Buyers' Frequently Asked Questions
How far in advance should I contact Peak Settlements to handle my settlement?You should contact us as soon as you have a signed contract. By contacting us as early as possible, you allow us adequate time to obtain a title abstract on the property being purchased and clear any outstanding "clouds" on title prior to your contracted settlement date. In addition, we can better coordinate the settlement with all involved parties, including the sellers, purchasers, real estate professionals and lenders.
If refinancing, you should contact us after you submit your loan application. Do not wait for final loan approval, as the time between your loan approval and settlement is often only a few days. By scheduling with us early, you allow us time to obtain the title abstract and clear any issues with your title, obtain payoffs from your current lender, and coordinate closing with your new lender.
Who does Peak Settlements represent at settlement?In a purchase transaction, the title company "represents" the contract. The title company does not negotiate the terms of the transaction; rather we facilitate the execution of the terms of the transaction. We do not act for, advise, or "represent" any one party.
Who attends settlement?At a purchase settlement, typically the sellers, purchasers, and their real estate professionals will attend the settlement, which will be conducted by one of our competent and experienced attorneys or settlement officers.
What if I cannot attend settlement?In certain circumstances, a "power-of-attorney" can be prepared for you. A "power-of-attorney" is a legal instrument which allows another to sign legal documents on your behalf. Please give one of our attorneys or settlement officers a call to see if this is an option that would work for you.
How long will the settlement take?While the time of a settlement can vary greatly, typically a purchase settlement will take between 45 minutes and 1 hour and 15 minutes.
What do I need to bring to settlement?You will need to bring a valid government issued picture ID, such as a driver's license, passport, or military ID. In addition, if you are bringing money to the settlement, it will need to be in the form of certified funds, such as a cashier's check, money order, or certified personal check. Please call our office in advance if you intend to bring cash to settlement. You may also be required to bring additional documents, which our office will inform you of in advance.
When can I find out how much money I need to bring to settlement?Because we rely on third parties such as lenders to provide us with instructions, information, and figures for your settlement, we often can not furnish to you the exact amount you need to bring to closing until the day before, or, sometimes, even the day of settlement. However, you should be able to rely on your lender's or your realtor's good faith estimate for the approximate amount of money you need to bring with you. If you happen to bring too much money to settlement, we refund back to you any excess amount upon completion of the closing.
How should I hold title to my new property?There are several ways that property can be owned:
- Sole owner: As it sounds, you own the property in your own name.
- Tenants in common:Two or more people own property together. Under a tenant in common arrangement, each owner has a divisible interest in the property. Although most tenant in common ownerships are split equally (i.e., 50-50 ownership), there is no legal requirement that it has to be this way. Often, there are financial or other considerations that dictate a different ownership split -- for example, 90-10 or 75-25. In a tenant in common ownership, on the death of one owner, the deceased person's percentage ownership is part of his or her estate. The property interest does not transfer to the surviving owner. If there is a will, that portion of the property is distributed in accordance with the instructions in the will. If the person dies without a will, called intestacy, the laws of the jurisdiction where the person lived controls the distribution.
- Joint tenants: The parties jointly own the property. Although some states require language to the effect that the property is held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, the majority of the states consider the property as being jointly held even if this magic language is not included in the deed. Under a joint tenancy arrangement, on the death of one owner, the property automatically transfers to the surviving joint tenant. This is called a transfer by operation of law. Let's look at this example: A and B own property as joint tenants with right of survivorship. A dies with a will that specifically gives A's share of the property to C, his child. However, since the property is jointly held, B will end up with full ownership. C has no claim to the property. Joint tenancy ownership can be unilaterally changed by one of the joint tenants. Let's go back to our example. While A is alive, he decides to give his share of the property to C. He prepares a will to this effect. But he also asks his attorney to prepare a deed, changing title to reflect that A and B hold title as tenants in common. Although B should be informed of this transaction as a matter of courtesy, B has no control over what A does with his share of the property. Now, when A dies, his interest will be distributed to his child C, in accordance with the terms of the will.
- Tenants by the entireties: This is title reserved for husbands and wives. Although some married couples will hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship, the more common arrangement is to take title as tenants by the entireties. This means that on the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse automatically (by operation of law) becomes the owner of the entire property.
What is title insurance?Title insurance provides coverage for certain losses due to defects in the title that occurred prior to your ownership. The seller can give you only those rights that have been previously received by him/her with good title. Title insurance protects against such prior fraud or forgery that might go undetected until after closing and possibly jeopardize your ownership and investment. Some of the most common problems covered by title insurance are:
- Erroneous interpretations of wills
- False representation by sellers
- Fraudulent or misrepresented deeds, releases, etc.
- Incompetency of previous sellers
- Recording mistakes
- Undisclosed or missing heirs
- Unfiled liens