Title Now Podcast

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Meet Attorneys' Closing Services!

Tune in to learn how Attorneys’ Closing Services has helped real estate attorneys like you and your team confidently handle residential and commercial real estate closings from the initial draft to the final closing package.

Length: 29:55
Published: 05/01/2023

Listen In: Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts


Cut staff time – and come to the table fully prepared – by letting ACS draft and assemble everything you need. Tune in to learn how Attorneys’ Closing Services has helped real estate attorneys like you and your team confidently handle residential and commercial real estate closings from the initial draft to the final closing package. Melissa’s guest will be Ron Conte of Attorneys' Closing Services. 

Melissa Jay Murphy  00:09
Hello and welcome to the second installment of a special series of Title Now PopUp webinars. I'm Melissa Murphy with The Fund. I have the pleasure of hosting these from time to time as we come up with topics that we want to address. And today's a perfect example. We're getting more and more inquiries from Fund Members for assistance with what we refer to as back office support. Now, back office support can mean a lot of things from placing the title order to preparing documents to preparing the closing disclosure and making sure that it balances with a lender to preparing the final title policies. So we thought it was a good time to focus on this to explore options that Fund Members have to go out there and get help where they need it most and when they need it. So today is the second episode of a three part series to respond to these questions. And I've invited folks from three different companies that provide this type of support, to give you, our listener, a chance to hear about these options and give some thought to whether this would work for you. Remember that we push the audio out to our podcast, which is also called Title Now. And this gives you a chance to listen to the content again, and more easily share it with colleagues and others. So sign up for the podcast if you haven't already done that. Super easy to do that. It's free. You can get it through whatever source you have for your podcasts. So do that. It's a great way to get this information. Now all of the vendors that I am talking with will be at Assembly this year. So, you can listen to what they have to say today, and then you will have a chance to interact with them face to face at Assembly. Just another reason to sign up for Assembly in person this year. One more housekeeping thing before we get started. If you have a question that you want to ask of our guests today, put it in the chat. Michael Rothman, our Senior Manager of Legal Education, he's here in the background, and he will be monitoring the chat and toward the end of the session, I'll ask him whether there have been any questions posted. We will try to answer your questions and if we run out of time and can't get to all of them, I promise, we'll get you an answer directly. So today, my guest is Ron Conte from Attorney's Closing Services, and Ron's here to talk about the services that ACS provides. So welcome, Ron, thanks for being here.
Ron Conte  03:20
Thank you.
Melissa Jay Murphy  03:21
So, tell us about ACS a little bit about its history what its mission statement is.
Ron Conte  03:30
Well, thank you very much, Melissa for inviting me to be a part of this webinar. I'm thrilled to be here and happy to have the opportunity to talk about ACS, which started operating about eight and a half years ago actually and our mission quite simply is to provide high quality back office support, to use the term that you use, to clients, primarily real estate attorneys throughout the state of Florida. We take great pride in providing the highest quality service that we possibly can that's available to our clients in order to assist them with the processing of their real estate transactions, be they residential or commercial transaction.
Melissa Jay Murphy  04:40
Do you feel like the service that you offer is something that a member might only need part of the time during, let's say the year, part of the time during the year? So do you have Fund Members that come to you for off and on during the year?
Ron Conte  05:02
Absolutely. We have clients, Fund Members who are clients, who use us consistently as their sole source of back office support. And then we have others who will use us from time to time as their need arises. And that may be the the title agent who perhaps might have their own paralegal but the paralegal may be unavailable for a particular length of time, or their paralegal may be overworked temporarily and they need some help. They have overflow work that is sent to us. So we have clients who use us consistently and exclusively over the course of a year for instance, and then those who will use us intermittently, depending upon their need over the course of that same period of time.
Melissa Jay Murphy  06:12
Well, that makes sense to me. I mean, paralegals are allowed to take vacations from time to time. And we know someone could have a medical situation where they need to be out of the office for an extended period of time. And while we don't want our paralegals to be overworked, if the reason they are overworked is because you have this sudden increase in your book of business, what a great problem to have. And also to know that ACS is there to help out.
Ron Conte  06:45
Melissa Jay Murphy  06:46
Well, go ahead.
Ron Conte  06:48
No, no, go ahead.
Melissa Jay Murphy  06:49
Well, I was gonna drill down and ask you if you could get a little more specific about what you mean by back office support. What are the tasks that sort of make up your typical array of services?
Ron Conte  07:09
That's a great question and it goes to the essence of the service that ACS provides to our clients. We generally and not exclusively, but generally offer full service support to our clients. And basically what that entails is when a title agent will receive a contract from whatever source they receive it from, usually a realtor for instance, they will turn the contract over to us. After they open their file, of course, they'll turn it over to us and we will take it from there in full service mode. To order all of the searches that are necessary, title search, lien search, reach out to any HOAs who are involved to order the necessary estoppel reports. We will of course get those products back and provide them to the title agent for the title agents review. We will interface with lenders whenever it is asked when there's a lender involved on behalf of the title agent will be her or his contact point with a lender. We will work with the lender of course to provide the lender with all of the information that they need to prepare the closing disclosure. Once we are close to the closing date, we will work with the title agent to prepare an ALTA settlement statement. And of course, we will also prepare the title documents that are necessary for the transaction and all of that will be delivered of course directly to the title agent in ample time prior to the closing. So that the title agent is adequately prepared for the actual closing of the transaction. So think of it as kind of that full service mode as encompassing the waterfront, so to speak, with respect to the processing of the transaction from the title agents standpoint.
Melissa Jay Murphy  09:49
So when you mentioned preparing the title documents for the closing, are you talking about the warranty deed and what I commonly referred to as the no lien affidavit? Is that what you're talking about?
Ron Conte  10:04
Absolutely right. We would of course, we always will prepare the warranty deed the sellers closing affidavit, buyers closing affidavit, you know, other certifications or affidavits that might be necessary to you know, that might need to be recorded in order to again to assist the title agent so that he or she doesn't have to prepare those documents.
Melissa Jay Murphy  10:37
And so do you have a conversation with the Fund Members slash title agent when the title commitment comes in? Do you have a discussion with them about okay, the Schedule B one requirements calls for a warranty deed, but it also calls for a continuous marriage affidavit or a non homestead affidavit. You know, there any number of typical affidavits that might come up with in a title situation. So do you have a discussion with the title agent and just confirm with them, that they understand what that is and the need for it and that you will prepare that document along with the warranty deed for them to review? If a commitment shows that there's a mortgage to be paid off, do you order the pay off?
Ron Conte  11:25
Absolutely. Sandy Davis who's our manager for ACS and her staff are regularly in touch with the Fund Member, the title agent to make sure that they understand the requirements that are shown in the commitment and you know, make sure that they are clear that assuming they want us to do it, we will prepare the continuous marriage affidavit that the commitment might call for or any other affidavits that might be called for you know, affidavit of non identity, whatever the case might be. We're in touch directly with the Fun Member to make sure that she or he knows that, you know, we're going to have the documents ready for them that they need that are identified in the commitment in order to get to the closing table. Yes, absolutely. In every instance we'll order the, we'll get the proper authorization of course. And then provide, you know, the authorization to the lender to make sure that you know, we get the payoff in a timely manner so that can be included in the settlement statement.
Melissa Jay Murphy  13:04
And I would think that while there might be a standard protocol that you all follow, every Fund Member has their own way of wanting to handle things. So can you tailor the support that you give to the specific needs of the member or specific requests that they have?
Ron Conte  13:29
We not only can, we do. We do exactly that and you're right Melissa, every Fund Member is different in terms of, you know, whatever variable it is that you want to talk about, perspective, experience, whatever, everyone's different and we are very very good at adapting our service to the needs and desires if you will, of our clients. It's important that we know exactly what their expectations and needs are, so that we can do everything that we possibly can to fulfill those expectations. So yes, we tailor our service to individual clients based upon their needs. It's worked very, very well for us. Sandy and her team, again are great at communicating with our clients to make sure that we understand exactly what it is that they need, and how that might differ from other clients who have different expectations and needs as well.
Melissa Jay Murphy  14:54
And you mentioned the word communication and that prompted a question that I have about this process. What about communicating with the parties? The buyer, the seller, the realtor, do you play that role?
Ron Conte  15:13
I would say not typically. We can and have but our primary concern is for the Fund Member, for our client. Oftentimes our clients want, they want to be the point person when it comes to having contact with the parties to the transaction, and the realtors. And I think as a Fund Member myself and as a practicing real estate attorney who does closings on a regular basis. I can understand if they want to be, you know, the person out front interacting with the parties and the realtors for a variety of different reasons, not the least of which might be quite frankly client relations and business development reasons. So that's not to say we don't have contact with realtors or parties. But typically the Fund Member will take the lead in that regard so that those parties or realtors know hey, there's a there's a title agent handling this transaction, who I know who I can interface with who knows what's going on, has the information that I need. I like this title agent. I like this attorney and you know the realtors will say yeah, you know that we're gonna keep sending them work. So it works to their advantage I think for them to have that relationship. But if they want us to do it, we certainly can.
Melissa Jay Murphy  17:07
Well, relationships are the name of the game in this business, aren't they.
Ron Conte  17:12
Absolutely. They mean everything.
Melissa Jay Murphy  17:16
What else do you view as the Fund Member or title agents responsibility? Meaning, what are some things that ACS does not do?
Ron Conte  17:30
Well, I think I would, I would point out that in response to your question, the first thing that I would say is that you know, ACS typically does not offer legal service to our clients. ACS is not a law firm. And we have to be careful not to provide legal advice to clients. So that can happen that the need, there could be an issue, let me put it this way. If there's a if there's a title issue that's identified in the commitment that an attorney needs to clear as the title agent, we will absolutely talk to the title agent about it. We will call the issue to the title agents attention but we are not in a position to quote unquote practice law. And, you know, give the attorney advice as to what needs to be done. So that's really, you know, an area that we have to tread lightly with, I would say, we want to be as supportive as possible of our clients. Virtually all of whom are attorneys themselves. And at the same time, while being supportive of them, being careful to make sure that they understand that ultimately, they're the one who's signing that policy. You know, who's closing the transaction and signing the policy. And consequently, there are certain responsibilities that come along with it.
Melissa Jay Murphy  19:33
Well, some examples of title issues that would need to be clear that clearly ACS is not set up to do is a probate. Let's say the commitment calls for the probate. Clearly you are not going to undertake that probate. But what about like a corrective deed, to correct a glitch in the legal description? Is the typical protocol that you would call that to the Fund Members attorney, you might help them with the preparation of that corrective deed but in terms of reaching out to the person who needs to sign and coordinating all of that, is that something that the Fund Member does?
Ron Conte  20:17
Typically Yes, that's the Fund Members responsibility. But we will call the issue to the attention of the Fund Member, we will gather the requisite information that's necessary to prepare the corrective deed and we will actually prepare the deed itself for the Fund Member. But then you know, we will provide the deed, the corrective deed, to the Fund Member and rely upon him or her to get the deed executed.
Melissa Jay Murphy  20:58
So when the documents are all done, and the transaction is ready to close, and its documents, a closing statement, and if there's a lender maybe have the lenders package so it's ready to close. How is that handle? How does your business model approach the actual closing?
Ron Conte  21:18
Well, we don't, we do not conduct the closing for the Fund Member. We rely on the Fund Member to handle the closing itself. We will provide all of the documents to the Fund Member in advance of the closing so that he or she is prepared for the closing of course, you know, every attorney who's handling the closing is going to review the documents beforehand. And make sure that everything is in order from their standpoint, as the title agent, but we'll provide the documents to them. They'll conduct the closing. Getting back to your, related to this question, but getting back to your previous question. We will not disburse funds for the Fund Member, we don't do that. So you know we don't handle the money. They do. But we will give them everything they need to get to the closing table.
Melissa Jay Murphy  22:31
So the Fund Member does a closing making sure all the documents are properly executed the Fund Member handles recording the documents?
Ron Conte  22:39
 That's correct. Yes.
Melissa Jay Murphy  22:41
 And disperses all the funds. Got it.
Ron Conte  22:45
That's right.
Melissa Jay Murphy  22:48
So is your most common service what you described, as I'll call it the soup to nuts approach, is that your most common service that you provide?
Ron Conte  23:05
Yes, it is. I think the vast majority of the services that we provide are the soup to nuts approach or what could be called the full service approach. We do however, maybe I'll anticipate your next question. We do however, provide a cafeteria style approach to the service that we provide. There may be, we do have clients who will ask us to perform only a certain segment of the process as a whole. They might want our assistance in preparing the CD or the settlement statement for instance, or they might want us to just prepare a deed or the title documents in general but they handle ordering all the searches. Or there might be clients who call us and say hey, can you just order the searches for us. So I would call that kind of a cafeteria approach that certain clients utilize and we're fine doing that. You know, they are going to get their requirements met. By us whatever it is that they're expecting of us. And hopefully come back to us for more service.
Melissa Jay Murphy  24:44
Ron Conte  24:45
Happy with what we do and come back to us for more.
Melissa Jay Murphy  24:50
So you've mentioned several times in this conversation about interacting with the Fund Member. And there's sort of this assumption at the beginning of our conversation that you can help Fund Members out when their paralegal is on vacation or their paralegal might be out on medical leave or something like that. But do you often work directly with the paralegal? I mean, I guess my question is the paralegal is still there. But you have customers, Fund Members, that even though their paralegal is in the office, they still reach out to you for help and your interaction is primarily with the paralegal?
Ron Conte  25:36
Without question, that is a common relationship that [unintelligible 25:46] . Actually, if the Fund Member has a paralegal, oftentimes the Fund Member will have the paralegal who might manage, if you will, the transactions and oversee Attorneys Closing Services or any other entity they might use. So we interact directly with the paralegal who then turns around and interacts with with the Fund Member. So yes, we do that on a regular basis and and are happy, happy to do it either way, to relate directly to the Fund Member or to the paralegal in the Fund Members place.
Melissa Jay Murphy  26:32
So real quickly because I want to get to Michael Rothman to see if we have any questions. Just briefly describe your fee structure, how that basically works, not necessarily dollar amounts, but just how your fee structure works.
Ron Conte  26:47
Yeah, our fee structure is driven by really two variables. If you look at it, those variables are first whether it's a cash transaction or it's a financed transaction, and then within either of those broader categories the more, the higher the contract sales price, our fee will increase. So you know we have a graduated scale of fees that depends upon first whether it's cash or financed and then upon the contract sales price.
Melissa Jay Murphy  27:28
And if a listener out there wants to reach out to you all and get more detail. I'm gonna give them your phone number. So just make sure I'm giving them the correct phone number it's 407-270-8855.
Ron Conte  27:44
Yes, correct. Thank you!
Melissa Jay Murphy  27:47
407-270-8855. Call if you have more specific questions for Ron or Sandy about the service. So Michael Rothman, do we have any questions?
Michael Rothman  27:58
Yes, we do. A couple quick ones, Ron. Will ACS order estoppel letters and surveys, things like that.
Ron Conte  28:07
Yes, absolutely. We do it all the time.
Michael Rothman  28:09
How about preparing the title policy post closing?
Ron Conte  28:15
ACS typically does not do that when we order the search from The Fund. We order the product that includes the preparation of the policy.
Michael Rothman  28:27
How about insurance Does ACS have insurance in place?
Ron Conte  28:32
Yes, we do. We have even though we don't practice law, we do have an E&O policy in place.
Michael Rothman  28:40
Okay, I think that covers most of it. Thank you guys.
Melissa Jay Murphy  28:44
Wow, what great questions. Thank you, audience. I'm here to testify that Ron did not plant those questions in there, that those really are legitimate questions coming from our audience. So I'm going to wrap up here. I will remind all of our listeners that ACS will be at Fund Assembly so please get your registration in and take advantage of the opportunity to talk with them directly at their booth. I certainly want to thank Ron for his participation, both in this webinar and at Fund Assembly and then we do have one more webinar in this series of backroom support companies. We have one more webinar coming up and that's Thursday, May 4, next week, Thursday, May 4, so register for that also. And as always, thank you for your support of The Fund.