New owner and a new home

At Snell Settlement Services, changes that respect the past

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Crimmins & Kehm Law Firm partners Ryan Kehm, at left, and Mark Crimmins, seated, look over some files in Crimmins’ new basement office. The two attorneys expanded into the basement of the building to make way for the staff of Snell Settlement Services after they purchased the firm.

A transition has taken place at Snell Settlement Services. It is now owned by the Crimmins & Kehm Law Firm and has moved from its longtime home in the Snell Building to the law firm’s office at 706 First Ave. N.

Snell Settlement Services was created in 2002 by Kurt T. Pittner, a Fort Dodge attorney who was part of the local legal community from 1976 until his retirement in February. He wanted to make sure that the specialized work Snell Settlement handled continued to be available in the community.

“Our firm had gotten into doing some real estate closing services for some banks and some mortgage companies, the same kind of work that Snell was doing,” Mark Crimmins, a partner in the Crimmins & Kehm Law firm, said. “So, when Kurt (Pittner) decided to retire, he looked for the right fit. Since we were already doing those services for other institutions he approached me and asked if I would be interested in purchasing Snell Settlement Services.”

Crimmins said he was delighted to have the opportunity to acquire the enterprise because it allowed his firm to expand a part of its business that was already growing.

“Kurt created this and built it,” he said. “He had a well-established and well-respected business. I hope I can continue to do the good things that he did in the real estate world. He was phenomenal at what he did.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Snell Settlement Services real estate loan closer Dianne L. Peterson, at left, along with legal/closing secretary Sheila Stuhr, go over some paperwork. Snell Settlement is now located at 706 First Ave. N.

Anyone who has ever gotten a mortgage to purchase a home knows that the process is complicated. The role Snell Settlement Services can play in that process is to make sure that all the necessary transactions and associated paperwork are handled flawlessly.

“Most banks and mortgage companies now hire a settlement company to do their closings,” Crimmins said.

He said the amount of paperwork needed for a home sale has become so great that it is in everyone’s interest to have it handled by a team of professionals who are thoroughly familiar with all the requirements.

Crimmins illustrated how complicated and multifaceted the process can be by recounting all the things that must occur.

“When somebody purchases a house the first thing that they do is get the abstract updated – search for liens and make sure the title is good,” he said. “That comes to the law office to do a title opinion. The law office issues a title opinion as to whether or not the title is good and if there are any liens. If there are any liens or mortgages, Snell Settlement prepares all the documents, pays off the liens and mortgages out of the proceeds. Basically, what happens is the lending institution wires to our trust account the funds for the loan. We explain all the loan documents to the buyer. We’re responsible for getting all the paperwork signed, getting the mortgages signed and recorded, deeds recorded and paying of liens, and making sure the title is clear. We pay the pro-rated taxes, go pay off any judgments. We pay off any existing mortgages and get a mortgage release. We do everything we need to do to transfer a clear title to the buyer and secure the lien for the lending institution. We record the new mortgage and the deed at the courthouse so the title is transferred and the lien’s protected.”

Crimmins said that two of the experienced professionals who worked with Pittner are now part of his team. He said their presence is helping ensure a seamless transition to new ownership for Snell Settlement Services.

“One worked for Snell Settlement,” Crimmins said. “One was a secretary in Kurt’s law office.”

He said that his firm is retained by the mortgage company to handle a settlement.

“The mortgage company is the one who hires us to do the work,” Crimmins said. “But most times our costs are figured in as closing costs. So, it’s paid for by the buyer, but the mortgage company usually contacts us.”

According to Crimmins, one of the advantages for local residents of the existences here of Snell Settlement Services is that closings usually can occur in Fort Dodge.

“There are other settlement companies, but I believe a lot of them are out of Des Moines,” he said. “It is an advantage for out-of-state lenders in that they can just send everything here. We take care of everything and send it back to them.”

He stressed, however, that the paperwork Snell Settlement Services handles also needs to occur if a cash home sale is taking place.

“There are a lot of cash purchases that don’t go through banks and things like that,’ Crimmins said. “We do those as well. If anybody is buying or selling a house and needs help doing it, we can do that. You still have to examine the title. You still have to make sure all the liens are paid off. People who just have a handshake deal and don’t go through a Realtor don’t always understand all that needs to be done to have a clear title.”

The acquisition of Snell Settlement Services means the team at the Crimmins & Kehm Law Firm is handling more real estate work than was the case previously. Crimmins said he is pleased that this expansion has taken place.

“It’s office work but you also get to meet first-time homeowners,” he said. “That’s kind of fun because they are awfully excited because this is their first home. I enjoy it. I was really excited and happy when Kurt approached me about Snell because I thought that would fit in with what we were starting to do. Kurt must have had the same feeling.”

Office expansion

To accommodate the additional workforce and workload a physical expansion of the firm’s office took place. In addition to space on the first floor at 706 First Ave. North, it now also occupies massively renovated space on the basement level.

The building has long been a part of Fort Dodge’s history. In the early part of the 20th century, it was the home of Mulroney Manufacturing Co. Restoration work preserved many of the architectural features of the historic structure while creating contemporary office spaces that are open, light-filled and fully in sync with 21st-century tastes and work-flow requirements.

A huge, walk-in safe that was used by Mulroney Manufacturing has been preserved and has been incorporated into the decor. It still displays the long-gone company’s name.

The renovation of the downstairs space similarly preserved features that recall the history of the structure.

Meet the partners

Mark Crimmins graduated from St. Edmond High School in 1979. Then it was off to Creighton University where he studied both business and law, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1983 and a J.D. in 1985.

Upon his return to Fort Dodge, Crimmins worked as an assistant county attorney and at John Kirchner’s law office, where he focused on probate and real estate matters. Crimmins joined the firm that now bears his name in 1987. At that time it was named Bennett and Wilke. He became a partner in 1990 and the name changed to Bennett, Wilke & Crimmins. When Kurt Wilke became a district court judge in 1991, the name changed again to Bennett & Crimmins. The firm is now named the Crimmins & Kehm Law Firm.

Since joining the firm, Crimmins has been involved in all aspects of a general practice firm including, but not limited to, criminal law, all aspects of civil litigation for both plaintiffs and defendants, insurance defense work, personal injury, real estate, wills and estate planning, business disputes and contracts and all areas of trial practice.

In addition to his legal work, Crimmins devotes time to helping his hometown succeed. He is the longtime president of the board of directors of Iowa Central Community College, is a member of the St. Edmond Catholic School Board, is on the Webster County Board of Review and is an advisory board member of Northwest Bank. Crimmins is also the Fort Dodge city attorney.

Ryan Kehm is a native Fort Dodger. He graduated from St. Edmond in 2006. Kehm attended Creighton University where he studied both business and law. He graduated from Creighton University School of Law in 2012.

Kehm joined the Crimmins & Kehm Law Firm in the summer of 2016 after working for several years in Omaha, Nebraska. He is licensed to practice in Iowa and Nebraska.