions and proprietary databases for real estate professionals, as well as broker and agent software products and an industry-leading consumer portal, MRIShomes.com (formerly HomesDatabase). In addition, the CURE Solutions Group, a subsidiary of MRIS, provides proprietary back-end technology to other MLS systems, serving nearly 180,000 customers each day. Visit MRIS at MRIS.com and our web based TV station, mrisTV.com. “Like” us on Facebook/MRISonFB, follow us on Twitter, @MRIS_REal_News and be sure to visit MRISblog.com for real-time news and company updates.

About Federal Title & Escrow Company 

Federal Title & Escrow Company is the largest independently owned title company in Washington, D.C. – innovators within the title industry, trend setters who leverage technology to streamline the closing process, pioneers of a business model that has saved homebuyers more than $8 million in closing costs. Their innovative app Close It!, has over 10,000 downloads to date. It was nominated for a Tabby Award in October 2013 and has been featured in the Washington Post, Title Report and Washington and Baltimore business journals. To find out how this unique company is changing the way homebuyers and sellers think about title companies, visit federaltitle.com.

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