New settlement rules may facilitate much needed communication

homesSigned into law July 21st, 2010, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (aka Dodd – Frank) was intended to improve accountability and transparency in the financial system, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and to end “too big to fail.” The Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which enforces regulations to protect consumers and implements rules such as the Qualified Residential Mortgage (also mandated by Dodd – Frank).

Five years after enactment, Dodd – Frank seems to be the Act the keeps on giving with the upcoming implantation of Sec 1098; which states that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)shall publish a single, integrated disclosure for mortgage loan transactions” in a “readily understandable language” so as to help borrowers understand the financial aspects of their loan clearly and to be nontechnical.

The new disclosure and settlement statement is intended to present important information conspicuously to help consumers decide if the mortgage is affordable and give warning about undesirable loan features. The new forms seek to standardize fee and cost disclosures so as to make shopping for a mortgage easier. One of the more important aspects of the new regulation is that the new Closing Disclosure is to be given to the borrower at least three days prior to settlement. During the three days prior to closing, changes to the Closing Disclosure that increase charges are prohibited (unless allowed by exception).

Firm timelines for closing and mortgage associated matters, have always been a crucial aspect of the home purchase contract. Not adhering to the dates specified in the contract usually has consequences. However, changes to Realtor® contracts are being considered to reflect the three day waiting period. What was once a firm timeline may no longer have the “time is of the essence” feel, as future contract revisions may not hold the buyer in breach of contract if the home does not close by contract settlement date. Carryover issues may also include implications to meeting loan commitment and appraisal contingency timelines.

If you’re buying a home, note that there are a number of situations that could cause your closing date to be rescheduled because of a “reset” to the three day waiting period, including a loan product changes, 1/8% increase in APR, and/or there is an added pre-payment penalty.   Additionally, other lender actions may also require you to reschedule closing; such as a lender required repair with reinspection.

Many in the industry are also concerned about routine buyer and agent pre-settlement walkthroughs. Rather than prior to closing, they will have to be scheduled to allow for negotiation on potential issues without resetting the three day waiting period (and cross your fingers that nothing happens to the home the three days prior to closing).

However, CFPB Director Richard Cordray was quoted emphasizing “The timing of the closing date is not going to change based on the final walk-through…” in a National Association of Realtors® ( May 12th press release reporting on speakers at a regulatory issues forum.

The complexity and implications of the new regulations will undoubtedly cause some confusion in the first days of implementation. However, the new rules inadvertently address one of the weak links to the real estate transaction – communication. Many are beginning to recognize the necessity for everyone involved in the transaction to be proactive and communicate with each other to ensure compliance.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Due diligence when buying a home

Due Diligence
Trust and Verify

If you’re a home buyer who’s ready to jump into the housing market this spring, you’ve probably begun searching to see what’s on the market. You may have already met a real estate agent or two; and if you’ve haven’t yet talked with a mortgage lender for a prequalification, it’s probably high on your priority list. Exercise due diligence throughout the home buying process.

Before you know it, you’ve selected an agent, mortgage lender, and title attorney to assist you. Then you find yourself searching for homes. Guess what? You’re well into in the process of buying a home! But before you put the buying process on cruise control, how much trust should you put into the professionals helping you?

Exercise your due diligence when buying a home.

It’s not to say that real estate agents, loan officers, home inspectors, or anyone else assisting your home purchase are not qualified.  But then again, some professionals are better than others. Buying a home is probably one of the biggest purchases you’ll make during your life. The saying “trust but verify” should be your mantra throughout the home buying process to ensure you exercise due diligence.

Have you verified the credentials of those you’ve hired?

Believe it or not, there are some who are doing business without the authorization of the corresponding licensing agency. And yet, some reasons given for not having a license may sound innocuous, such as forgetting about a license renewal deadline; other reasons may not seem as innocent (for example, licensed professionals from neighboring jurisdictions, DC or VA, attempt to do business locally where they are not licensed).

Professional licensing is a regulatory safeguard that provides consumers a pool of professionals that meet or exceed a minimum professional competency. Agencies such as the Maryland Real Estate Commission; Maryland Home Improvement Commission; Maryland Commission of Real Estate Appraisers, Appraisal Management Companies, and Home Inspectors; Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation; and the Maryland Insurance Administration offers an internet portal to verify a licensee’s status, check for disciplinary actions, and also explains how to file a complaint.

Although the MLS strives for accuracy in home listings, there are inaccuracies. The MLS provides guidelines and standards for home listing data.  However, exactness and truthfulness can vary because data input is performed by many agents and/or their staff. a disclaimer used by our local MLS prompts you to verify MLS listing information,

“Information is believed to be accurate, but should not be relied upon without verification. Accuracy of square footage, lot size, schools and other information is not guaranteed…”

Verify the schools are accurate.

You can verify schools by checking with the local school board. Our local school board has an online tool to check schools assigned to any county address. The tool is located here: Montgomery County Public Schools “School Assignment Tool” (

Verify zoning, development and other information

You can verify zoning or development questions with your locality. Montgomery County allows you to check information online via Montgomery County Planning Department (

Verify permits.

Sure the deck is beautiful and the basement is fully finished.  But how do you know that they were built to meet county code?  Maybe the home seller went with the lowest priced contractor who cut corners and did not pull a permit. Or worse, the seller did it themself to save paying a licensed contractor. Make sure any improvements and recent repairs have had the proper permitting! The permitting process certifies that repairs/renovations comply with building and zoning codes. Permitting ensures that houses are safe, structurally sound, and meet health standards. Permits can be checked by contacting your locality.  Montgomery County allows you to check most building permits online via Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services ( “eServices” data search portal.

Most home buyers are familiar with basics of the home buying process. However, “trust and verify” can help identify and reduce hidden and obscure risks. Exercising your due diligence can make your home buying experience increasingly trouble free and more enjoyable.

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© Dan Krell

Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Preparations before you buy a home

House - Chevy Chase MDSo, you’ve been checking out homes online and have been bitten by the “bug.” You’ve patiently waited out the market and feel it’s time to jump in but not sure where to start. Whether you’re a seasoned or first time home buyer; don’t make the common mistake of overlooking the essential preliminary activities of the home buying process.

Experts agree that checking your credit report prior to starting the home buying process is essential. Your credit report is the basis for the credit score that is often used by mortgage lenders to decide if you qualify for a loan, and it may also be used as a means to decide your interest rate. If your credit report is inaccurate, it can cost you time and money.

Believe it or not, mistakes on credit reports are more common than you might think. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), you’re entitled to a free annual credit report, which can be obtained for free from the “official” credit report website ( The free report does not include a credit score, however, you can get it from the credit repositories for a fee; the CFPB cautions that the scores you receive may not be the same scores that lenders use for decisions on extending credit.

I often talk about doing due diligence, and many home buyers are attentive and thorough in negotiation, and home inspections; but many are not as careful when choosing their real estate agent and lender. Although buyers tend to work with the first or second agent they meet; there is a consensus that you should interview several real estate agents so as to know what to expect and to ensure you receive the service and attention you require. The same goes for any service provider you may use in the process, including the mortgage lender. And even though it has become more common for buyers to talk with several loan officers about mortgage programs and interest rates; however, it is recommended that you ask about lender fees as well.

Don’t be shy in choosing in choosing other service providers either – it’s going to be your home after all. Choosing a home inspector, pest inspector, and title company can take a little time, and it may seem easier to go with whomever your agent recommends; but sometimes price or proficiency is sacrificed for convenience. For example, a few moments of time to interview home inspectors can be the difference between having an adequate home inspection or a very thorough one.

Before you spend time visiting homes, it is highly recommended that you get qualified for a mortgage by a lender. An approval indicating that your income and asset documents and credit report were reviewed by the loan officer gives added credence to any purchase offer.

Don’t forget to make a housing budget. In addition to your mortgage payment, insurance, and property taxes, the budget should include utilities, maintenance and other expected expenses. The budget should also project increases in these payments as well. Rather than keeping to the maximum loan qualification, a realistic budget can reveal your comfort level on the price you’re willing to pay for a home.

Besides your real estate agent, more information about credit reports, mortgages and the home buying process is available from the CFPB ( and HUD ( With preparation, your home buying journey will be more enjoyable!

by Dan Krell ©
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of April 21, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Title insurance history, perspective, and necessity

HomesHome buyers would like to consider themselves as being financially savvy. Of course, I often hear the question about buying a home without title insurance, which usually arises from the advice they may receive from some questionable source debating the necessity of title insurance. However, the importance of title insurance is highlighted by recent ownership disputes that have occurred in the last five years due to foreclosures, improperly recorded deeds and mortgage modifications.

Historically, title insurance came about as a necessity. According to the American Land Title Association (, title insurance resulted from a landmark court case in Pennsylvania in 1868, which found that home seller was not be responsible for a erroneous title opinion. Subsequently, the first title insurance company was formed in 1876 in Philadelphia. The company promoted itself by claiming that they would insure “the purchasers of real estate and mortgages against losses from defective title, liens and encumbrances;” thus increasing the speed and accuracy of the property transfer process.

Prior to the availability of title insurance, title examinations were conducted similarly to how they are today with the purpose of ensuring title marketability (ensuring title is free of unpaid liens, mortgages, and other encumbrances). However, prior to the offering of title insurance, property owners were often held responsible for title blemishes. Of course, unresolved tile disputes were often settled in court.

Initially, title insurance was often a local process. However, the title insurance industry surged along with an expanded housing market after World War II ended. Additionally, the use of lender’s title insurance grew along with the secondary mortgage market; because as the number of nationwide mortgage holders increased, lenders found that title insurance was necessary to protect their interests.

Researching a property’s title relies on the “recordation system.” Although the recordation system has been in use in most of United States in some cases before the formation of the country, many countries use a land registration. Land registration systems used in some countries typically do not provide the same recourse as does the recordation system when disputes arise; where the registering government may resolve these disputes.

Title insurance is a result of our recordation system that continues to this day, where property ownership can usually be determined by conveyance. Although the recordation system relies on transfer instruments that indicate a grantor, grantee, and property description; the system is not perfect. Issues can arise from unrecorded deeds, as well as erroneously recorded documents; fraud may also occur by recording falsified transfer documents with a complicit or unsuspecting clerk.

There are two types of title insurance that are offered: lender’s and owner’s. A lender’s policy is usually required by a mortgage lender and is thought to protect the interests of the lender by validating the lender’s validity and enforceability of the mortgage. The lender’s policy is typically issued for the mortgage amount and coverage decreases as the principal is paid down.

An owner’s title insurance policy is understood to protect the owner’s interest in the property, however there may be limitations. You should consult with your title attorney about the policy coverage and limitations. Policy coverage varies– so check with your title agent for pricing and coverage levels.

A Consumer Guide to Title Insurance is available from the Maryland Insurance Administration, the local State agency that regulates title insurance producers (

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By Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.  Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

Consider rescheduling closing instead of a post-settlement occupancy

Home sellers and buyers look forward to closing day, when the deed to the home transfers; and in a perfect world, everyone moves on with their life. However, there are times when the seller asks to stay in the home after settlement. Ideally, a post-settlement occupancy can be avoided by adjusting the settlement date to accommodate the extra days needed to stay in the home. But alas, the world is not perfect and sometimes a post-settlement occupancy is quickly arranged. Whether you’re the home seller or the buyer, make certain you understand the post-settlement occupancy agreement: what you’re getting into, as well as your risk and liability.

Typically, when someone “rents” a home, a standard lease is used; but since the post-settlement duration is usually very short, the post-settlement occupancy agreement is mistakenly an afterthought to the home sales contract. Here in Maryland, there may be various forms that are specifically used in a particular region for this purpose; such as the one that is used here locally.  Just like the sales contract, the post-settlement occupancy agreement contains terms and conditions, including duration and fee collected.

Additionally, a deposit is collected in case there are damages to the home during the post-settlement occupancy. The buyer usually has a walkthrough prior to the settlement, as well as at the end of the post-settlement occupancy to ensure that there is no damage and the home is conveyed in the condition that is expected.

Unfortunately, the risk of loss and liability to the home during a post-settlement occupancy can be vague. Even if the post-settlement occupancy agreement specifies who is responsible for such loss, there may be additional considerations.

moving dayIt is usually expected that the seller repair any damage they caused during their post-settlement occupancy. But what about damage or loss caused by a fire or an extreme weather event (such as a tornado or a hurricane)?

Even if the post-settlement occupancy agreement is specific about risk of loss and liability, your insurance company might have a different view of risk of loss and liability in a post-settlement occupancy arrangement. Any insurance carried by the home seller may limit or exclude coverage from such damage/loss that occurs during the post-settlement occupancy. Furthermore, the buyer’s home owner’s policy may have exclusions and/or limitations for coverage if the home is vacant or occupied by anyone other than the policy holder. Consult with your insurance company.

Another consideration is that the buyer’s mortgage company may have restrictions about a post-settlement occupancy. The mortgage note may specify that the home be “owner occupied;” which means that the home is not to be rented. A post-settlement occupancy by the seller may infringe on the terms and conditions of the mortgage note. Consult with your mortgage company.

Even if your real estate agent is able to explain the post-settlement occupancy agreement to you, there are considerations other than what is written on the form – you should consult with your attorney before entering into such an agreement.

Due diligence is required before entering into a post-settlement occupancy agreement. Consult with your agent about rescheduling settlement, if possible. Additionally, consult your attorney, insurance agent, as well as your mortgage company to make certain you understand the terms and conditions of the agreement, as well as your liability and risk of loss.

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By Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.