Special Features

With new CFPB forms arriving soon, buyers/sellers need to remind brokers that shopping title services is their right

By Mark Samuelson

Garry Wolff and Nick Wolff of myTitleins.com help consumers shop and compare title companies when buying or selling a home
It's been 40 years since Congress passed RESPA, the act designed to protect consumers from being nickel-and-dimed in inflated service charges that result from too-cozy relationships between real estate brokers and title companies. A key protection of that act finally gets some teeth next year when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) requires new real estate loan closing disclosure forms that define and encourage consumers to shop for their title and closing services.

Title policies offer virtually the same protection no matter where you buy them, but overall title rates and closing fees can vary $300 to $1,000 on an average sale - $1,500 and more on a luxury home. Even before the new forms are required, buyers and sellers need to be on their toes, says consumer protection advocate Garry Wolff, whose web site myTitleIns.com lets shoppers compare fees offered by Colorado title companies; much as you can compare airfares and hotel rates.

"These disclosure forms are going to create a paradigm shift as consumers are informed of their right to shop their title and closing services," Wolff adds. Meanwhile, brokers are often totally unaware that referring business to one title agent, without allowing the seller or buyer to shop the market, is a violation of RESPA. Wolff's web site also surveys consumers who've recently been involved in a purchase/sale, asking whether they were given an opportunity by their broker to shop (you can take that survey at myTitleIns.com/survey).

Not getting that opportunity is costly for consumers, Wolff says. Coloradans spent $3.8 billion on title insurance over the last ten years - with perhaps as much as $50 million per year lost to excesses that should be pocketed by sellers and buyers, he adds.

A Maryland real estate group is facing an investigation on $1.3 million in alleged kickbacks from a title company. Meanwhile, Wolff says many brokers refer a particular title company without concern for the consumer's best interests. "Title companies, brokers and lenders should all be helping to educate consumers of their responsibility to compare their title and closing services," Wolff adds.

Soon, says Wolff, the new disclosures will create a more level playing field where rates will be more competitive because of consumer awareness. In the meantime, myTitleIns.com allows consumers to compare fees of a dozen or so companies, based on the specifics and value of their coming transaction. The site also provides a consumer protection rating - weighing whether title companies carry protections to guard the consumer's money and transaction. Wolff lobbies the state legislature, as well as the Division of Insurance and the Colorado Division of Real Estate, to clarify consumer rights and to require better protections by title companies (one prominent Colorado case of misuse of consumer funds by a title company is in the headlines now).

Unlike many expenses involved in marketing your home that end up mortgaged over the life of the loan, title fees cost hard money at closing. Whether you're selling, buying or refinancing, Wolff suggests you shop myTitleIns.com.

WHERE: myTitleIns.com, free one-stop solution for shopping title insurance and closing cost services in Colorado. Web site includes a title insurance & closing cost calculator comparing different companies; detailed quotes by individual providers, plus educational information about title, closing costs & consumer protections.

TAKE A SURVEY: What were you told about title insurance?: myTitleIns.com/survey

Mark Samuelson writes on real estate and business; you can email him at mark@samuelsonassoc.com.You can see all of Mark Samuelson's columns at DenverPost.com/RealEstate. Follow Mark Samuelson on Twitter: @marksamuelson

  • Down payment assistance is out there, but does it matter in Denver’s housing market?

    John Leyba, The Denver PostMolly DuBois at her home August 22, 2016. The story is about down payment assistance programs — CHFA, for one, offers 3 percent of the total sale price in the form of a grant to eligible homebuyers — and whether having that type of assistance even matters in a red-hot real estate market like Denver’s.
    Saving for a down payment can be a challenge, so challenging, in fact, that 25 percent of first-time buyers told the National Association of Realtors last year it was the most difficult part of the entire homebuying process.
    After all, as the standard wisdom goes, you’re supposed to put down 20 percent of your home’s purchase price. In a market such as Denver, where the median sale price in July was $354,000, that can easily exceed $60,000.
    “There are plenty of borrowers out there with good credit quality and the desire to be homeowners,” said Cris A. White, CEO of the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. “They generally have the cash flow, the ability to make monthly loan payments, but it’s the down payment portion that has been tougher.”
    But before you throw in the towel and resign yourself to renting forever, there is help out there — to the tune of 3 to 4 percent of the purchase price — and many people may be surprised to learn they qualify.
    Related ArticlesAugust 25, 2016

    Read more

  • Development opportunities emerge around Northglenn RTD rail station

    The acres of empty fields that now surround the construction of a commuter rail line station platform at East 112th Avenue in Northglenn may soon be full of housing and commercial development options.
    The Northglenn station is the penultimate stop on the Regional Transportation District’s currently funded section of the North Metro Rail line — the N line — from Denver’s  Union Station to Eastlake at East 124th Avenue — eventually ending at Colorado 7, depending on funds. The stop itself is just north of East 112th Avenue, off York Street.
    “The market is saying that there are more opportunities for housing there than for some of the other uses that we’ve looked at,” said Becky Smith, a city planner and project manager for Northglenn.  “So commercial areas have been identified, but they’re mostly optional and encouraged.”
    She said the city’s preliminary development guide so far foresees a mix of medium- and high-density residential closer to the station, transitioning to medium and lower single-family homes west of the site, toward existing residential.
    The vacant corner of York Street and East 112th Avenue could provide commercial opportunities, but that’s entirely up to three private landholders whom the city is continuing to meet with to discuss development options.
    Thornton city planners are working with Northglenn on the development guide, because two of those landowners control property in Thornton, directly east of the station across York Street.
    “The landowners are definitely excited,” said Karen Widomski, senior planner in Thornton. “We’re hoping that it will be more of a unique residential type that we haven’t seen in other parts of the city.”
    At the Northglenn stop, there are more than 100 acres of open land that could be transformed into new neighborhoods. Today, the station platform is surrounded by hundreds of homes to the west and southeast, mostly vacant fields directly north and east and a small industrial business park to the southwest.
    Anya Semenoff, The Denver Post)Construction continues at the North Metro Rail line station at 112th Avenue and York Street in Northglenn, Colorado.
    “Our working vision is to create a station that serves the surrounding neighborhoods as a vital and vibrant community hub, that provides enhanced connectivity to the station and surrounding neighborhoods and that strengthens and sustains the diverse industrial uses to the south,” Smith said.
    Among the city’s plans for the arrival of the commuter line in 2018 are new pedestrian connections such as bike lanes and crosswalks around the neighborhoods and into the adjacent industrial business park.
    Vance Sabbe, co-owner of Northglenn’s only craft brewery, Beer By Design at 2100 E. 112th Ave., said that access from the station, across 112th Avenue would be ideal.
    “It would be great if they could help people get to us since we’re still a couple blocks away from the stop,” Sabbe said. “I’ve thought about maybe doing advertising in the car itself to make sure people know we’re at the stop, and we’ve talked about starting a shuttle service to maybe attract more customers over.”
    This first phase of the planned 18.5-mile electric commuter rail line is supposed to be finished and through with testing  at the end of 2017, opening early 2018. The Northglenn station includes an open parking lot with 316 spaces.
    “What’s good about this station is the walkability that people are going to have from the neighborhoods and the commercial district nearby,” said Hadley Trent, spokeswoman for Regional Rail Partners, the company building out the line. “During peak travel times (from 6-9 a.m. and about 4-6 p.m.) the trains will be at this station approximately every 20 minutes.”
    Construction on the Northglenn station is moving quickly. Workers will create a raised platform that commuters can access with walk-up ramps and stairs from the parking lot and install the canopies over the platform in the coming months, just before the track is installed.
    The total cost of the project, from Denver Union Station to 124th Avenue, is $764 million. That includes design and construction, purchase of all necessary properties and purchase of the commuter rail vehicles.
    “We’re really excited about that station coming in,” Smith said. “We see it as a great opportunity for the city and that area. Most of the new development opportunity is on the Thornton side, but we do believe there are great opportunities to create vibrancy in that area.”

    Read more

  • Inventory shortage drives U.S. home sales down

    WASHINGTON — US homebuyers pulled back in July, as sales declined amid a shortage of available properties and steadily rising prices.
    Sales of existing homes fell 3.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. The decline marks a reversal from rising demand that pushed sales in June to their highest level since February 2007.
    Fewer homes are coming onto the market, putting a cap on the sales growth enjoyed earlier this year thanks in part to a low mortgage rate and brightening job market. Rising demand for homes is a positive. But the dwindling supply of listings has pushed up prices, which suggests a market not yet at full health.
    This mismatch between supply and demand creates an environment of limited sales growth and escalating home values.
    Related ArticlesAugust 24, 2016

    Read more

  • Inventory shortage drives U.S. home sales down — except in the West

    WASHINGTON — US homebuyers pulled back in July, as sales declined amid a shortage of available properties and steadily rising prices.
    Sales of existing homes fell 3.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. The decline marks a reversal from rising demand that pushed sales in June to their highest level since February 2007.
    Fewer homes are coming onto the market, putting a cap on the sales growth enjoyed earlier this year thanks in part to a low mortgage rate and brightening job market. Rising demand for homes is a positive. But the dwindling supply of listings has pushed up prices, which suggests a market not yet at full health.
    This mismatch between supply and demand creates an environment of limited sales growth and escalating home values.
    Related ArticlesAugust 21, 2016

    Read more