Once a real estate sales contract is signed, the closing process begins. Since the seller typically pays for title insurance, his or her sales agent will get the ball rolling by placing an order with a title company.
While most people are familiar with the work of real estate agents and lenders, when it comes to title work, they often have a number of questions.
“Until we meet at the closing table, most of our work is done behind the scenes,” Jamie Sulcer of Chicago Title Insurance who was recently honored by the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS® (GNIAR) as this year’s Affiliate of the Year, said, “Title insurance is a very important part of the closing process. We physically go to the courthouse to review property records as well as those of the buyers and sellers. Then we put all of the information into an easy-to-read title commitment. In the meantime, we are communicating with everyone – sellers, buyers, realtors, loan officers, loan processors and loan closers – to ensure a smooth closing.”
Along with performing the actual closing, the title company processes all the paperwork. In order to assemble the complete file, they must order the mortgage payoff(s), check to make sure taxes are paid, prepare any necessary corrective documents, contact the homeowner association if applicable, order a survey, order a municipal lien search, prepare all of the closing documents (closing statement, warranty deed, affidavits, etc.) and obtain loan documents from the lender.
“A lot of buyers have the attitude that title fees are junk fees, very unnecessary,” Sulcer said. “In reality, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. So many things can go wrong, and I’ve seen it cost people their home when things are not done properly. It’s very necessary.”
Essentially, title insurance protects the buyer (and lender) from the past. It insures them for any future claims against any title defects that may already exist against the property like lost heirs, unsatisfied mortgages, unpaid taxes, liens or judgments, forgeries or boundary disputes.
Sulcer, who made the transition from a Realtor/broker to the title/escrow side of the business, got started as a closer and is now a Business Development Specialist for Chicago Title in Porter and LaPorte counties.
“My husband is a musician so he works nights, which is also when real estate sales people are often busy,” the mother of an almost six-year old and step-mother of two teenagers said. “I wanted more of a set schedule during the day to give us that peace of mind knowing everybody’s taken care of around the clock.”
While she saw title work as a natural fit coming off the real estate side of things, Sulcer discovered there’s a whole lot more to it than she ever could have imagined.
“As a Realtor, I just showed up at closing and everything was always taken care of, so I honestly never gave it a second thought,” she explained. “But, there are a lot of steps that need to be taken when conducting a title search. It’s like putting a large puzzle together in the dark sometimes. I’m always learning something new, and there’s a whole lot more that goes into clearing titles theses days. You have to address everything that’s attached to a person and their assets because it includes the home.”
While she’s no longer a regular at the closing table, Sulcer continues to work hand-in-hand with the closers at Chicago Title.
“I couldn’t do my job without them,” she said. “They’re the best in the business if you ask me. It takes a great deal of patience and a special love for what we do to deal with all those numbers and piles of paperwork.”
An active member of GNIAR, the LaPorte County Association of REALTORS® (LPCAR), Duneland and Valparaiso Chambers of Commerce and the Valparaiso Parks Foundation, Sulcer is also a Board member of the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana and Board member/chair of Housing Opportunities.
“Being involved is beneficial to the community where I live and work as well as my business,” she said. “As homeowners and workers, we’re all part of a bigger community. I think it’s important to be involved and give back whenever possible. One of things I really enjoy is teaching new real estate agents about title work and the things we can assist them with. I also hold classes for first-time home buyers so we can go over all the documents from a typical closing file in detail. It’s really helpful for them to be able to ask any questions at that time, instead of when they are staring at dozens of documents that require their signature.”
From verifying that the person attempting to sell a property actually has the right to sell it to serving as an impartial third party when it comes to preparing all the necessary documents to officially close the sale of a property, real estate title companies help make the home buying process as simple as possible. While the overall purpose of closing is to transfer title from seller to buyer, there are many different moving parts along the way, and title companies help streamline the process.