Startups – a Threat to Title Insurance or a Solution Looking for a Problem?

Title insurance agents might have a new competitor entering the title and escrow arena.

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Title insurance agents might have a new competitor entering the title and escrow arena. A startup company from Seattle named Modus opened early this July. Modus allows real estate agents to use its resources as a title and escrow workshop, bypassing a traditional title firm altogether. Both agents and clients can log onto the company’s platform to track every step of the closing process. By using a shared platform, the service reduces the potential for fraud and speeds up closing by eliminating the back-and-forth of personal and financial information via email. Agents also will have the ability to outsource manual data entry, cutting down on time for closings once more.

Modus is not the only start-up offering such services. The fledgling company is joining names such as Spruce and JetClosing, startups which offer similar services for the sake of simplifying the title and escrow process. The increasing popularity of such companies raises concerns among title companies- will existing firms have to provide more to compete with these young startups?

startups2     Or does this sound like these companies are trying to offer a solution that is looking for a problem?  If someone had a problem at a closing it could have either been a bad real estate agent or an escrow agent.  Typically it is the buyers that pick the escrow, but in today’s market it seems to be this responsibility has fallen on the listing agent, whose primary job is first and foremost a marketing one.  The listing agent does not directly sell your house, but they should be the reason your house sells.  Thus being knowledgeable in escrow is not a primary responsibility for them.

Then there could also be issues with banks accepting electronic signatures when it startups3comes to payoffs on the seller’s mortgage and getting new loan documents on the buyer’s loan.  When it comes to real estate transactions, electronic signatures are enforceable, however certain documents (e.g. mortgages and deeds) will require original signatures for recordation.  Borrowers and lenders continue to require originally executed notes to maximize their comfort level that there is only one negotiable instrument.

FAQs

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What is Title?

Title is the legal ownership to a piece of property. Title is also considered evidence of possession of a property.

What is escrow?

Simply put, escrow is a deposit of funds in an account held by a third-party to a transaction. Title companies or attorney offices are the major escrow account third-parties used in real estate transactions. All funds are deposited in escrow at a title company and then dispersed according to the escrow instructions. In a real estate sale, the escrow instructions are the HUD Settlement Statement or the Closing Disclosure Statement.

What are Recording Fees?

Recording Fees are county fees and taxes that are required on every sale. When a real estate property is sold, a Deed needs to be recorded. When a buyer purchases a property using a mortgage, then recording fees and taxes are also due to the county. Both the recording fees and taxes must be collected by Sapphire Title Company and then paid directly to the county.

What are E-Recording Fees?

E-Recording is shorthand for Electronic Recording. About 20 years ago, every title company needed to mail in the original deed to the county where the property lies for recording. The county would then mail it back to the title company, who would then forward the original “stamped” recorded deed to the owner. Since the technology boom, counties have become more tech-savvy and have allowed for e-recording. E-recording typically costs $5 per document to be recorded. The $5 fee is convenient to both sellers and buyers in the real estate sale because it cuts down the costs and time to mail the documents back and forth from the county.  A typical turn-around time for a “manual” or “mailed” recording ranges from 7 to 14 days. E-recording typically allows for the county to record within 24-72 hours.

Example Breakdown of Fees:

Recording fees are based off the number of pages in the recordable document. A special warranty deed is typically 2 or 3 pages and generally costs about $27.00 to record. The taxes (known as documentary state taxes) on the Deed are based off the amount the property was sold for. So, if the property was sold for $100,000.00, the taxes would be $700.00.  Taxes are determined by rounding up the sales price to the nearest hundred and multiplying that amount by $0.007 (or $7 for every $100). The same formula is used for mortgages. Typically mortgages range from 18-26 pages or about $150.00 to $225.00 to record. If the mortgage is for $100,000, the documentary stamp taxes would also be $700.00. One difference between mortgage and deed recordings is an additional tax known as intangible taxes. Intangible taxes are collected on every mortgage recording except credit union lender mortgagees or other exempt lender banks. Intangible taxes are determined by rounding up the loan dollar amount to the nearest hundred and multiplying that amount by $0.002 (or $2 for every $100).

The combination of the deed recording fees, the deed’s taxes, the mortgage’s recording fees, the mortgage’s documentary taxes, the mortgage’s intangible taxes (if not exempt), and the e-recording fees total the recording fees.

What are Intangible Taxes? What are Transfer Taxes?

Intangible taxes are imposed by the State of Florida on obligations for payment of money which are secured by mortgages or other liens, as defined by §199.133 Fla. Stat. It is a nonrecurring tax on the note or debt instrument.

Transfer taxes are commonly referred to as documentary stamp taxes in Florida. These are imposed by states, counties, and cities on the title of real property from one person to another within that jurisdiction. Transfer taxes are often confusing to first time homebuyers because they are a combination of a few taxes.

Why do I need a Survey?

Surveys are always suggested and are used to determine if there are any encroachments on the property you own or wish to purchase. A survey details the structures (otherwise known as the improvements) and the boundaries of the property. Generally, on real estate sales involving a lender, the lender will require the Alta Form 9 insurance endorsement. If the lender requires the title company to issue this endorsement, then a survey will be required. Note, however, in most cases, a survey is good for 7-10 years and can be recertified and is often a much less expensive option than ordering a new survey, which can add between $300 and $500 to your closing costs.