Closing Expectations

Your offer was accepted, the inspection is over, and anything that needed to be resolved has been. The only thing standing between you and moving into your new home is the closing table.  What should you expect?

PREPARING FOR THE CLOSING DATE:

Depending on how condensed your contract period is, you may receive the final settlement and HUD-1 statements with enough time to review them with your lender and real estate broker.  It isn’t uncommon, with the volume of new mortgages and refinances, to receive these documents just hours before closing.  Either way, you will have time at the closing table to have all your questions answered about the details and account for every penny of the transaction.

Prior to your closing, you will do a final walk-through of your new home with your broker to inspect its condition.  This is your opportunity to ensure all agreed-upon inspection items have been completed, the condition of the home hasn’t changed from when you went under contract, and all contractual items are in the home.  The final walk-through is not an opportunity to re-inspect the home.

WHAT TO BRING TO CLOSING

Make sure to bring a form of government-issued identification for the closing agent to verify you are, in fact, you.

You must bring funds that are immediately available for withdrawal, which includes wire transfers, cashier’s checks, or teller’s checks.  Title companies vary slightly as to what they will accept as good funds, so ask your Realtor before you gather documents. The actual dollar amount you will be required to bring to closing will be derived from the settlement statement prepared by the title company.

AT THE CLOSING TABLE

The closing is usually held at a title company location that is convenient to both parties of the transaction.  Most closings will include the seller and seller’s agent, buyer and buyer’s agent, lender, and the closing agent.  With more complex transactions there may be attorneys present for one or both sides.

There are three parts of the closing, the first two parts pertain to transferring the real estate from the seller to the buyer.  This includes all the documentation and accounting for the transfer.  If you are borrowing money, you will need to complete the third and final part, paying for the home.  This portion will contain the majority of documents and disclosures required by your lender.  Your lender should be present to answer any questions you may have during this section.

THE KEYS!!

Once all the documents have been successfully signed and all money dispersed, you are now the proud new owner of the home!  This will also be a good opportunity to ask the seller any additional questions you may have about your new property.  It is also a good idea to exchange contact information in case questions arise during the move-in process.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Though it may seem like the closing process is a lot of complex work, it’s worth the time and effort to get things right instead of hurrying up and signing a deal you don’t understand. Be wary of any pressure to close the deal fast. Real estate agents and other entities helping you will want their cut, but they won’t be around to care about the problems you could face in the long run from a bad deal.

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Title Insurance Myths

MYTH: You don’t need title insurance

Everyone needs title insurance. You may think you know the entire history of the house you’re purchasing, but it’s impossible to know everything. Title insurance protects your right to the property in the event that a previously unknown heir claims ownership of the property if it is later revealed that the “sellers” were not the rightful owners, or if liens against the property resurface. If you have an owner’s title insurance policy, you will not be responsible for paying any of the fees associated with protecting your right to the property, should these types of issues arise.

MYTH: New construction homes don’t need title insurance

Your home could be brand new, but the land on which the house is built isn’t. Chances are, the land had several previous owners before construction began. Buying property on such land opens you up to certain risks tied to ownership issues from previous owners.

Disputed wills, easements, and property liens are just a few of the issues common to land ownership. You could get caught in between the mess and end up losing your resources or, worse still, your new property as well. Title insurance is crucial even for a new home and should be among your list of priorities during the closing process.

MYTH: If no one challenges ownership, then the title policy is a waste

At the closing, when you purchase a title insurance policy, the closing company does the bulk of the work behind the scenes. The title company goes through many steps to make sure that everything is in place by that time, including conducting a comprehensive title search and identifying any potential issues. The team investigates the entire history of the property to ensure that you, the buyer, will be aware of any problems that will need to be addressed before closing. By the time the closing comes around, the title company has completed a great deal of research and legwork for you.

MYTHTitle insurance offers only minimal protection

When you purchase a home, you receive the “title” to the property. This title is your legal right to own it. Early in the home buying process, a title search is conducted to review the history of the property and uncover any issues that could limit your right to ownership. Even after the most meticulous search of public records, there can be hidden title defects, such as tax liens, forged signatures, claims by ex-spouses, and recording errors. These title defects can remain undiscovered for months or even years after you purchase the home.

MYTH: Title insurance is the same thing as homeowner’s insurance

Homeowners insurance protects you so you have the resources to pay for any damage that might occur to your property. Title insurance protects you from anyone else claiming your home is theirs or for some prior owner’s back taxes or encumbrances or any other real property dispute

Title First Agency: Dedicated to innovation and passionate about service, Title First Agency is your comprehensive, nationwide resource for title and real estate settlement services. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Title First has branch offices throughout the Midwest and a robust virtual partner network throughout the country. Title First got its start in 1956 as an affiliate of a local law firm and has since emerged as one of the largest independent title agencies in the nation. Proudly servicing Realtorslendersbuildersdevelopers, law firms, buyers and sellers, Title First is equipped to serve your residential and commercial title and settlement needs.

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Buy the Least Expensive Home in the Best Neighborhood

Imagine finding the home of your dreams for sale and it’s the most expensive home on the street. And, it’s in your price range. Are you about to score!? Be careful. Making an offer on the best house in the neighborhood may not be economical.

Why should you not be the one with the best house? It makes a lot more sense—financially, anyway—to buy one of the lesser homes in the neighborhood. Every improvement you make will add to its value and increase your equity—and you’ll have a pretty high ceiling here, figuratively speaking. When you buy the lesser home in the neighborhood, it becomes much easier for you to increase the value of your real estate investment.

Not every single home that is purchased will result in a profit – real estate, like any other investment, is a gamble. Buying a home is often the biggest investment you’ll ever make. So, regardless of everything, you still should look at it as that: an investment. Resale value should always stay top of mind. 

If you have the least expensive home in the neighborhood, the other homes will actually drive your home value up. But the opposite is also true. If you have the most expensive house, the other homes will drive your home value down. This is another reason why mid-range homes tend to have a higher price per square foot than the fancier homes down the street. 

If the market shifts, and it does about every 7 years, you may be stuck at the top of the market in your area. When times are tough, buyers will opt for a less expensive home in hopes of getting a better deal. 

Having a knowledgeable Realtor is so important.  They understand the importance of resale value while you search for your home. They have all the market information you need to make a good decision. If there aren’t any comps to support the high price tag it will be harder to get a bank loan (unless you have cash!) Your Realtor, if you have found a great one, will ask the listing agent where he or she based the listing price. Normally listing agents will list homes based on past sales in the immediate market area unless the sellers themselves set the list price.

The Bottom Line: Why let lesser valued homes in the neighborhood drag yours down? Buy the smallest house in the best neighborhood and let the neighbors’ values bring yours up. A low-end house can be upgraded to your own specifications to increase the value to the average of the area.

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Do You Need A Realtor To Buy A House?

The answer is no. You could buy a home without using a Realtor, but why? Is your hesitation because you believe that you will be paying the Realtor fees? Typically, buyers don’t pay the commission-the sellers do. There are no legal requirements that you need to have a Realtor in order to buy a home unless it’s on a Federal Housing Administration foreclosure property. There really isn’t anything stopping anyone from buying a home on their own, but we offer you a few reasons why you should have someone on your side advising you through the process.

Sure, you can look through the many internet real estate listings, but a knowledgeable Realtor can cut through all the fat, plus have access to other sites, know the neighborhood comps, have contact with other agents in town with “pocket listings” and sometimes know the background (or the “skinny”) on a few homes. A Realtor is going to do all the dirty work and guide you through it all.  They are going to research the market trends and other important information that can be tedious. When almost everything is accessible online, it can be easy to adopt false confidence that encourages you to handle it all yourself.

The housing market is immense, there are literally thousands of options available and it can prove to be difficult to narrow down which homes are even worth looking at.  Your Realtor will have data about crime rates, education options, local businesses, commute times, zoning codes and a lot of other information that will influence your final decision.

Once you fall in love with a home, a skilled Realtor will have been through many homes and is trained to look for issues that might be hidden from you. Once the problem is identified it can be addressed and the Realtor can ask for it to be repaired.

Real estate agents are negotiation experts. If you buy a home without an agent, you’ll have to negotiate and decide how much to offer on your own. This may cause you to unknowingly overpay for your home – or lose out on the one you want. The Realtor will negotiate on your behalf with the seller and seller’s agent.

The vast knowledge of market conditions and comp sales coupled with the Realtor’s knowledge will help put together a competitive offer at the best possible price.  You will be given information on at current home conditions to find any issues that could be leveraged during negotiations. The Realtor knows how to navigate through the many documents plus be your voice when the negotiating begins.  If you end up with questions and concerns or are completely confused, your Realtor will be able to clarify all the clauses, contingencies and jargon-filled fine print as well as find hidden fees and conditions that many people tend to skim over.

The Bottom Line: Anyone can shop for a new home without a Realtor. Buying and selling a house is one of the largest financial transactions people make in their lifetime. Realtors earn their commission by making sure you know exactly what you are doing. They are helping you through the many pages of documents required on the transaction. They are with you during the inspection (pest, foundation, furnace, sewer, electrical, plumbing, etc), appraisal, and disclosure. It’s in your best interest to use the resources of a skilled Real Estate Agent.

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The Partnership of a Realtor and a Title Agency

Title First Agency works hard to ensure a seamless experience for Realtors and their clients. From contract to closing, Title First handles all the details to help your transactions run smoothly and close on time.

ACCESS TO PROPERTY INFORMATION:

Title First Agency can help Realtors by getting the names, addresses, and phone numbers for properties that their clients are interested in buying. Maybe the buyer wants to find a home of a certain age or in a particular area – whatever it may be, a Title First Agent has the ability to access a lot of data and can find the information needed. Buyers often drive around neighborhoods that they want to live in and see the perfect home for their family. A Title First Agent can look up the information of who owns the home and how long they have been there at the exact address. This will enable the Realtor and the buyer to put together a homebuyer’s letter to the owner.

ADVERTISING AND MARKETING:

Title First can assist Realtors in promoting their business with our full line of marketing solutions. For your next listing, make a good first impression on potential clients and prospective buyers with a bound presentation of property information. We have the ability to help you design, print, and mail your full-color glossy, postcards. Use our Net-to-Seller tool that will help estimate a client’s profit and present it in a professional format to be shared. Or, give our Title First Agent App a try to provide a higher level of service to your clients. This app will enable you to give quick and easy estimates to any real estate financial question. The app features net sheets, quick estimates, closing, costs, prorated taxes, and much more. Finally, email us your MLS link, logo, and personal photo, and let us create a professional full-color info sheet for your listing.

Title First Agency has experienced real estate lawyers who have worked many years through settlements and closings. It’s an invaluable asset to always have legal experts on hand with a good title company. The buyer, seller, and you, the Realtor, can have peace of mind that purchases and end-to-end processes of closing on a property are performed seamlessly and on time.

The Bottom Line: At Title First Agency, we measure our success by your success. That’s why we offer a variety of services to help you grow your real estate business. Beyond the listed services, the issuing of insurance, and performing title searches, we can manage the escrow account for the home sale. We safeguard all money and documents related to the transaction for the parties involved, such as the deed to the home, closing costs, earnest money deposit, and the down payment.

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MYTH: You Don’t Need Title Insurance and Other Fables

MYTH: Nobody needs title insurance

Everyone needs title insurance. You may think you know the entire history of the house you’re purchasing, but it’s impossible to know everything. Title insurance protects your right to the property in the event that a previously unknown heir claims ownership of the property if it is later revealed that the “sellers” were not the rightful owners, or if liens against the property resurface. If you have an owner’s title insurance policy, you will not be responsible for paying any of the fees associated with protecting your right to the property, should these types of issues arise.

MYTH: New construction homes don’t need title insurance

Your home could be brand new, but the land on which the house is built isn’t. Chances are, the land had several previous owners before construction began. Buying property on such land opens you up to certain risks tied to ownership issues from previous owners.

Disputed wills, easements, and property liens are just a few of the issues common to land ownership. You could get caught in between the mess and end up losing your resources or, worse still, your new property as well. Title insurance is crucial even for a new home and should be among your list of priorities during the closing process.

MYTH: If no one challenges ownership, then the title policy is a waste

At the closing, when you purchase a title insurance policy, the closing company does the bulk of the work behind the scenes. The title company goes through many steps to make sure that everything is in place by that time, including conducting a comprehensive title search and identifying any potential issues. The team investigates the entire history of the property to ensure that you, the buyer, will be aware of any problems that will need to be addressed before closing. By the time the closing comes around, the title company has completed a great deal of research and legwork for you.

MYTHTitle insurance offers only minimal protection

When you purchase a home, you receive the “title” to the property. This title is your legal right to own it. Early in the home buying process, a title search is conducted to review the history of the property and uncover any issues that could limit your right to ownership. Even after the most meticulous search of public records, there can be hidden title defects, such as tax liens, forged signatures, claims by ex-spouses, and recording errors. These title defects can remain undiscovered for months or even years after you purchase the home.

MYTH: Title insurance is the same thing as homeowner’s insurance

Homeowners insurance protects you so you have the resources to pay for any damage that might occur to your property. Title insurance protects you from anyone else claiming your home is theirs or for some prior owner’s back taxes or encumbrances or any other real property dispute

Title First Agency: Dedicated to innovation and passionate about service, Title First Agency is your comprehensive, nationwide resource for title and real estate settlement services. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Title First has branch offices throughout the Midwest and a robust virtual partner network throughout the country. Title First got its start in 1956 as an affiliate of a local law firm and has since emerged as one of the largest independent title agencies in the nation. Proudly servicing Realtorslendersbuildersdevelopers, law firms, buyers and sellers, Title First is equipped to serve your residential and commercial title and settlement needs.

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The First Offer Is Usually The Best

Often, when a seller has taken the time to properly prepare their home for sale, and they’ve hired the best Realtor who takes pride in presenting and marketing that home well a seller will receive offers right away.

The time a home is on the market to sell decreases its value. The longer it is listed the less interested buyers and Realtors are in the property. People will begin to wonder what is wrong with the property. Sellers are in the best position to get a good price for their home when it is new to the market. If the home does not sell buyers become suspect.

So that first early offer? Sellers tend to reject it because they felt it happened too quickly and they want to hold out. Days, weeks even months later, they find themselves settling for less. That first offer should always be taken seriously and it’s probably the best opportunity you’ll have to control your price and terms. It might not be what the seller was hoping for, a good Realtor will walk the seller through a counteroffer, and even the ability to negotiate for other details can work for the seller.

With a “for sale” sign in any yard too long, no matter the reason, it makes it more difficult to stir up interest. As the days go on, the home becomes less desirable. The market could change and take a downturn leaving the home that is priced on the comps when it was listed, now priced too high. An identical home could enter the market at a lower price. 

The Bottom Line: The first three weeks are usually the most active that a property will have. If an offer is made during that time it’s worth working with that offer unless it’s ridiculously low.

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The Good and The Bad of Buying a New Construction Home

Nothing beats the feeling of being the first person to live in a newly-built home. Everything is shiny and untouched. There are three ways to buy a spanking new home: already built on spec, semi-custom home built as part of a development where you will be able to choose from a set palette of finishes and upgrades, or a purely custom home designed and built to your specifications from start to finish. The process of buying a new construction home is a lengthy one. Here are some samples of what you should know; the pros and the cons.

Some Good News (Pros)

Personalize & Customize: For some, this is the most exciting part of new construction. You have the opportunity to choose what you want that reflects your tastes, preferences, and personality by choosing the finishes you want. This is an opportunity that doesn’t come with buying an existing home.

Energy Efficient: With modern construction and the integration of advanced technologies comes the added benefit of energy efficiency. New construction homes are built with the latest advances in construction materials and building practices, which can give new homeowners the benefit of reduced monthly utility bills

Pick Your Lot: The lot you choose for your home can impact your quality of life and the future resale value of your home. Consider the view, the location on the street, what direction the home faces at sunset & sunrise, and would future home buyers find the positioning of the home as convenient?

New Home Warranty Protection: Buying a new construction home means that everything in it often comes with a warranty. You can confidently know the builder will cover the cost of any issues during the warranty period, such as a leaky roof or broken water heater. Unlike when buying an existing home where you may not know about hidden defects or problems until after you’ve purchased the home – and you’re left with the bill.

Designed for Your Lifestyle: With several options to choose from, a new construction home lets you design a space that fits your style. The choice is yours. Pick ceramic tile, granite countertops, finished wooden cabinets, or palatable neutral wall color, your home will be finished in a way that’s tailored to your preferences.

Some Bad News (Cons)

Price: On average, it costs about 20% more to build your own home than to buy an existing one. Often, buyers walk through the builder’s model homes and want their new home to be just like that one. In reality, the model home will be much more expensive than the traditional properties in the community. It’s best to use a Realtor to help through the process.

Landscaping: When developers create new neighborhoods, they tend to tear down all of the vegetation in the area. It’s the most costly way for them to break ground and get started. Landscaping is just one part of the process of planning a custom home but is often an afterthought. The landscaping you want for your home may have an impact on the structural design of your home and where it will be situated on the property. Most new construction homes will give you a little bit of landscaping in the front to start off with but they won’t do anything in the backyard. This means that you’ll probably have to fence the backyard if that’s what you need, start from the ground up with growing trees (that take years to grow) and plants, and you may even need to lay turf or seed the lawn.

Homeowner Association Fees: Most new subdivisions and developments will have some sort of homeowner association dues that cover management and any common area maintenance. That being said, many of these new subdivisions will also have community amenities such as clubhouses, swimming pools, or playgrounds.HOA dues can range anywhere from less than $100 a year to several hundreds of dollars per month.

Commute: New construction typically happens further out from the cities. A new home usually means a longer commute to work. It also means you might have to wait for shopping, schools, libraries, firehouses and other key pieces of infrastructure to be built. Those things usually come after there are enough homes and people to support them

Noise: Unless the home that you decide to buy is the last one to be built in the neighborhood, you can count on the daily noise of the rest of the homes being built around you. This could be several months or even years depending on how long it takes to build up the community

The Bottom Line: Building a new home requires a buyer to be very involved.  A custom build gives you full control, but also means managing a lot of details and making hundreds of little decisions. No matter where you decide to build a new home there will be pros and cons to new construction that must be weighed properly before making a final decision.

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Title Insurance for your Home

When you are out looking for your new home, it’s not on the top of your mind: title insurance. But, it should be. It’s one of the most important parts of the home buying process. Something that can protect owners of real property events and matters that can be brought up from the past. Imagine spending your nest egg on a down payment, closing costs, and a few years of mortgage payments. Suddenly, an heir to a former owner is suing to obtain the home, arguing that it never should have been sold to you in the first place. There is no reason to worry if you have title insurance, yet many homeowners decline it. Once they know how it is created to protect them from unknown claims against their property that can pop up years down the road they are less inclined to resist.

Title insurance is much more than a lender requirement. It’s knowing that what you are buying is free of any third party claims to ownership or use of any part of it. It assures the homeowner that they are clear of anything that would affect the ability to sell or borrow against their new property.  After thousands of real estate closings here at Title First, we can give you a rundown of the most common issues we can save you from:

Mistakes on titles, especially lately, that are transferred through a sale of foreclosure without certain rulings met, thus making the transfer of the title invalid.

Mistakes within all the paperwork brought to a closing. Somewhere along the line, there may be a forged signature or recorded documents that have been signed by people without legal authority.

Mistakes made during the probate process for the previous owner that overlooked someone else’s rightful claim (undisclosed heirs) to the property of someone else’s interest in the property. Misinterpretation of wills and deeds.

Mistakes made in the description of the property.

Mistakes were made where claims, tax information, or easements had not been recorded properly in the public record.

Mistakes missed of liens on the property or judgments against the previous owner.

Mistakes in unpaid taxes or mortgages and unpaid debts.

Investors need to be alert when protecting their investments. Title insurance assures the homeowner that the title to the property purchased is free of any defects and is “clear to close”. It is a guarantee that all matters of record that could harm the title of the new property have been disclosed and resolved. Title insurance protects the homeowner against any potential claims should an undisclosed event threaten the ownership of the property. Give us a call today at Title First Agency: 1-866-320-8400

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Technology Upgrades That will Add Value to Your Home

Over the past few years, smart technology has become more accessible and affordable. Not only can smart upgrades make your home more convenient and efficient, but they’ll also make it much more attractive to potential buyers in the future. In this healthy seller’s market, smart renovations will improve the value of the property of your home. Enhancements like your thermostat, lighting, keypad door locks, fire detectors, and security camera systems.

Smart Thermostat: The advantage is its ability to learn a household’s patterns and adjust heating and cooling according to when a home is occupied or is about to be occupied. This reduces the use of heating and cooling systems when nobody is home for significant periods of time. During the Summer, you can set your thermostat to a temp while you are away so you do not waste energy. You are able to program the thermostat to come on a few minutes before you get home. Many are able to be adjusted by your smartphone while on your way home. A thermostat might seem to be a basic feature of your home, but it can have a big impact on your energy bills. Almost half of the monthly energy costs are controlled by your thermostat.

Smart Lighting: To really impress potential homeowners, a good Realtor will showcase the smart lighting by demonstrating it throughout your home. Smart lighting gives flexibility because it can be controlled by timers, as well as by setting up schedules and monitoring bulb statuses remotely. Smart lighting eliminates the switch on the wall. The network does all the work for you, automatically, though you can still program the lights to respond as you wish. They can feature sensors with the ability to identify people and when they need light, as well as how much they may need. Smart lighting will save money on utility bills. They’re very energy efficient; allows for calibration of when each light should be on. When you travel, you won’t have to physically alter the settings of each smart light or check to see if it is off before you leave. Everything can be done remotely, from afar.

Smart Keypad Door Locks: Install a smart lock to keep your house secure.  It’s as easy as using an app that you will program new access codes into the lock, even set schedules for when those codes can be used. You will be notified when it’s used, which gives you the ability to keep an eye on who is in your house and when.

Smart Fire Detectors: A smart fire detector is the one essential every home should have. Traditional alarms depend on you being around to hear them, a smart smoke alarm will alert you when something is wrong, no matter where you are. A smart smoke detector can warn you of a fire in its early stages, allowing you and your family enough time to get to safety. If there are any potential problems with smoke (or CO2) these can quickly alert you, no matter where you are in or out of the house, and even tell you what room it’s sensing trouble in.

Smart Security Camera Systems: The latest smart home security systems pair with your smartphone so you can view cameras, lock doors, arm or disarm security points, and receive instant notifications on alarm triggers wherever you are. Home security systems often lower your home insurance cost since they can reduce the likelihood of home invasion or theft. 

The Bottom Line: Be in control. Smart technology doesn’t just stop at security. Home automation functions enable you to control various aspects of your home, too—such as adjusting your thermostat and turning on or off the lights, coffee pot, or other appliances. If you ever forget to switch your bedroom light off in the morning before heading to work, for example, you can correct your mistake, from anywhere. All you need is a smartphone, iPad, or desktop computer. Upgrading to make your home smarter by adding smart features is among the five best (and easiest) ways to increase your home’s value as well as help it to sell faster than traditional homes due to the spectrum of advantages offered.

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