In real estate transactions where a broker is involved, buyers will frequently rely on the broker as a prime source of settlement information. This occurs even though the broker, in almost all cases, is an agent of the seller and thus the interests of buyers and brokers are opposed.
When no brokers is involved in the sale, sellers must be able to help the buyer toward settlement. Again, there is an adversary relationship in which the buyer is at a disadvantage.
While it would be best for all parties if buyers were independently educated about settlement, most are not. As a practical matter it means that sellers must be able to furnish closing information. A few suggestions for self-sellers would include:
Do not require the use of a particular title insurance company. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), you may be liable for up to three times the cost of title insurance in such a situation.
Suggest to your buyers that they inquire about the possibility of having title insurance re-issued. If your home was purchased during the past 10 years, many title insurors will re-issue a policy at a savings of 10 to 25 percent. Few settlement providers will mention policy re-issues since this would reduce their commission on the sale of such insurance.
If the buyer is paying for settlement services, do not require the use of a given settlement provider, such as an individual attorney or specific title company, if you are to receive some form of referral benefit. As an example, an attorney may suggest "free" legal services for the seller providing the lawyer handles settlement. This arrangement can obviously lead to conflicts.
Give your buyer the number of the local bar referral service as a source for an attorney if the buyer does not have one. Also, suggest that the buyer check the Yellow Pages for title companies and others who offer settlement services.
If you have been maintaining a list of mortgage loan officers give a copy to your buyer and emphasize that other financing sources should be checked.
Information about settlement is available from many providers. It ranges from extremely useful to self-serving. If you have acquired a collection of these materials share them with your buyer.
There should be two understandings between sellers and buyers during any pre-settlement dialogues. First, sellers will provide names and suggestions only as a matter of information. Second, buyers should feel absolutely free to make those choices which best meet their needs. Within the bounds of these understandings, both parties can openly exchange ideas while still pursuing their separate best interests.
Peter G. Miller teaches the course, "How to Sell Your House - With or Without a Broker" through the Consumer Information Institute in Washington.