How Do You Like Your Eggs?

Last week I went to the Coffee Shoppe for breakfast. I hadn’t been there in years and had to wait in line. While I was waiting I read a book and I was OK with waiting (My breakfast was worth the wait, by the way). I then began to imagine what would have happened if several more customers had shown up at the same time. Our society is accustomed to being servednow. We don’t wait well. What if I had walked in and said in a loud, demanding voice, “I want my eggs sunny side up, and I want them now?” Would I have liked the service received?

That’s what this article is about. The real estate industry has tacitly agreed that everything must be done now. However nothing with real estate as its subject should be done the way we expect our eggs.

A successful real estate closing is one of the most difficult chores in real estate, partially because of a belief sometimes found in the industry. That belief is the idea that the world owes some people whatever they are clever enough to take. Wall Street financialization caused pain for all parts of the world that were rich enough to lose money. Our industry signaled to those who dealt only in money that even though they had no product or service, they were entitled to our greatest rewards. Unimaginable sums of money were made without providing value for anyone. These people created an artificial product for the sole reason that it would create money for themselves. If those are the business models we reward most, why wouldn’t some people we deal with daily not share that belief? Unfortunately, the people with that attitude do not wear team uniforms.

The ways to take advantage of someone in real estate are limited only by imagination and greed. All of us who care about real estate are responsible for watching out for the biggest asset most people ever own. However, the person at the center of a real estate transaction is the closing agent.

Consider the following examples of places where a routine residential real estate transaction can be distorted:

The survey: It gets delivered late, so nobody looks at it. The house has trouble with access. Probably it can be straightened out, but not without time and money.

The deed: A mistake with the chain of title. Someone will have a nightmare, even if the mistake can be corrected.

The money at the closing table: A check or wire is counterfeit, or is misdelivered, or misdeposited, and serious losses result (often those can’t be corrected without a winner and a loser).

An inspection or appraisal: Either document is wrong or came in so late that it didn’t get reviewed properly, and someone got defrauded because there just wasn’t enough time to look at it carefully.

Clearly, these are just a few of the most obvious ways to go wrong, but the common theme is the time allocated somewhere in the process to achieve the critical steps necessary to avoid disaster.

Old South Land Title has closed plenty of transactions in Okaloosa County over the last 28 years. We know most residential closings are done in the last 3 days of every month. That means that anyone trying to commit fraud knows what we know about timing. If the parties insist you schedule a closing during the last days of a month and insist on a quick turn-around of their money and documents, their hope may be the closing agent will have less time to confirm that the checks delivered are actually funded properly and are good checks. They may hope that the closing agent forgets to check identities of parties at closings, to review surveys, and in general, has less time to confirm all of the countless details involved in a closing.

Respect the fact that if your closing agent gets hoodwinked at closing, everyone will be hurt. In Dade County, for instance, homeowners have gone on vacation and come back to find that in their absence someone presented a closing agent with false identity papers and pocketed large sums of stolen money. Without fail these people convince others that they have reason to be in a hurry and everyone should jump through hoops to serve them quickly. I’ve said here before that almost never would just the closing agent be accused of fraud or willful negligence without the brokers, finance agents, and others being included. No one wants that. You’ll never see all of what goes on behind the door of a great closing agent. However you can bet, especially during the last days of every month, that they did not go home early.

Be wary of closing agents willing to give you instant service. If this person is a real professional, she knows what she (sometimes he) is doing and what is takes to get the closing accomplished properly. Remember the cook at breakfasted? He who demands instant service does not care what he eats. Whenever possible, schedule your closing during the first three weeks of the month. Remember that the results of your real estate closing last a very long time, and sometimes there’s reason to slow down. Most importantly, speak kindly to a great closing agent. They do care a great deal about you and your clients.