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A settlement agent is responsible for presiding over transactions involving the sale or financing of property such as real estate. Someone wishing to become a settlement agent may have to go through a licensing or certification process at the regional or national level. In some instances, settlement agents must also have a background in lending or law.
Someone wishing to become a settlement agent does not usually require a college degree although some community colleges offer short-term training courses for agents. During these programs, prospective agents are taught about their legal responsibilities within the closing process. Laws in many countries require agents to disclose certain facts such as loan interest rates, legal fees and administrative costs to the parties involved in the transaction. In some instances, people have the right to sue agents who fail to properly perform their duties so many employers require agents to attend a training course before presiding over any settlements.
Among other things, a settlement agent has to witness the signatures of the parties involved in a particular transaction. In many countries, agents must obtain notary stamps which include the agent's name and business address. Agents are responsible for establishing the identity of the individuals who sign these documents; notary stamps are only provided to agents who have taken an oath and promised to perform their notary duties in accordance with local or national laws. Therefore, someone wishing to become a settlement agent must register with the local authorities and pay a fee to obtain a notary stamp. Generally, the stamp only remains valid for a specific period of time and notaries are only able to witness documents within the jurisdiction of the agency that issued the stamp.
During real estate transactions, the settlement agent must arrange to have funds transferred between the buyer and the seller. Errors may cause a delay in the transaction, and in some instances incorrectly processed transactions can even lead to legal disputes. Therefore, many employers require settlement agents to have prior experience working in the financial services industry or a degree in a finance related topic.
Some types of settlement transactions are more complex than others in which case the interested parties may seek the advice of an attorney before signing the document. Established lawyers often act as settlement agents for their clients and some legal aids even work as full time agents. Therefore, someone wishing to become a settlement agent may need to complete a college degree. Additionally, qualified lawyers and legal assistants typically have to obtain a notary stamp before presiding over any settlements.
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