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Home Closing Process: An Interview with Jackie Fitzgerald-Boyd, Attorney of Maplewood Title Company

By Jackie Fitzgerald-Boyd

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Maplewood Title Company, Inc opened in November 2003. I was finishing up law school in Andover, Massachusetts. I had been a Real Estate Broker for many years so naturally it seemed to make sense that I would concentrate much of my law practice in Real Estate given my years of experience and contacts with fellow real estate agents and mortgage brokers and officers. I had planned on opening a Title Company for a while and the timing was good for me to begin just prior to finishing up my last semester so that I would be set to get really going in January 2004. I took the Massachusetts Bar Exam in February 2004 and followed up with the July 2004 Bar Exam in New Hampshire. I am also a current member of the NH Title Standard Committee.

What is a closing?

A closing is the legal transfer on a sale of a home from one owner to another. A legal transfer is made by a deed and recorded at the Registry of Deeds in the county of where the home is located.

Please explain what is needed for the home closing process:

The closing process begins with the signed purchase and sales agreement. A closing attorney or title company contacts the buyer and seller and real estate agents, if any. We would request information in order to obtain any mortgage or liens to be paid as part of the closing as well as other information for the preparation of any documents necessary for closing.

If a lender is involved, we are usually contacted by the lender with a title order to begin a title abstract (aka: chain of title or title examination). The abstract searches the title (deeds, mortgages, liens etc) that are part of the record at the appropriate registry of deeds that affect the subject property. A title abstract generally goes back 35 to 50 years (sometimes longer), it depends on the each title and what you find.

Upon completion of the title abstract, a review is done of the items find to determine if the title is marketable, that being that there are no prior problems (aka: defects) that could cause a future claim to the property or issues that need to be cleared prior to a closing such as a mortgage to be paid off.

After the review the closing company would issue to the lender a "title commitment" which notifies the lender of the legal description, mortgages or liens that need to be paid upon the closing or other items of interest that the lender would need to know such as an easement that may run across the land. An easement is not a problem, per se, but it is necessary for the lender and the buyer to know that someone else may have a right to cross or use the subject property after closing.

Once the lender has completed the application process and approved the buyer for financing and has reviewed the title documents, they would approve the loan as "clear to close" and ask us to schedule the closing. The lender would provide a closing package that contains a mortgage, note and other documentation they require for the financing, we schedule a day, time and place for the closing where the parties meet to execute all the documents to transfer the property from the seller to the buyer.

If there is no lender involved the process is similar except there is generally less paperwork.

The Closing company is responsible for disbursing the funds, recording the deed, mortgage and any other paperwork that needs to be recorded, issuing title insurance as well as responsible for following up to ensure that any discharges of the mortgages that they paid are actually recorded.

What is title insurance?

There are two types of title insurance. A lender's policy and an owner's policy. If you have a lender for the transaction then your lender will require that you purchase a policy that covers and protects them. It does not protect you.

An owner's policy protects your claim to the property due to mistakes and irregularities that may have happened back in the chain of title such as an un-discharged mortgage or missing documentation or in an extreme case where title is beyond a simple repair, a quiet title action. (Legal proceeding necessary to clear the title problem.) The fact is that title examinations are done by humans and mistakes happen.

Title insurance is based on the amount of the purchase price and loan amounts and is relatively low. It is a one-time cost that provides coverage so long as you or your heirs own the property. This premium covers you against legal problems in your title that without this protection could otherwise cost you thousands of dollars or even the lost of your home.

How does your company help this process along ?

We help this along by completing the above items and being in contact with the parties.

How long can this process take?

With a lender involved it takes approximately 60 days from the signing of the purchase and sales by all parties to closing. However, depending on the type of closing (Cash, Foreclosure sale, short sale, Estate sale etc) it can take as little as a week to several months.

What are some issues that can arise during this process and how can they be resolved?

There are many issues that can arise during the process. Some are items being found back in the chain of title such as an un-discharged mortgage from a prior owner, an error in a legal description or a missing document necessary to establish ownership.

These can be resolved by working with the current owners and doing more research to find where an error started and to see if it can be easily fixed by an affidavit or other means. Not all issues are earth shattering, NH (as well as many other states) have laws and Title Standards that assist an attorney in recognizing where an issue exist and how to get the title resolved so the closing, if possible, may go forward. The New Hampshire Bar Association Title Examination Standards are based on attorney practice, case and statutory law and are reviewed regularly by the the Title Standard committee (which is authorized by the Real Property Law Section of the New Hampshire Bar Association).

Most issues can be resolved but there are times where the only solution is bringing and action to clear the issue in a legal suit for a Quiet Title. Thankfully, this is not a usual occurrence and most closings are standard and smooth.

If a seller has an owner's title insurance policy, then the issue may be covered saving the owner time and money!

What is the best way for people to reach you and or your company?

Our website is www.maplewoodtitle.net which has some information but it is always best to reach us is by phone or email if you have a specific question or would like to have us closing your next real estate transaction.

We are happy to work with real estate agents, lenders or with buyers and sellers directly!

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