Posts Tagged ‘consumer protection’

Road to the own house

5 Tips for Easier Real Estate Closings

The homebuying process is filled with excitement, joy, anxiety, stress and relief. There are so many moving parts between deciding to purchase a home and actually closing on a home. Here are excellent tips to help buyers navigate the closing process and ensure a smooth closing for all parties.

Don’t make big life changes or purchases during the home buying process. Don’t change jobs or make purchases that could change your credit score. Examples include financing new furniture or a new car, moving your money around in your accounts or paying for a vacation using your open credit. Don’t do anything that will send red flags when lenders check on your credit.

Assure the title is cleared. Your real estate attorney or title company is responsible for ordering a title report to assure everything is good before the closing. Stay in close contact with them to make sure there are no liens on the property. Liens may delay or cancel your closing.

Create and maintain a repair timeline.Assuming the seller is expected to make certain repairs on the property, make sure you document those repairs (and a deadline for their completion) and share a copy with the seller. Maintain the list and verify, at least several days before your scheduled closing, that the repairs are completed. Schedule a final walk-through the day before closing and verify again that all repairs are completed as agreed upon.

Secure proper homeowner’s insurance. Buyers should shop for and secure homeowners insurance well in advance of the closing. Be cognizant of the home’s location and know if you need to purchase flood insurance. Flood insurance is costly, yet necessary, if you live in a flood zone. If you cannot afford flood insurance, do not purchase a home located in a flood zone.

Maintain close communication with your lender.Do not assume that “no news is good news” if you don’t hear from your lender or closing agent. Because lenders often ask for information at the last minute (i.e., insurance documents, current bank statements or pay stubs), contact your lender the day before and the day of closing to assure you bring all needed documents to the closing. You should also verify with your closing agent that he or she received all loan documents. Oftentimes, it is a case of one missing document, one verification or an email that has not been returned (or lost in a spam folder).

And, “it goes without saying,” yet we will say it: Buyers need to have all paperwork in order and present at closing, including a valid ID and most likely a cashier’s check for the down payment.

What can title agents do about vendor vetting?

As a title agent, are you obligated to ensure your service providers are in compliance? And if so, how?

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), enacted in 1999 (codified as amended at 15 U.S.C Chapter 94: Privacy), establishes basic privacy standards for “financial institutions,” which includes not only lenders, but also title insurers, title agents and settlement/escrow agents.

The CFPB expects lenders to oversee their service providers to make sure that they are in compliance with the law to protect consumer interests; this was expressed in CFPB Bulletin 2012-03, published April 13, 2012. This duty extends to title agents and settlement service providers.

While title agents and settlement service providers are third-party vendors to lenders, those who provide services to title agents and settlement service providers are fourth-party vendors to lenders. The requirement to evaluate, review, and monitor qualifications and performance extends as far down the service chain as necessary to make sure that everyone is in compliance with the rules protecting customers.

So what can you do as a title agent to make sure that your vendors are in compliance?

  • You can make sure that your vendors are contractually aware of their responsibilities. There are some great sample provisions regarding “rights and responsibilities” and “confidentiality and security,” in the FDIC’s Financial Institution Letters, Guidance for Managing Third-Party Risk, which you may choose to include in your vendor contracts.
  • You can establish good vendor selection and management practices:
  • Designate someone within your company to provide oversight as the “vendor manager.”
  • Perform background and reference checks.
  • Provide due diligence questionnaires and checklists.
  • Implement non-disclosure agreements.
  • Train vendors on their consumer protection obligations.
  • Monitor and score performance, and provide feedback; sight visits can be particularly useful.
  • Provide a communication matrix or plan, and include provisions for reporting in the event of a perceived security threat or security breach.

This information is not legal, business or financial advice. It is intended only to be helpful to you and to increase awareness. There may be many ways to approach this issue, and it is always best to consult with legal counsel and subject matter experts to develop a plan that is right for you.

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