real estate, real estate transaction

A tutorial on some of the potential closing costs in a real estate transaction!

Hallmark Abstract Service LLC

If you are buying a residential or commercial property then you are most likely aware that the cost of the property itself aren’t the only costs involved in your transaction!

Title insurance, one critical piece of the transaction that is often overlooked by buyers, represents one part of the expense in closing on a property.

But there are others as well that are described in an excellent overview provided in this article from To read about other topics offered at click on the link below.

“Closing Costs Checklist”

The cost of buying a property goes beyond simply paying the price negotiated between the buyer and seller.

You’ll actually pay less, if you can pay cash. If you are taking a mortgage, the closing costs involved to complete the transaction can range from 2% to 7% of the purchase price.

Fees required vary by state. Here are some of the common fees included in a typical settlement, which will comprise your closing costs:


  • Loan discount (“points”) – a one-time fee charged by the lender to lower your monthly interest rate
  • Appraisal fee* (the lender usually orders an appraisal to determine the value of the property)
  • Credit Report fee* (for the lender to research your credit rating)
  • Lender’s inspection fee* (for walking through the property)
  • Mortgage insurance application fee* (for additional insurance to protect the lender if you default)
  • Assumption fee* (fee to process new documents if a buyer is taking over a seller’s mortgage)
  • Underwriting fee (the underwriter or insurer reviews your loan package and gives final approval to close to the lender)

* This fee is usually paid before you meet with the settlement or escrow agent to close the transaction.


  • Interest on your mortgage loan from the day of closing to the end of the month.
  • Hazard insurance premium (protection from such hazards, as fire, wind or vandalism)


  • Hazard insurance premium for the year (also called “Homeowner’s Insurance“)
  • Mortgage insurance – the number of months varies
  • City property taxes – usually two months in advance
  • County property taxes – this amount can vary depending on when you close. (The impound accountmust be synchronized with the due date of property taxes. For example, if you close your loan one or two months after property taxes are due, you will generally only need to reserve one or two months worth of taxes. However, if you close near the end of the property tax cycle, you could be required to bring six to nine months worth of tax payments to the closing.)
  • Annual assessments (cover any updated value placed on the property for tax purposes)


  • Closing fee for the settlement agent or attorney (depending on who handles the closing)
  • Document preparation (be sure to ask for details if you are charged for this; also ask about any “courier” fee if imposed)
  • Notary fees (for witnessing signatures on legal documents)
  • Attorney fees (if a lawyer is involved in the title process)
  • Title Insurance – lender’s coverage (protects the bank), owner’s coverage (guarantees that the buyer has the right to the property)


  • Fee to record (place on public file) the deed, mortgage and any releases
  • County and possible city transfer taxes due on the recordation of the deed


  • Pest inspection fee
  • Other miscellaneous fees may include home inspections, land surveys, flood certification, earthquake insurance, radon tests, or lead-paint inspections depending on the location and history of the property.

At Hallmark Abstract Service our value proposition is to deliver on what it is that our clients expect from us each and every time that they trust us with one of their valuable transactions.

Service, attention to detail, fast turnaround times, willingness to go the extra mile and reasonable pricing on non-policy related fees are just some of the things we are focused on and that our clients have come to expect from us!

And that’s why we continue to earn their business, time and time again!

Call or email us today to set-up an appointment where we will come to your office, learn about the nuances of your practice and explain to you the way that we approach ours!

Mike Haltman, Owner

516.741.4723 (O)

Hallmark Abstract Service LLC

New York State, real estate transaction, title insurance

Hallmark Abstract Service wants to be your New York State title insurance provider

Hallmark Abstract Service New York State title insurance

And these are some of the reasons why!

Hallmark Abstract was founded on these fundamental principles: One is to provide service above and beyond the expectations of our clients, while the other is to ensure that there will never be any surprises at the closing table.

With that in mind, two basic questions guide us in our day-to-day business:

– What value can Hallmark Abstract add for a client?

– Why should Hallmark Abstract be a client’s first choice?

The answer to the first question is simple. Hallmark Abstract takes the time to understand exactly what an attorney, banker or mortgage professional requires in order for their closing protocols to run more efficiently. From personal meetings and follow-ups to customized services for pre and post closing procedures, Hallmark Abstract guides it actions based on the client’s individualized needs.

The second question can be answered based on the fact that Hallmark Abstract has a long track record of putting its clients first. A company created for attorney’s, lending professionals and their clients, Hallmark Abstract seeks to surpass all expectations by bringing files to closing without surprise or delay. Every single time!

Finally Hallmark Abstract stands by these two simple phrases that are both our promise to you and a philosophy for the way in which we conduct our business:

“Hallmark Abstract has never been to a closing where the title wasn’t cleared!”

“Hallmark Abstract works harder to make your closings easier!”

We look forward to starting a long-standing relationship with you and we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your office or by phone.

Michael Haltman, Partner

Hallmark Abstract Service


131 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 205, Jericho, New York 11753

516.741.4723 (O) 516.741.6838 (F)

10 real estate deal killers, buying a home, real estate transaction, selling a home

10 real estate deal killers that buyers AND sellers need to avoid

Avoiding real estate transaction deal killers!

If a qualified home-buyer has found their dream home and a home seller was lucky enough to find that qualified buyer, potential deal killers must be found and stopped!

In today’s real estate marketplace for single-family homes nobody has to tell the seller of a home that the environment is extremely challenging. Deal killers, particularly after the transaction is underway, can be devastating for both sides.

Some of the challenges to selling include supply issues (too many homes on the market), a scarcity of potential buyers, a scarcity of potential buyers who can actually quality for financing and an economy that has people questioning whether this is the right time to take on the financial responsibility of owning a home.

This list provides 10 of the top real estate deal killers that buyers and sellers can face that can and need to be avoided at all costs. Some involve money (i.e. money can solve the problem before it becomes a deal killers) some involve the city or town while some involve more emotional issues that the whole process brings to the surface.

10 of the top deal killers in a real estate transactions

Read about these 10 deal killers at The Economic Spy here.

If you want to find out what your credit scores are, you can find them here.

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commercial real estate, foreclosure, Jonathan Lippman, MERS, New York, real estate, real estate transaction, residential, title insurance, title insurance foreclosure, United States bankruptcy court

Feeling the effects of foreclosure crisis mitigation efforts

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Hallmark was asked by “The Legal Description” to participate in the writing of an article on the impact that the foreclosure crisis could have on our business and the title insurance industry in general. The full article is below with the section provided by Hallmark Abstract highlighted in bold and italicized.

Feeling the effects of foreclosure crisis mitigation efforts

After the foreclosure processes of several mortgage servicers were called into question last fall, Congress jumped to action, holding hearings to investigate these procedures. All 50 state attorneys general teamed up to hold their own investigation and are currently negotiating a settlement with the largest mortgage servicers in the country, a settlement which could result in major reforms for the servicing industry.

The states have also taken action, with certain states jumping into action with judicial rules or emergency legislation. Other states are being more methodical in their efforts, introducing legislation during the regular session of the legislature and carefully examining the bills’ potential impact.

With actions being considered in several states, The Legal Description examined the impact of actions already taken in three jurisdictions: Washington, D.C., New York and Maryland.

Standstill in D.C. 
Virtually no foreclosures have occurred in Washington, D.C., since the council adopted the Saving D.C. Homes from Foreclosure Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2011. The new law requires mortgage lenders to provide homeowners with a notice of default on residential mortgages. It also provides homeowners with the right to engage in mediation prior to foreclosure on residential mortgages.

The written notice of default lenders are required to send out must include, among other things, a description of all loss mitigation programs available to the borrower and a mediation election form. A mediation administrator appointed by the commissioner of the Department of Insurance Securities and Banking (DISB) is then required to reach out to the borrower, offering their services and reminding the borrower that they will lose the right to mediation if they do not return the loss mitigation application to the lender and the mediation election form to the mediation administrator within 30 days of the notification. If the borrower elects to engage in mediation, a mediation session would be scheduled for no later than 45 days after the mailing of the notice of default.

Before the troubled property can be sold to a third party, the lender must receive a certificate of mediation from the DISB, either after the borrower has indicated they do not wish to engage in mediation or after mediation is completed.

Currently, the DISB is drafting regulations to implement the new law. Because the new law states that a certificate of mediation must be received before property can be foreclosed upon, no foreclosures have taken place since the new law was passed.

The D.C. Land Title Association (DCLTA) has been working with the DISB on the efforts to ensure that when title is transferred after a foreclosure, it is clear and marketable.

“The title industry’s goal is to determine whether foreclosures will be insurable,” said Roy Kaufmann, counsel to Jackson & Campbell P.C., lobbyist for DCLTA and the immediate past chair of the D.C. Bar’s Real Estate Housing and Land Use Section. “For us to determine that, we need to know, irrefutably, whether a borrower has exercised rights under the [new law] and if he has exercised them, whether he has successfully exhausted his administrative rights conclusively so the lender can move forward to foreclose.”

Kaufmann said the association’s primary objective is to get the legislation or the regulations to state dispositively that the process has been completed. He said that if a borrower can come back and refute the mediation, asking for the mediation certificate to be set aside, it would wreak havoc on the title industry because a title insurer will have insured the sale of the property in question. Kaufmann noted the group has given their suggestions to the DISB for consideration.

No clear answers in New York 

The New York State court system has instituted a new filing requirement in residential foreclosure cases to protect the integrity of the foreclosure process and prevent wrongful foreclosures. The requirement, handed down by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on Oct. 20, 2010, states that plaintiff’s counsel in foreclosure actions are required to file an affirmation certifying that counsel has taken reasonable steps — including inquiry to banks and lenders and careful review of the papers filed in the case — to verify the accuracy of documents filed in support of residential foreclosures.

Since then, courts have handed down decisions that added confusion. Michael Haltman, a partner at Jerich, N.Y.- based Hallmark Abstract Service LLC, said that when the Lippman decision was handed down and title insurers came out with new indemnification requirements, “it seemed that [the requirements] would be incredible stumbling blocks” because lawyers were not going to put their license on the line to assert that everything that has been done has been done correctly.

“Since then, different rulings in different courts have come up with different determinations,” Haltman said. “Where it looked like it was going in one direction, now with Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. (MERS), you’ve had some situations where the courts have upheld MERS and then you’ve had other decisions where the courts have not upheld MERS in terms of the right of the lender to foreclose in the name of MERS. It’s kind of morphed from something that looked like a certainty and now has really changed to a court by court [situation]. There is really no certainty right now.

Haltman pointed to the decision of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York in In re: Ferrel Agard, in making his point. In that case, the court ruled in favor of MERS, but cautioned that in all future cases involving MERS, the moving party must show that it validly holds both the mortgage and the underlying note in order to prove standing.

Haltman noted that his company has been in a few situations since the ruling came down where it couldn’t establish a good chain of title and decided not to insure those deals. He also pointed out that in making that decision, his company was in close contact with the attorneys at the underwriter to make sure both companies understood the proposed risk before deciding to say no.

“Any time there is a foreclosure, any time that MERS is involved, it may be cliché, but you have to dot every I and cross every T,” he emphasized. “Make yourself comfortable so that you can make your underwriter comfortable. That is how you avoid problems down the road.”

Slow in Maryland 
The Maryland Court of Appeals adopted new Rule 14-207.1 and amendments to Rules 1-311 and 14-207. The rules changes allow courts to screen affidavits filed in residential foreclosure cases, and if they have reason to believe that an affidavit may be invalid, enter an order directing the affiant, and where applicable, the notary to appear before the court and establish that the affidavit is genuine, failing which the foreclosure action may be dismissed.

Charlene Perry, manager, The Preferred Title Group Inc. in Baltimore Md., said that business has slowed down since the adoption of the new rules. Time lines associated with getting the foreclosure process completed have been extended as a result of the rules. In addition, she said judges are taking more time reviewing the files, which is also creating a delays in the final ratification of the sales by the courts and by the auditors.

“On more than one occasion over the last 6 months or so we have seen a larger number of properties that were under contract and ready to proceed to closing suddenly put into a ‘hold’ status by the servicer or by the lender,” Perry said. “The reasons are varied but many of these ‘holds’ were placed as a result of the new rules and stricter review of the foreclosure cases and documents presented in those cases.”

Perry said that because of the new rule, her office requires that its attorney/abstractors pull the foreclosure file and copy every page of the file as part of their title search/exam. In years past, the company was able to review the docket entries and rely upon the order of ratification by the court and the auditor.

Her company also requests that the foreclosure attorney provides it with copies of proof of notices to all parties, not relying on the blanket notice affidavit filed in many foreclosure files, but instead insuring that all necessary parties have been notified of the foreclosure action.

“Every document has to be reviewed and if we find such things as corrective affidavits in the foreclosure file, that case needs to then be examined by underwriting counsel and specific approval for issuance of the title policy must be given,” Perry said.

She also said that signatures are being reviewed more carefully, “not for purposes of determining their authenticity, keeping in mind that title agents are not handwriting experts, but to cross check the names with those we know of that have admitted to robo-signing.” If a known robo-signer has executed any of the documents, they too must be approved by underwriting counsel, Perry noted.

“Prior to the current crisis in the foreclosure arena there was a different level of comfort for those of us writing policies on properties being conveyed out of foreclosure,” Perry concluded. “The general thinking was that the foreclosure ‘scrubbed’ many issues away. Now though with the allegations of fraud, robo-signing, forged deeds etc., we find a different level of review of all files that have been foreclosed upon and different issues that need to be addressed. The problems associated with a faulty foreclosure are felt by all title agents in Maryland and nationwide. With the vast number of foreclosures that have been completed in Maryland even those agents who don’t specialize in transferring property out of foreclosure will see more and more files where there has been a recent foreclosure. It is important that we all stay abreast of the issues surrounding foreclosures in our home state as well as nationwide.”

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commercial real estate, home sellers, new home buyers, real estate, real estate attorney, real estate transaction, residential real estate

What stuff will the buyer and the seller in a transaction need to collect?

In a real estate transaction both the buyer and the seller need to collect a lot of stuff!

There is nothing greater than the anxiety surrounding a real estate transaction for the buyer and for the seller. In order to help alleviate some of the dread entailed in the process, it would be helpful if they knew before the process even started what they will need and the information that they are going to have to collect.

In this way both they and their attorney can focus on getting the deal done in as short a period of time as possible. While this list is certainly not complete, it is a good start.

  1. ID (e.g., driver’s license, state-issued ID, passport). Who must produce it? Buyers and sellers. Why? Uh, hello!?! Lender wants to know that you are who you say you are, buyers, and the title insurance company wants to make sure, sellers, that you actually have the right to sell the home. Funny enough, this commonly goes unrequested until you get to the closing table, when the notary requests to see it before signing, but some mortgage brokers and even some real estate brokers and agents may ask to see it earlier on.
  2. Paycheck Stubs. Who must produce it? Any buyer financing their purchase with a mortgage. Sellers, usually only in the case of a short sale. Why? Buyers’ purchase price ranges are determined, in part, by their income. And short sellers have to prove an economic hardship.
  3. Two months’ bank account statements. Who must produce it? Buyers getting financing; sellers selling short. Why? Buyers’ lenders now require proof of regular income and proof that the down payment money is your own. Short sellers? It’s all about the hardship.
  4. Two years’ W-2 forms or tax returns. Who must produce it? Mortgage-seeking buyers and short selling sellers. Why? Banks want to see a stable, long-term income. They also limit you to claiming as income the amount on which you pay taxes (attn: all business owners!). And in short sales, again, they want documentation of every single facet of your finances.
  5. Updated everything. Who must produce it? Buyer/mortgage applicants. Why? Because things change, and because the time period between the first loan application and closing can be many months – even years! – on today’s market. During the time between contract and closing it’s not at all unusual for underwriters to demand buyers produce updated mortgage statements, checks stubs, and such – and its quite common for them to call your office the day before closing to request a last minute verification of employment!
  6. Quitclaim deed. Who must produce it? Married buyers purchasing homes they plan to own as separate property. Married sellers selling homes that they own separately, or joint owners selling their interests separately. Why? With the Quitclaim Deed, the other spouse or owner signs any and all interests they even might have had in the property over the the selling owner, making it possible for the title insurer to guarantee clear, undisputed title is being transferred in the sale.
  7. Divorce decree. Who must produce it? Buyers and sellers who need to document their solo status or the property-splitting terms of their divorce. Why? Again, to ensure that the seller has the right to sell. Recently single buyers might need to prove that they shouldn’t be held to account for their ex’s separate debts or credit report dings.
  8. Gift letters. Who must produce it? Buyers using gift money toward their down payment. Why? The bank wants to be sure the gift came from a relative, and is their own money to give. They also want the relative to confirm in writing that it’s a gift, not a loan – a loan would need to be factored into your debt load.
  9. Compliance certificates. Who must produce it? Usually sellers, but sometimes buyers, by contract. Why? Some local governments require various condition requirements be met before the property is transferred, like some cities which require a sewer line be video scoped and repaired, cities which require a checklist of items be met before a certificate of occupancy be issued (usually relevant to brand new and really old homes, the latter of which are often subject to lead paint concerns) and energy conservation ordinances which require low-flow toilets and shower heads to be installed. Ask your real estate pro for advice about which, if any, such ordinances apply in your area.
  10. Mortgage statements. Who must produce it? Any seller with a mortgage. Why? the escrow holder or title company will need to use them to order payoff demands from any mortgage holder who has to get paid before the property’s title can be transferred.C

Courtesy of Trulia