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Closing attorney readies for a new chapter with a familiar beginning

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Closing attorney Jackie Kurz finds her greatest satisfaction at the settlement table as the ink dries and she sees the smiling faces of homebuyers and sellers, all eager to begin a new chapter of their lives, knowing she played a part in making it all happen.

“Having a hand in creating that happiness is very rewarding,” the Pennsylvania native said.

Kurz starts a new chapter of her own this week as she returns to Federal Title & Escrow Company. After more than two years, and two states, she is ready to pick up right where she left off, creating a settlement experience for each client that is seamless and painless.

A practicing attorney for the past eight years, Kurz focuses primarily on real estate matters. She received her Juris Doctorate from the Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University and is a member of the Pennsylvania and D.C. bar associations.

Her experience and expertise make Kurz an invaluable resource for consumers, who may have questions about the closing process. Additionally Kurz blends nicely with Federal Title’s business culture, said Todd Ewing, Federal Title founder & president.

“We are all very excited for Jackie’s return ‘home,'” Ewing said. “She has a firm grasp of the underwriting legal requirements and her demeanor at the closing table is non-intrusive yet deliberate in those rare instances of conflict between parties.”

The self-professed “foodie” and Army wife looks forward to revisiting favorite local restaurants and getting acquainted with new ones that have opened since she last lived here.

Kurz worked for Federal Title from July 2005 until April 2008 when she relocated with her husband to military bases in Georgia and later Kentucky. After 20 years of active duty service, her husband is slated to retire, allowing the pair to settle down in one place for a while.

Kurz is the second attorney to return to Federal Title in the last 12 months, following Catherine Schmitt who returned in November 2009 after military service and a stint at Monarch Title, Inc.

“Federal Title has honestly been one of the best places I have ever worked, and I look forward to picking up where I left off – doing everything I can to assist homebuyers, sellers and borrowers who are refinancing,” Kurz said.

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Federal Title’s closing costs below national average

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

A recent survey from Bankrate.com showed homebuyers in Maryland and the District of Columbia pay closings costs that are below the national average. That was good news on its own.

When I began digging through the details of the survey, I discovered this chart that breaks down closing costs for each state and separates origination fees from title & closing fees. That’s when I learned (or confirmed, rather) homebuyers who select Federal Title for their closings pay well below average across the board.

For starters, closing costs across the nation averaged $3,741, according to Bankrate.com. The research was based on a $200,000 loan and a 20 percent down payment.

The survey shows that the average homebuyer in Maryland pays $1,921 in title & closing fees. A homebuyer who settles the same real estate transaction through Federal Title pays $1,465.

And in D.C. the survey shows the average homebuyer pays $2,322 in title & closing fees. If the homebuyer had settled that property address with us, he would have paid $1,905 for the same title services.

Homebuyers in Virginia should be most excited of all: Closing costs average $2,355 across the state — exceeding the national average — but when Federal Title is on the case, closing costs come in at $1,509.

While these numbers are great, it’s not the only factor to consider when choosing a title company. Beyond our competitive prices, at Federal Title we’ve built a reputation of exemplary customer service. We’ve bought and sold houses of our own, so we know how it feels to be a homebuyer or seller, to expect quality service for your dollar.

With this in mind we are working to improve our technology to make the closing process even more seamless and painless. This will free up time for our humans to tend to each client, which can only improve the title services we provide.

Closing Costs Explained Visually ‘Good Introduction’ to Settlement Process

August 27, 2009 Leave a comment

If you’re shopping for a home and haven’t had a chance to watch this quick introduction to title insurance, you may want to check it out. While “Closing Costs Explained Visually” is targeted toward consumers, real estate experts are also finding it useful.

“Rather than a detailed step-by-step dissertation on title and escrow — which many consumers really need before the home buying begins — the two-minute Federal Title & Escrow Co. video is useful as a primer to get you into the basics of the process,” writes Broderick Perkins, editor of Deadline News and the Real Estate News Examiner blog.

After a proper intro to the settlement process from Federal Title, home shoppers may then want to read Perkins’ thorough three-part title insurance series for a better understanding of today’s title insurance industry.

My favorite installment: Part 3 – Shop Around for Title, Escrow Services.

Title insurance companies sometimes get a bad rep, but we’re not all bad. Some companies are committed to giving their customers the lowest rate possible on insurance premiums. Federal Title for one is saving home buyers as much as $2,000 through our REAL Credit Program.

As a home buyer, the more you know about the settlement process, the more you’ll be able to save on closing costs.

MD 1st Time Homebuyers: True/False

August 13, 2009 Leave a comment

STATEMENT: As long as you have not owned a principal residence in Maryland in three years, you qualify as a Maryland First Time Homebuyer.
FALSE: The code does not provide a reset clause – if you have ever previously owned a principal residence in Maryland, no matter when, you are not eligible for the exemption.

STATEMENT: If you have previously owned a property in Maryland, but have never lived in that property, you qualify for the exemption.
TRUE: The requirement is that you must not have previously owned a principal residence in Maryland. Previously owning a non-principal residence does not disqualify you, as long as the property that you are purchasing will be your principal residence.

STATEMENT: It does not matter how you title the property, you will receive the exemption as long as you are a Maryland First Time Homebuyer.
FALSE: If the purchaser is a Trust, a Partnership, an LLC, or a Corporation, it can not qualify as a Maryland First Time Homebuyer.

STATEMENT: If two people are buying a principal residence, as long as one of the buyers has never previously owned a principal residence in Maryland, they can receive the exemption.
FALSE: Every purchaser who intends to live at the property as a principal residence must have never previously owned a principal residence in Maryland.

STATEMENT: While I qualify for the exemption, my parents who will be on title only to help me get the loan disqualify me since they already own a principal residence in Maryland.
FALSE: The Maryland Code will still allow the exemption as long as the parents sign an affidavit stating that they are a co-maker or guarantor of a purchase money deed of trust and that they will not occupy the residence as their principal residence.

Power of Attorney Pitfalls

In my 18 years as a settlement attorney, I can point to an improper Power of Attorney (“POA”) form as one of the most common causes of a delayed closing. You have no doubt encountered clients who are too busy or physically unable to make it to closing. You’ve heard “My mom gave me Power of Attorney,” “I gave my husband Power of Attorney,” “Grandma is in the nursing home – I have Power of Attorney.” Simple enough – right? Wrong.

So often, clients find POA documents online or stationary stores. We are frequently presented with general “checklist” POA forms and clients are dismayed to learn that we cannot accept them for the purpose of insuring title. When it comes to conveying or encumbering real property by Power of Attorney, make sure your client has the proper legal authority well before the closing date.

Many states specifically address, by statute, the use of Power of Attorney and impose very specific requirements. Title insurance underwriters go beyond the state’s statutory requirements with even stricter guidelines for Power of Attorney usage. I think it’s helpful to first understand the definition of an “attorney.”

ATTORNEY: A person legally appointed by another to act as his or her agent in the transaction. . . . www.dictionary.com.

It’s also important to understand the two specific parties in the Power of Attorney. The PRINCIPAL is the person granting another the power to act in their stead; the one who signs the POA document. The ATTORNEY-IN-FACT is the receiver of the power from the Principal.

In order to satisfy most title insurers, a POA form to be used for the purpose of conveying or encumbering real property must meet the following requirements:

RECENT: The document needs to have been executed by the Principal within a year of the transaction at which it is being used. While exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis, it is rare that a title insurance underwriter will accept an aging POA because of risk of fraud or marketability issues.

SPECIFIC: The document must grant the Attorney-in-Fact the powers required to effect the transaction and should recite the specifics of that transaction (i.e., property address, convey or encumber). A document giving the Attorney-in-Fact the ability to “handle real estate transactions” is too vague and too general.

DURABLE: The document must state that the Power of Attorney will not terminate upon the disability of the Principal. It is not acceptable for the document to be entitled “Durable Power of Attorney” and not recite the above durability language specifically with the text.

ORIGINAL: The document must be an original. A copy of the POA is not acceptable. The POA must be recorded with the clerk’s office and the clerk requires original documents to be recorded.

To be absolutely certain that your client’s Power of Attorney is acceptable, please forward to our office for review prior to closing. If you would like to have sample POA forms recommended by our office, please feel free to contact us and we will gladly provide those forms.

Going Green – Federal Title ditches paper copies for USB Flash Drive

Federal Title Goes Green
The average closing takes approximately 200 sheets of paper. There are loan documents, closing documents, title and deed documents, letters to buyers, letters to sellers, letters to lenders etc. By using a USB Flash Drive to store your (borrower’s) documents, we can reduce this number by an average of 32%. Let’s do a quick translation of what you are saving*:

  • One tree provides 17 reams of paper (approximately)
  • In an average month at Federal Title, we can save 15 reams of paper by using a USB Flash Drive
  • In an average month at Federal Title, we can save almost THREE tons of water by using a USB Flash Drive
  • The average cost of a wasted page is $0.06

So by using Federal Title & Escrow Company, you are helping the environment by saving trees, water and energy. We will provide a complimentary flash drive or can load the documents on a flash drive you provide. Rather have it on email? We offer that option as well.

What is a flash drive and who can use it?
It is a small memory stick that is placed in your computer’s USB port, from there you open it and can see all of your closing documents. We convert your package to Adobe PDF for simple browsing. With this easy paper reducing process, you simply print out the papers you need and browse the others.

What are the advantages of having your closing documents on a USB Flash Drive?
You can easily:

  • Email any of the documents as needed
  • Print any of the documents as needed
  • Browse your settlement documents
  • Store 50-75 sheets of paper in an area the size of your thumb
  • Add any other real estate documents to the Flash Drive so you have everything together

Federal Title clients already have an advantage of being tech savvy, you have ordered online, received an email copy of your closing costs and eliminated sending faxes back and forth. Take that savviness one step further by putting all of your closing documents on a USB Flash Drive – walk out of closing knowing you have saved trees, water, energy but most importantly, time.

*Information was calculated by referencing http://www.printgreener.com.

Transparent Title Companies – Where are they?

February 12, 2009 Leave a comment

By Ann Herdon Eskew

WHAT IF YOUR PREFERRED TITLE COMPANY:

* Delivered an instant, online, guaranteed closing cost quote to you and your clients – specific to the transaction;
* Was independent and gave back part of its revenue to your home buyer; instead of giving money back to your broker through an Affiliated Business Arrangment;
* Allowed you to submit the transaction order entirely online.

Very few title companies offer a Web 2.0 experience when it comes to delivering service. In fact, most still cling to fax machines and land lines — taking orders over the phone, quoting fees/costs over the phone. Further, many title companies have no room to significantly lower their fees to your client because they are kicking back 30% to 50% of the transaction revenue to a broker by way of an Affiliated Business Arrangment.

I am proud to say that my company, Federal Title, has remained independent for the last 13 years. We have grown to be the largest independent title company in the Washington, DC metro area. Our growth is directly attributed to our ability to deliver instant, online, and guaranteed closing cost quotes to agents, home buyers, and mortgage lenders. It is also attributed to our REAL Credit Program in which we give back part of our revenue to the home buyer rather than a referral source. The consumer loves transparency and savings and we deliver.