So, you’ve been selling San Francisco real estate for almost 29 years. You’ve embraced the changes: Learning to gather signatures electronically rather than in person. Trading the 5-pound Multiple Listing book inked on newsprint for an online search site. Wielding an electronic lockbox key rather than twisting the dial of a combination lock.
You’ve learned how to avoid trouble for your clients. Unlike a lot of newbies, you understand what the Liquidated Damages clause in the SFAR contract means. Just as you know the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure loophole hasn’t been cinched until your Agent’s Visual Inspection Disclosure is signed.
You know to warn all your clients that something surprising almost always goes wrong with an escrow. “It’s not a matter of if,” you say, sagely, “It’s a matter of when and what.”
And then the federal government passes new legislation about lending disclosures. This new law is designed to protect consumers. (As if improved Truth In Lending documentation—rather than sweeping reform of the banking and credit system—will prevent another economic meltdown.)
For months before its October 2015 debut, the San Francisco Association of Realtors warns of the impending arrival of the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) Rule. Seminars are held. Bulletins are posted. One title company gives everyone a plastic Frisbee-sized wheel for determining “Consummation Dates.”
But this is all meaningless until you actually see a transaction through:
You make your closing a week longer than normal, to allow for TRID’s 3-day waiting period and Murphy’s Law. You explain to your Buyer that he will be among the first TRID guinea pigs.
You powwow in advance with Seller’s Agent, just to be sure she will explain to Seller that things could get weird. Seller’s Agent says it’s all cool. She and Seller will hang loose, even though Seller has another closing that hinges on this one. There’s enough spaciousness for a small delay, she says.
The loan is approved.
Title gathers all the info needed to close both sides of the deal. This includes property taxes, homeowners dues, move-in fees, move-out fees, HO-6 insurance, prepaid interest, loan fees, credits, commissions, city fees, transfer taxes, home warranty plans and so forth.
Lender takes all the detail supplied by Title and translates it into a federally-mandated format which Buyer must review and approve before the 3-day waiting period begins. Easy, right?
When doing their transcription, Lender mistakenly gives Buyer an $18,000 credit from Seller. Lender also omits Title Insurance Premium and forgets to fill in Prepaid Property Taxes. Altogether, this creates a $25,000 shortfall on Cash Due at Closing.
Buyer receives the form and calls you. He is delighted that he doesn’t have to come up with as much money as he’d anticipated. The amount is $25,000 less than he’d estimated. He’s going to call Schwab and reduce the amount of his wire. How fantastic is that?!?
Wait a minute, you say. You say this because your spidey sense tells you something ain’t right. Plus you’re keenly aware that, under the new regulations, any material change to the TRID disclosure kicks off another 3-day waiting period. Which delays loan documents. Which delays closing. Which damages Seller. Which costs Buyer. Which is your fiduciary obligation to prevent.
So you start investigating. And—after a day of confusing back and forth with Lender and Title and Seller’s Agent—you find the errors and get them corrected. The transaction closes on time. Everyone is happy.
You add this experience to your Iceberg. As in:
A lot of people think what we Realtors do is easy. They think we drive around in nice cars and look at pretty houses and get our clients to sign some papers and—voila—we’re paid a gazillion dollars.
A real estate agent is like an iceberg (as SF real-estate-guru Ray Brown famously said). Folks can only see a tiny portion of what he or she does and knows. The true mass of the Iceberg is invisible. And GINORMOUS. And it’s made up of tons of ice crystals, each one consisting of a tale akin to the TRID saga (which I’ve boiled down to a succinct outline).
It’s impossible for agents to fully convey to potential clients their value and depth. To do so would be as time-consuming, boring and futile as rowing a dinghy down to Antarctica and saying, “Here. Check out this iceberg. You can only see 5% of it but, trust me, what’s out of sight is quite impressive!
Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For information on San Francisco real estate visit CynthiaCummins.com. For more refreshing and humorous perspectives on residential real estate visit RealEstateTherapy.org.