Written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Being a successful business owner for nearly 3 years hasn’t removed the traces of farm life from this Frederick Title Attorney. In fact, it’s likely the inner farm girl that has led to the dedication, hard work and commitment to be where she is.
Katrina’s family moved to Middletown from Maine when she was about five years old. She grew up on a farm there and, to this day, this bright and shining attorney thinks of herself as ‘a Maryland farm girl.’
Hay is for Horses and Building a Strong Work Ethic
Reflecting on her years on the farm, Katrina openly admits that she probably felt like it was the most horrible thing when she was younger. She didn’t appreciate it, at the time. When her friends would be having fun at pool parties, Katrina would be unloading hay wagons.
However, looking back, she now thinks it was a ‘fantastic way to grow up.’ She credits farm life with helping her to develop the strong work ethic that she has today. And, even though she might have thought about leaving the area at one time, she opted to stay in Middletown. “You grow up and realize that life is just fine the way it is. The grass isn’t always greener,” says Katrina.
Pigs And Chickens And Geese? Oh My!
Listen closely and you’ll hear the warmth and pride in Katrina’s voice as she speaks about the same work ethic that’s a core part of her parents’ lifestyle to this day. They’re in their 70’s and still making hay and working the farm.
Her mother was one of the only female dairy farmers in Maryland when they first started out. It was extremely hard work and it didn’t last long. The family moved on to pot-bellied pigs, chickens, horses and geese. They also have cats and dogs.
Katrina’s Path to Becoming Owner and Principle Agent of Lawyers Signature Settlements
After graduating from Middletown High School, Katrina earned her BA from Hood College in Frederick. She then earned her JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law with the intention of going into Estate Planning. Preferring to stay local, it was the only Law School that she applied to.
She earned ‘bragging rights’ by passing the Bar Exam on her very first try! She then spent a year as a Law Clerk for the Judges in Washington County Circuit Court in Maryland. When the Clerkship was ending, Katrina was approached by someone who worked for a Title company and invited her to come aboard.
At that time, in 2002, jobs were really plentiful. So, she decided to give it a try, liked it and stayed in the field. She then went to work for another Title Company for a decade. Then, in 2012, Katrina was approached once again.
This time, it was by Debbie Milliner who was selling her established and well-respected Signature Settlements Title Company. After consulting with Eric Verdi about the pros and cons of buying the business, Katrina decided it would be a good move professionally and Lawyers Signature Settlements was born.
Katrina Shares about The Workings of Law School
Law students are required to take the core classes that are covered on the Bar Exam. There are a certain number of courses that must be taken during the first year. Those classes, including Criminal Law, Constitutional Law and Real Property, are set up automatically.
During the last few years, it’s okay to take any classes of interest, such as Family Law. Some students concentrate on a particular area. Katrina concentrated in Estate Planning and Family Law, which had nothing to do with Real Estate. The end goal, of course, is to pass the Bar Exam. Holding ‘bragging rights’ makes it okay to say it again – Katrina passed on the very first try!
In Maryland, you don’t have to be an attorney to be a Settlement Agent. You can be a Licensed Title Insurance Producer which requires taking classes and taking an exam. If licensed, you can then do Settlements and issue Title Insurance policies. Although not required, Katrina highly recommends that a Settlement Attorney be hired.
The Process Begins When the Contract Arrives
First, Katrina reviews the contract. The tax reports are pulled up to make sure that the parties named in the contract are the actual parties who own the home or property.
Misrepresentation has happened before; not necessarily with deliberate intention. There could be someone else on the deed; someone who passed away; maybe the property is in the name of a Trust, not an individual.
Once all of that has been checked out, the Title is ordered. The Title shows everything that’s on the land record…everything reported against this property, including past judgements, liens and mortgages. When the Title comes in, it’s reviewed to make sure it’s 100% clean.
At that point, a Title Insurance Binder can be issued to the Lender, if there is a Lender involved in the transaction. The role of the Title Agency is to make sure that the Title is clear so that the Title Insurance can be issued. This makes the Lender happy because it assures the Lender that they have an insurable security interest.
Lawyers Signature Settlements handles the full transfer of the property. Their job is to make sure that the buyer is getting a piece of property or a home that is not going to have Title issues that will end up in court one day where they could potentially end up losing their home or property for a title-related reason.
Lawyers Signature Settlements provides Title services for purchases, refinances, residential and commercial properties, short sales, foreclosures, a lot of REO properties…let’s just say ‘anything involving a deed in Frederick and the surrounding areas.’
The typical turnaround time is 4 weeks, though it can happen in 2-3 weeks. It depends on the particular Lender and the situation.
What Sets Katrina’s Company Apart from Other Settlement Companies?
“I try to be personally involved in every transaction with every person. I try very hard to make sure that every deal that comes through our office, I know what’s going on; I know who the parties are who are involved. So, for the first time I meet people at the table, it’s not the first time that I’ve heard the names or heard their property address.”
“I try to make sure I’m in contact with every person, every party,” says Katrina. “I’m always here. I’m always available if someone needs me.” Caring and being accessible to this degree is definitely unusual and places Katrina in a category that’s attained by only the very best professionals in any given field. There is no room for doubting the sincerity. She’s very real.
“We try to keep settlements happy, and light, and fun – because it is a stressful time for people.” Katrina is well aware that a recent study shows that people said that buying a home is the most stressful thing in their lives. “Over death. Over losing a job. So, we have to remember that,” said Katrina. “We have to remember it’s a tough time for people.”
She points out that even though professionals involved in the home-buying process deal with it all every day and know that the deal will get done, and it will all be fine, it’s not a usual situation for the client. “For them, it’s their deal and it’s hard for them.”
Surprises about being a Business Owner
“Your staff is always going to be tricky. You have a lot of personalities working together in a small space. There are a lot of moving pieces there. You don’t get to just do your job anymore. You have to worry about everybody else and everybody else doing their jobs.”
“And, time,” continues Katrina. “You’re balancing work with life; it can be difficult. It’s easy to get caught up in work and stop enjoying life and friends and family as much because you worry so much about all these transactions and all these people and their lives that sometimes it’s easy to sweep yours under the rug a little bit.”
Katrina wisely warns that ‘burn out’ is waiting in the wings unless dedicated professionals work on having a happy balance. Does this mean she’s planning an exotic vacation getaway to unwind after tending to so many people and details?
Katrina’s Middletown Farm Girl Ethics Remain Strong
Although, she admits to having lots of thoughts of getting away, there’s nothing actually planned. Before buying the company, Katrina envisioned plenty of leisure time.
“As a business owner, I’ll be able to come and go as I please,” she thought. “I’ll be able to take vacations whenever I want.” Reality reminds her that it’s not necessarily the case, especially during the first two years. “At least for me, I feel like I have a hard time leaving.”
“I want to be here. I want to be personally involved. To walk away, I feel like I’m leaving my kids. All of these little files, they’re like my little kids that I don’t want to leave behind. I worry about them.”
“I’m always threatening to hop on a plane and go somewhere. We’ll see how the year goes.” Meanwhile, she has a loyal dog named Dozer who is her ‘happy place’ and makes her feel so wonderful when he greets her at the end of the day.
It’s hard to imagine anybody wanting to hire someone so smart, dedicated, efficient, attentive and caring. But, if you stumble upon somebody who wants the Title services of an Attorney with those qualities, Katrina is ready to take the stress out of the process for more clients. And, wouldn’t you know it? Spanish speaking settlement officers are available.
Did you hear? She passed the Bar Exam on the 1st try!! GO, KATRINA ‘MIDDLETOWN FARM GIRL’ HALLEIN, ESQ.!!
Email Katrina@SignatureSettlements.com or give her a call at 301-695-1235