Thursday, May 28, 2015

Big Banks and Local Real Estate

After spending a good portion of the last two days dealing with various aspects of what the modern banking and title insurance world has done to land transactions, I need to get these thoughts down while they're fresh. The cast includes glib and corporate-speak fluent title insurance folks giving powerpoint presentations on new lending disclosure rules and big multi-state banks, employees of which probably weren't born when I started searching titles.

Yesterday's presentation on new rules on real estate settlement forms exposed Congress' assumption that 5 pages of gobbledegook out of any comprehensible order is easier to understand than 2 pages, and will make for better informed borrowers.

Then all day today I was trying to get ready for a sale while seeing all sorts of new numbers getting dropped in by the distant bank a day before closing. It was about onion layers of electronic security, electronic auditing meaning that this or that item can only go on such and such a line of a settlement statement, verifying addresses because you're several time zones away, recharacterizing this or that number. To them, land transactions are about software, drop-down menus, bureaucracy and micromanaging every business partner in a world where the system has become fragmented such that no one person has any real sense of what a land sale means. The gatekeepers in this particular deal have no insight into our community- it could be Fairbanks or Vicksburg and it would make no difference.

Having the tail end of one simple sale generate inbox entries that fill an entire screen, and so many steps that don't bear much relevance to the sale of a house and land, I cannot guess why the system isn't collapsing under its own bulk.

Real estate in essence is about ground, buildings, trees, stone walls, threads of streams, road frontage, granite monuments, houses, bits of barbed wire stuck in pine trees, 5/8" rebar set by surveyors. It is about what we do when we walk outside. It is about work and dirt, hills and hollows, lots in subdivisions with basketball hoops in the cul-de-sac. Land sales are about mortgages-  documents pledging land and buildings as collateral for loans to buy same. How this most basic part of our social fabric has turned into such a clumsy and inefficient, aggravating mess I do not know.

Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were supposed to help with the bad stuff, the really bad stuff that happened as a result of ninja loans (no income, no job, no assets), credit default swaps (a Ponzi scheme) and bond rating practices that rubber-stamped the whole works as top choice grade A real estate investments. The problems were caused by big financial institutions. The regulatory and legislative responses seem to cater to the same players, setting up the next meltdown.

Love your land. Work with a community bank or credit union. There's no place like home.


  1. Cool stuff you have and you keep overhaul every one of us
    You have done a amazing job with you website
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  2. While some regulations are essential for the rule of law to function, going overboard with regulations and analysis is counterproductive, and would dampen the business spirit. The true value of real estate lies in the "real" soil, building, and other materials in the land. The numbers crunched on a digital screen are just a representation of such values, nothing more, nothing less.

    Keneth Parish @ Lion Land Marketing

  3. There is lot of articles on the web about this. But I like yours more, although i found one that’s more descriptive.
    Real Estate Education Basics