Commercial Magazine

Find the Right Closer

Real estate closing and title companies help originators unlock value in deals

By Scott D. Kriss

From the outside, the world of commercial real estate can seem to operate like a symphony orchestra. When things are going well, established relationships, expertise and effective collaboration through a series of complex tasks lead to a smooth and timely closing.

And yet, we all know that, even among sophisticated participants, not every transaction proceeds exactly that way. Mistakes can be made and new developments can cloud the specifics of the deal. Closings can get rescheduled or even cancelled. Millions of dollars can be lost or left on the table.

In challenging market conditions like those of the recent past, successful mortgage companies are increasingly seeking new ways to maximize their revenue. Often, that includes relying on their networks of partners to navigate complexities and drive growth.

While that may conjure images of law firms collaborating with lenders, investors and originators, there are others involved in the typical commercial transaction who bring added value. Believe it or not, closing and title providers can bring far more to the table than efficient document preparation, compliant environmental reviews and a smooth closing process.

In fact, these providers can offer a wealth of untapped potential for originators seeking to maximize value. That includes not only keeping a complex or struggling deal on the rails toward closing, but also even delivering optimal profits or new business.

Hidden partner

Good closing and title companies often serve as the linchpin in the final stages of a real estate transaction. Some title companies also supply closing procedures, but not all. These companies not only ensure smooth and legally sound property transfers, but, in the case of experienced closers, they can help bring disparate partners back to the bargaining table to address minor complexities or technicalities that could quickly escalate into deal-changes or deal-breakers.

While their roles may seem confined to administrative tasks, their expertise extends far beyond mere paperwork. These providers play a pivotal role in facilitating due diligence, facilitating environmental assessments and overseeing the transfer of funds — all critical components of a successful deal.

“Good closing and title companies often serve as the linchpin in the final stages of a real estate transaction.”

As the name suggests, title companies verify the title of the property and make sure that it transfers properly. They conduct title searches, examine titles for defects, issue insurance to protect the buyer and lender, prepare title reports and oversee the resolution of all title issues. Closing companies prepare the final documents, explain the documents to the parties, coordinate the closing process, maintain escrow accounts, receive and disburse funds, conduct the closing process with both parties, finalize the transaction and report it to the state.

In addition to the attorneys and law firms involved in the typical commercial deal, closing providers also serve as guardians of compliance, helping all parties to pick their way through the complex web of regulatory requirements governing commercial transactions. Their deep understanding of local regulations, customs and industry best practices (as well as a healthy network of professional relationships) helps mitigate legal risks and ensure transactions proceed seamlessly. In an environment where regulatory scrutiny is on the rise, having a reliable partner well-versed in compliance matters is indispensable.

Realizing value

Forward-thinking lenders and originators look beyond the norm in all phases of the transaction. That includes seeing title companies as the source of more than just closings. Experienced closers, much like experienced attorneys, bankers and developers, have seen almost every hiccup possible in a commercial deal — as well as seeing their solutions.

Good closers also know what’s happening throughout the market: who’s active or planning to become active; who the best local law firms are for solving unwelcomed surprises; and how the market is likely to receive a planned new project. In some cases, a good closing company can even point an originator in the right direction when looking for new opportunities or business. It starts with finding the closing professionals capable of this, and then evolves with a long-term relationship.

The key to unlocking these potential benefits, however, is choosing the right closing company. There are a limited number of good title agencies and closing companies that work in commercial real estate. The ability to leverage a closing company for additional value, therefore, begins with the vetting process.

Due diligence

While this should be a no-brainer, many originators use “the developer’s guy” or a closing company recommended by another party. Although that company may well be excellent, it’s the developer or other party deriving maximum value. It pays to locate your market’s best closing companies and build relationships with them.

What do the best closing companies look like? For starters, they know the local markets. They know not just your primary target prospects and clients, but all of the good commercial participants in the market. They understand how your market works. That doesn’t just mean ordinances, laws and regulations that apply, but customs as well. How do things practically get done in this particular market?

The best commercial real estate title companies are also fantastic operators. The more efficient they are, the more proficient at addressing and solving surprises and problems they are and the more flexibly they operate, the more unnecessary expenditures will be avoided.

Prioritize companies that don’t just give lip-service to client satisfaction. How effectively and quickly do they communicate? Which companies really understand that the world of commercial real estate can be a 24/7 experience across multiple time zones and cultures, and that silence is not an option when the clock is ticking? Look for partners that have proven record of prioritizing communication, responsiveness and proactive problem-solving to ensure a seamless and stress-free experience.

Don’t just take a referral’s word for it. Talk to former partners and clients. If practicable, go see them in their office. Find out what technologies they use and how they use them. The more time spent in the vetting process, the less time will be wasted trying to revive a failing deal down the road.

Market understanding

Although it’s not as common a practice as it should be, the originators who derive maximum value from all partners should involve them as early as the outset of the deal-making process. By tapping into their expertise during the due diligence phase, originators can identify potential hurdles early on and devise strategies to overcome them, thus streamlining the transaction process.

Good title companies should be able to provide valuable market insights and industry knowledge. Originators can leverage this expertise to gain a competitive edge, whether it’s identifying emerging trends, assessing market dynamics or evaluating potential risks and opportunities.

“Remember, the intricacies of closing vary from state to state, county to county and even city to city.”

Remember, the intricacies of closing a property transaction vary from state to state, county to county and even city to city. Don’t assume that a company that’s rich in market understanding in, for example, Miami, can say the same thing about its understanding of the Orlando market. Find out if the company is experienced in your target markets before they are employed. The same holds true for asset classes. If an originator or a partner specializes in retail transactions, it could well be problematic to settle on a closing company that focuses almost entirely on multi-family construction.

Technology integration

Few would argue that some of the biggest delays in any transaction start when data or information is shared between service providers and parties in an inefficient manner. Where voicemail or email tags are a key part of the process, time and money, in most cases, are being wasted.

The newest technology isn’t always the most appropriate for the market or every type of transaction. The way a closing partner (or any service provider, for that matter) integrates with the way you do business day to day can mean everything. The best closing companies are able to pivot quickly and adapt their ways to fit into what is required.

It may seem sometimes as if every broker and closing company in the market offers marketing materials thinly veiled in the guise of “resources.” More than a few service providers offer some kind of course, seminar, pamphlet or other resource.

And yet, if you are in the due diligence process, some of them may be helpful, offering more insight into the company’s own nature. Look beyond the transactional aspects and explore value-added services offered by closing companies. From educational seminars and training workshops to networking events and industry insights, the best of these additional offerings can empower originators with the knowledge and resources needed to thrive in a particular market.

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Title and closing companies play an important, yet often overlooked, role in commercial real estate transactions. Originators stand to gain significant value by cultivating strategic partnerships with these companies, leveraging their expertise, resources and insights to drive success in an increasingly competitive market landscape. With a combination of due diligence and a collaborative mindset, originators can unlock the full potential of their closing partnerships and more times than not realize an optimal outcome.


  • Scott D. Kriss

    Scott D. Kriss is president and CEO at Kriss Law/Atlantic Closing & Escrow. Kriss founded the company in 2008 and quickly grew the full-service title and settlement services firm into a national provider, earning multiple awards as Banker & Tradesman’s top regional closing firm. Today, Kriss Law/Atlantic Closing & Escrow is licensed in 30 states and partners with mortgage lenders of all sizes.

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