Refinancing? Taking out a home equity line?
Both of these are fantastic ways of capitalizing on today’s very low interest rates, and the fact that major banks are beginning to loosen the credit strings a little bit. But, as a consumer, one of the things to which you need to pay close attention is that these loans actually die when they are paid off. Otherwise they can rise from the dead, like a bad Halloween movie character, to wreak havoc on your future happiness! <Insert evil laugh here.>
I recently represented a Seller who had refinanced more than ten years ago. When it came time to sit down at the settlement table to sell this house, the title company confirmed that the old loan, which he thought had been paid off more than ten years earlier, had never been recorded as paid.
This is probably more common than you would think. This client had let the new lender pay for the costs of refinancing – like most people would – and the title company they used had neglected to follow through on recording the payoff of the first loan. So, it should be easy to go back to that lender and that title company and get proof of the payoff, right?
Wrong. In the intervening decade the housing crash had taken place. Both the lender and the title company were no longer in business. A new lender had bought out the old one, but they had moved all these old files into “deep storage” and they said it would take two months to retrieve the file. The house was supposed to change hands in two weeks. Obviously, this was a nightmare to rival any Halloween scary tale!
Likewise, most home equity lines do not go away when the balance is zero. The line of credit remains open, even if unused. That often shows up as a lien on the property that has to be satisfied before the property can change hands. This also can be an unwelcome surprise right before settlement.
So, when you sit down to refinance your loan or write that last check to pay off the home equity loan, think about these zombie stories and take care to 1. Ask the title company to send you confirmation that the loan payoff has been recorded, and keep on them until they do, or 2. Write a letter to the bank to accompany the equity line payoff and ask them to close the loan. Follow up with them to make sure it gets done.
If you plan on selling your home and have also refinanced in the pre-housing crash days, it wouldn’t hurt to be pro-active and follow up with the title company who conducted the refinance and make sure that the old loan payoff was recorded.
This way, no old loan zombie will ever rise up on a dark and stormy night to threaten your future happiness!