The Hidden Heavyweight of Your Closing Team

By Sarah Kinbar Ristorcelli

With the right title agent on your side, closing on your home can become a walk in the park.

Photo: GettyImages/Cecilie_Arcurs

Each home-buying experience is as original as a fingerprint. Sometimes everything goes smooth like butter and other times … not so much. Your closing is one of the make-it-or-break-it moments in the process, and can be rife with opportunity for trouble if you aren’t buttoned up.

It’s important to have a team assembled that can come up with solutions as needed to ensure the process concludes well, no matter the complexities. You might not have thought of it this way before, but a key player on your team is the title agent.

Title companies coordinate to clear up issues and work with the buyers, sellers, Realtors, mortgage brokers, municipalities and homeowners associations to get the transaction closed. They often develop legal, fair and equitable resolutions so that all parties are satisfied and happy with their closing.

If this multitasking force of nature sounds like someone you want involved in your closing, you’re right on track.

The More, the Merrier?

Some homebuyers fear having too many cooks in the kitchen and avoid fully fleshing out their closing team, but to exclude a title agent is a mistake. According to James Armstrong of Premier Alliance Title Group in Orlando, Florida, “Homebuyers who choose not to use a title company to close their transaction risk many potential legal and financial risks up to and including a complete loss.”

Your goal is to receive a clear, marketable and insurable title to the property of your choice. There are many issues that can be obstacles to this, including easements, encroachments or right of ways that can affect the ownership to title. A title company will uncover and disclose all title issues and work to get them resolved legally prior to closing.

When Buying New Construction

When it comes to new construction, title agents are alert to a specific set of requirements, such as permits, certificates of occupancy, utility easements and right of ways. When the new home is built, the title agent reviews the final survey for any potential issues such as encroachments or variances. When a title company is working hand in hand with the builder, they are usually aware of that particular builder’s processes, which helps ensure a smooth closing.

Mobile closings are another benefit offered by some title agencies. Thanks to technology, the closing can take place at your home or office, which is much more convenient that gathering a closing team at another location. With mobile closings, everyone participates digitally and the title agent is present with you at the location of your choice.

What to Look for in a Title Company

Credentials and Experience

Reputable companies have proper licensing, underwriting and insurance. Experienced title agents are tuned in to the constantly shifting real estate landscape and aware of changes to relevant laws and closing documents.

Legal Counsel

A significant perk a title company can offer is having an attorney on staff. “We have the added benefit of being able to give some legal advice as it pertains to your transaction,” says Armstrong, whose company is attorney-owned. “Since licensed title agents don’t need to be attorneys, by law they are not supposed to give out legal advice. Having an attorney on the staff of our title company gives us the ability to handle the most complex transactions and to clear even the most difficult title issues.”

Technology Chops

When a title company incorporates digital file sharing, communications applications and other software into their daily workflow, it allows for the coordination of global closings and smooths the path for local closings as well. Not all title companies are tech-enabled, so as you’re deciding which title agent to go with, ask questions about their fluency in technology to determine if mobile closings, international closings, out-of-state closings and tech-enabled transactions are in their wheelhouse.

Recommendations from Your Network

Recommendations are a de facto resource to help you make decisions about who to hire on any project, but sometimes we skip that step because we’re eager to make a quick decision or unwilling to invest the time needed to gather recommendations.

Because the purchase of a new home is one of the most significant financial decisions of your life, don’t gloss over getting deep, specific recommendations. Your friends, family or business associates may have worked with a title agent before, so find out what they really think. Your Realtor will most likely have a title agent they partner with frequently, but don’t leave it up to the Realtor to make the decision independently. Get involved with the choice.

Once you choose your title agent, communication is the key to a smooth and timely closing. Buyers should make sure that their Realtor and mortgage professional keep the lines of communication open and consistent with the title company.

“A good title company will have a system that tracks and monitors the status of closings and they will be proactive in their communication to drive the closing to an on-time finish,” explains Armstrong.

That’s exactly what you want, and it’s completely within reach.
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Sarah Kinbar Ristorcelli is a writer and former magazine editor with a focus on the way people experience designed spaces. Her stories for national and local publications feature the innovations in technology, materials, and design that shape the way we live.

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