Author: Karissa Hubley

Closings with Karissa: Property Taxes

Closings with Karissa is back with a few helpful reminders on property taxes and second half payments.

It’s that time of year again.

Real estate taxes are due to the county treasurer. Do you pay them before closing? Will the Title Company pay them before closing? What if the seller’s lender pays them before closing and the Title Company collects for them too? These are some of many questions that might swirl around homeowners’ heads right before closing.

First & Second Half

Taxes are available for payment in November of the current year with due dates of December 20th of the current year and the following May 10th. Taxes can paid in full in December or paid half and half in December and May. They first half is considered delinquent on December 21st and will start accruing late fees and penalties on that date. The second half is considered late on May 11th and will start accruing late fees and penalties on that date. If your closing is taking place after one of those dates and you do not have taxes set up in escrow, it is advisable for payments to be made prior to closing to avoid extra charges.

Taxes & Your Closing

Taxes are considered a lien on real estate. They are always there (unless the landowner is tax exempt) and will be in first lien position to all other liens – including mortgages. This means that taxes will always be paid out first in the event of a court action and your closing agent will make sure that tax payments are up to date.  If current taxes are not yet paid, they will apply that payment to your settlement statement to be paid at closing, including any applicable fees.

If closing takes place in October or November, it is likely that the seller rather than the buyer will receive the annual tax statement.  This is because the county treasurer’s office may not have new owner information updated prior to mailing out November tax statements.  If this happens the taxes are still the responsibility of the party that agreed to pay the year’s taxes as part of the real estate contract.

Things to remember:

  • Taxes are due December 20th and May 10th
  • The Title Company will pay off taxes based on the terms of the contract
  • The Title Company will never keep funds collected for taxes already paid, they will always refund payments rejected by the treasurer for previous payment.

If you have more questions about taxes, please reach out to your closing agent and they will walk you through taxes and prorations. It is our job and our pleasure at Tallgrass Title!

Closings with Karissa: Contract Best Practices

The heart of any real estate transaction is the contract. It is the meat and potatoes.  Everything that the realtors, lenders and title company need to know to close a deal is in the contract and any amendments or addendums that follow.

Therefore, it is important to have everything that the parties desire within the transaction clearly outlined in the contract . This might include a seller credit or home warranty, Or if certain appliances are to stay or go with the seller. All these things must be included in the contract to set a standard of expectation. It also prevents incidences of: “Well that was my washer and dryer” and the seller running off with appliances the buyer is expecting. Or even worse: “That other lot was supposed to be included.” If it wasn’t on the contract, it won’t get conveyed.

 

Here are some helpful tips to make sure there are little to no issues when writing your real estate contract:

Identify the Real Estate

Know what you are selling. Even if all you have is an aerial from Google Maps with a hand drawn outline of what is intended to be sold and an address. Send that to your title company and ask for a preliminary report. In their search process, they will the correct legal description to include on your contract, preventing issues later with lots or tracts being omitted or included by mistake.

Identify the Parties

A preliminary report will include how the real estate is currently vested. So, if John and Jane Smith want to sell their house, the preliminary report will note that the property is actually owned by John A. Smith and Janice Smith (their legal names) or Jane Smith’s Trust.

The Buyer in the transaction will direct how they want to take title to the real estate on the contract.  The buyer might prefer to take title with first, middle and last names or just first and last.  Or they may request to take title via a trust or a company.  This should all be included on the initial contract or a follow up Addendum.

Set a Purchase Price and Terms

Agree on a purchase price. Once the purchase price is decided, set the terms. Who will pay closing costs to the title company, title insurance and any? Will there be a Home Warranty and who will pay that and how much? Is the Seller willing to offer a seller credit to help with the buyers closing costs? What stays and what doesn’t stay with the property? Never assume that appliances stay, even if it seems logical.

Pick a date to close

Closing dates can be very flexible and easily changed with addendums so long as all parties agree to it. Often contracts will state “on or before” and that just means that at any time before the stated close date in the contract the transaction can be closed if all parties agree. In the current market, unless it is a cash deal, give yourself, your client, and lender time and set closing out 30 to 45 days. Best practice is to avoid closing on the very first or last day of the month as these are the busiest days for closings, and it may be difficult to get the time you want unless you schedule early.

Ask questions

If something doesn’t seem right to you, ask questions! For Buyers purchasing or sellers selling a home this is a huge change and can be very tense. We understand the stress of each transaction and are here to help and answer any questions. Even if they seem trivial, we are happy to assist and walk you through the process, it’s our job!

 

 

 

Early Deed Packets = Smooth Closings!

We have a saying in our office: “early deed packets means smooth closings!” But why would a few signed documents mean closing would run smoother? The more information we receive ahead of closing allows our closing team to gather any additional information we may need well in advance.  An early and complete deed packet allows us to balance with your client’s lender and get final numbers out for buyers in cash transactions. That way, when the day of closing comes around finalizing the transaction is a smooth process, leaving more time for celebration and little to no concern about whether things will fall into place.

Deed Packets contain several documents that consolidate much of the information we will need prior to closing.  This includes a form that allows us to contact the Seller’s current mortgage holder to obtain a payoff. This is especially important right now with many mortgage companies experiencing staffing shortages with extended processing times.  Oftentimes, it can take up to 20 days to get payoffs returned to us.

Early deed packets also allow us to deliver early settlement statements to you and your clients.  This gives plenty time for review and provides a clear picture of what the closing day will look like on the financial end of the transaction.

Additionally, some expenses will not be clear to us until we have the deed packet returned, including information about Homeowners Associations.  Having information about a property’s HOA membership in advance allows us to ensure that prorations are applied appropriately at closing.

This early document package also contains important information about email fraud and wire fraud. We want to help protect your client’s money just as much as you do.  This information is available to all of our clients in order to inform them of the dangers of spam emails and the possibility of fraudsters intercepting wires. Likewise, we include information about how we protect our clients from theft with CertifID.  We use CertifID to send or verify wiring instructions prior to the day of closing.

We understand sometimes coordinating a deed packet signing can be an issue as schedules vary.  Your clients are more than welcome to come to either of our offices Monday through Friday during business hours and we would be happy to walk through the deed packet with them. Alternatively, we offer free courier service and would be happy to meet your clients at a convenient location in Manhattan, Wamego, Alma, and Westmoreland.

Should you have any questions about the contents of a deed packet, feel free to contact one of our real estate professionals to assist you through the process.  It’s our pleasure to assist you!

What Day of the Week is the Best Day to Schedule Your Closing?

In today’s market with interest rates so low everyone is looking to buy. Why is it important to pick the right closing day? What are the best and worst days to close? For most clients, the bottom line is “When will my proceeds check be ready?” or “When may I move into my new house?”

Any day is the best day to close!  You are purchasing a home and are anxious to move in or are ready to close on the sale of your home and eager to use the proceeds for another transaction.  However, based upon the hectic housing market and record transactions taking place, certain days may just not be as convenient for all parties as others.

We will start with the best days to sign. From a title and lender standpoint the best days are Tuesday through Thursday with the exception of the 1st, 15th, or last day of the month. No one really wants to leave work early, come in late or take a day off in the middle of the week to go sign a bunch of papers, right? But those are the least busy days for a title office or lender which for the client means more flexibility on scheduling the appointment, more time available to go over specific questions about the transaction, and a more relaxed atmosphere.

So why are certain days less ideal than others? The short answer is that Fridays just seem to be a popular day for closings. We are also seeing an increased volume of closings on Mondays as well as the 1st, 15th, and last day of the month. While closing can still take place those days, scheduling will not be as flexible, and the appointment may be restricted to a certain time frame due to the high volume of other transactions.

Another consideration to make is that picking a Friday to close could actually result in further delaying your transaction if something doesn’t go as planned or a funding number is not received by the close of business. If a Friday closing has to be delayed for whatever reason, the earliest it can occur would be the following Monday or even Tuesday if the issue that caused the delay cannot be corrected in enough time for a Monday closing. If Friday is your only option for closing, consider closing in the morning to ensure funding can take place before the end of the business day.

So when will the checks be ready? Most lenders have requirements to be met before authorizing the title company to fund each transaction. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Rest assured that as soon as funding is authorized, we will issue checks and notify all parties.

For updates on your transaction, we offer Ready2Close. This portal allows clients to track the progress of their closing with a milestone tracker. Clients can also securely transmit and receive documents, e-sign certain documents, and access contact information for those involved with their transaction.

Happy Closing Day!

Defining Deed Packets

Getting Deed Packets signed early is an essential part of the closing process. It helps your Closer calculate certain fees, pull payoffs if there are any, and makes it possible to verify information for post-closing tasks well in advance

There are quite a few documents in every deed packet and it might be difficult to remember what they all mean if your client asks, so today I will walk through our Deed Packets and what each document is used for.  As always, our team remains available to answer questions that you or your client might have about completing these documents. So don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Fraud Warning Fact Sheet

We use this form to make our clients aware of wire fraud and our partnership with CertifID to ensure that all wire instructions are verified and insured when the funds leave our office via wire transfer. Each statement will need to be read and initialed and then signed at the bottom.

Authorization for Release of Information (Payoff Requests)

This form allows us to request payoffs for existing mortgages in order to clear them at closing. The more information provided, the easier it is for the closing agent to obtain the payoff. Along with the signature line is a place to include the Sellers SSN and the date they signed the release.

1099 Tax Information Sheet

The top portion of this form will need to be filled out completely with the Seller’s Address, Phone number, and SSN or EIN. This will help us send out accurate 1099s the following January.

Proceeds Instruction Sheet

These are instructions for us to disburse the proceeds and how to get them to the Seller in the transaction. Once a selection has been made from the list we will need the form signed and returned with the rest of the packet. These instructions can always be changed by signing a new form with new instructions.

Authorization to Pay Commission

If there is a realtor, this one allows us to get the realtor paid at closing in the accurate commission amount as designated by the Agreement. It will need to be filled out whether there is a commission percentage or flat fee. If there is a Seller Realtor Admin fee, there is a place to include that as well and then it will be signed by both Seller and Listing Agent.

Homeowners Information Sheet

Not all packets will include this form. If the real estate is not located in a subdivision or we know that there are no HOAs in a certain subdivision, we will not include this. If it is in the packet, we will need to know if there are HOAs. If there are not, the “No” box will be checked and you can move to the next form. If there are HOAs then the “Yes” box will be checked; please complete as much of the HOA contact information as possible.

Authorization for Release of Information to Designated Realtor

This form will not change how we treat the transaction. Sellers have the option to direct us not to share their private information with the Buyers Realtor. If the top box is checked, directing us not to share information with anyone other than their realtor or lender, then we cannot and will not share a settlement statement with anyone, even those involved in the transaction, other than their realtor and lender.

NOTE: To prove commissions have been applied appropriately we can send a heavily redacted version of the ALTA settlement statement that only shows commission amounts and the Sellers signatures.

Covid-19 Notice of Possible Delays

This one is a notice that lets everyone know that there could be delays related to Covid-19 with getting documents recorded, back from recording and getting final policies issued.

Notary Instruction, Identification Verification and Notary Information and Certification

When documents are notarized, our office needs proof that the notary checked the identification of the signor and that the notary is in good standing with the state in which they are bonded in. It will also help in the event that we need to contact the notary if we have any questions regarding the notary’s information.

Affidavit as to Debts, Liens and Indemnity

This affidavit is a statement made by the seller that there are no liens or potential liens, or that no one holds an interest in the real estate that we would need to clear up prior to closing. This will need to be signed in front of a notary.

Limited Power of Attorney

We include a Limited Power of Attorney in all of our packets for Sellers to utilize. If signed it allows the realtor to sign settlement statements and any Buyer loan docs on behalf of the Seller. It is not required and is solely at the option of the Seller to sign.

Deed

The Deed varies as much as the transaction itself as to what kind of Deed is used to transfer the real estate. This will need to be signed by everyone who holds an interest in the real estate to complete a free and clear transfer. We hold the deed in our office until the transaction is closed and funds have been disbursed. At that time we record the deed with the county register of deeds to complete the transfer. The original will be sent to the buyer with the final loan policy.

In addition to the above, other documents may appear in a deed packet on a case by case basis.

Affidavit of Non-Production – Used to clear existing expired oil and gas liens.

Affidavit of Child Support or Spousal Maintenance – Used to clear divorce/child support cases.

Certificate of Trust – Used to prove the trustee signing has authority to sign.

Corporate Resolution – Used to prove the signor of a company has authority to sign on behalf of the company.

Affidavit of Death – Takes the place of a death certificate to clear title.

The earlier in the process we can get these documents signed and back to our office, the smoother we can make the whole closing process. Everyone in our office is a notary and we are more than happy to meet with clients to get Deed Packets signed.

We do offer a free courier service and can send someone to you to get everything signed if you just can’t get away. Just call our office and set an appointment for a time that works best for you.

Real Estate Property Taxes are Due Soon – Don’t Forget!

It’s property tax season! In Kansas, property taxes are due in arrears and paid twice a year. Taxes for the first half of the year are due December 20th of the current year; the second half of the year is due on May 10th of the following year. This means that unpaid taxes for the current year are considered delinquent as early as December 21st.

In order to avoid delinquency, we recommend paying before December 20th, otherwise you could encounter long lines or delays in processing your payment.  With varying restrictions due to Covid-19, be sure to contact your county treasurer in advance to see if an appointment is required to pay your bill or be sure to mail in your payment early enough to ensure it is postmarked prior to the due date.

Selling your real estate?

If your real estate is currently under contract, you may have very specific questions. Like, what if I am selling my real estate and the closing date is near the tax due date? How does our title company handle taxes? Do we pay them ourselves? Do we pay them at closing?

First, take a deep breathe. Then call your closing agent and ask them how they would prefer to handle the taxes.

If the closing date is prior to the due date your closing agent may prefer that you wait and pay the taxes through closing. If they are due after closing, they may encourage payment prior to closing to prevent late fees and penalties. Either way, if a payment is made your closing agent will need proof of payment in order to remove the payment from the settlement statement. Otherwise funds will be held in escrow and paid to the county by December 20th or refunded to the Seller upon proof of payment prior to December 20th.

How do I get proof of payment?

When paying taxes in the county office, the treasurer will provide you with a receipt for your payment. Hand deliver or email a copy to your closing agent and they will take care of the rest. If you mail in your payment, your closing agent can call the county and request the receipt.

If taxes are paid at closing, do I have to take the check to the county treasurer myself?

Nope, the title company will send a courier to the county and take care of getting them paid, you will not need to worry about the taxes getting paid we will take care of everything.

If you are unsure of next steps please feel free to reach out to our office. We can walk you through the process to make your closing as smooth and stress free as possible.

Electronic Signatures – are they secure?

In our current moment of social distancing and increased dependence on technology, many will question what is better:  wet ink signatures or electronic signatures. Some may debate that putting a pen to paper and scrawling their signature is a fool proof and tamper proof way to sign a legal document. You may be surprised to hear that electronic signatures through a program designed for just that, signing electronically, are more secure and oftentimes a better way to put your official seal on a document.

How can that be?

You receive an email asking for a signature on a document. You click accept, click to sign, select your signature, then complete the process. How in the world could that be more secure than a wet ink signature?

The programs designed for electronic signings are designed to pull multiple factors of authentication to prove that you are in fact the signer of the document. The records are retained and track the history of actions taken with the document, for example, who opened, viewed, signed and the location each action took place. When the document is completed a certificate of completion is attached to the document showing that all have signed with a time stamp, IP address and any other pertinent information to identify the signer. A digital seal is also attached to that document.

Signing in person is secure as well, however there are not multiple factors of authentication to prove that the signer did sign the document. There is no electronic witness proving the identity, location, or other identifiers provided by e-signing programs, that the signature was put on the paper by the authentic signer.

Both are secure, accepted ways of signing documents in the real estate world. For those who are less electronically inclined, wet ink signatures may be the way to go. For the more tech savvy folks among us, you may prefer clicking a button or using your smart phone to sign documents on the go. Whether you prepare in-person or electronic signings, we are here to help you through the process with helpful tools and friendly staff available to answer questions.

What’s the Timeline for Closing Your Deal?

Here at Tallgrass Title, once we receive the signed contract in our office, the clock starts ticking on our countdown to get everything out in a timely manner.  Our goal is to be efficient, friendly, and fast in all aspects of what we do, but, sometimes the fast part does not always happen as fast as we would like. We get asked often what the time frame is to close a transaction.  In most instances, we are able to say that we can have it done within 30 days. There are situations where that is not possible and there are situations we can close in as little as a few days. The following is a rough timeline of the steps we take to get transactions closed in order to give you an idea of the potential timeline for your unique closing.

Commitment

Within 24 – 48 hours of receiving a signed contract we try to have to commitment issued to all parties. This can take longer depending on whether additional research is needed to clear the title. Generally, this means tracking down additional documents to trace the chain of title or add exceptions.

Preliminary Documents

Once the commitment is sent out, the file is assigned a Closing Agent. Your Closing Agent will put together two preliminary packets: a Deed Packet and Buyer Documents. These packets will then be sent to the clients’ respective realtors or directly to the clients (if unrepresented) to get reviewed and signed prior to closing. Getting the preliminary packets signed and returned well in advance can help make the process smoother as we sometimes experience delays in the process of getting payoff instructions from lien holders.

Invoices and Payoffs

Once both of the preliminary packets have been sent out, the Closing Agent begins working on the preliminary settlement statements. With a cash transaction this can mean closing as soon as the deed packet and buyer docs have been returned, we receive any invoices and payoffs we need to obtain, and the buyer and seller are both ready to close. For a transaction that is being financed the process is a little longer. The lender has to disclose fees three days prior to closing, we need have underwriter approval or a “clear to close” status, and the bank has to have the property appraisal back.

Closing

Once we have everything in our office we need and the lender, if there is one, has received approval to close as well –what’s next? We will set up a time for closing either at the bank or in our office.

Cash Sale Closing

Buyers and Sellers may sign all their final documents electronically and certified funds can either be wired or dropped off at one of our offices.  After disbursement and recording the deed, the transaction is complete!

Financed Closing

When there is a mortgage involved, we ask you block off about an hour for closing as there are several documents to work through and sign. Once signing is complete, we will send the loan packet to the lender for funding authorization. Once we have authorization and all funds, we will disburse, record the deed and mortgage, and the transaction is complete.

We strive to make the closing process as smooth and easy (and quick) as we can.  Hopefully this gives you better picture of the timing of your unique transactions. We are here to facilitate everything and take the pressure off you and your clients. Please feel free to give us a call with any questions you have.

Different Types of Deeds and Interest

Quite frequently we are asked what deed is appropriate to transfer real estate in particular situations. The truth is there is not one deed for all transactions. There are different scenarios that require different verbiage to complete the transfer of real estate. Below is a brief explanation of what the different deed and interest types are and when they would be used in a real estate transaction.

Deeds

General Warranty Deed – A General Warranty Deed transfers real estate from one party to another.  Most importantly, the grantor is “warranting” that they own the real estate and guaranteeing that the grantee is receiving title to the real estate. It is the most commonly used deed and affords a grantee the grantor’s warranty of ownership..

Trustee’s Deed – A Trustee of a Trust in accordance with the Trust Agreement would sign a Trustee’s Deed to transfer real estate.  Again, most often Trustee’s deeds will appear as a warranty deed.

Administrator’s Deed – If the title holder passes away intestate (without a will) and the real estate is part of a court action, the Administrator may sign an Administrator’s Deed with permission from the court to transfer real estate.

Executor’s Deed – If the title holder passes away testate (with a will) and the real estate is part of a court action, the Executor may sign an Executor’s Deed to act in accordance with the Will of the decedent to transfer real estate.

Sheriff’s Deed – If the real estate being transferred was sold at a sheriff’s sale as part of a foreclosure or other civil procedure, a Sheriff will give a purchaser a Sheriff’s deed.  Such a deed will contain the specifics of how the sheriff gained the authority to make such a deed. 

Quitclaim Deed – A Quitclaim Deed is used when a party may have an interest that needs to be transferred to another party. The Grantor of the Quitclaim Deed is not Warranting that they have an interest, instead they are relinquishing any interest they may have.

Interest

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship – When two parties own real estate together, if one were to pass away all their interest would transfer to the other party by filing a Death Certificate, Affidavit of Death, or filing the Will with the court.  Real Estate held between spouses is generally held as Joint Tenacy with Right of Survivorship.

Tenants in Common – When two parties own real estate together, if one were to pass away their interest would transfer to their heirs at law or by a will or other estate planning device.  This type of interest is common when two or more parties who are not married to each other own real estate together.

Life Estate – This is when a party retains an interest in the real estate for the duration of their life. They have the all the rights of use they would if they held title but only for the duration of their life. The real estate may be transferred to another party by the party holding the life estate but the tenancy terminates upon death of the original life estate holder.

Our team is knowledgeable and passionate about title insurance related inquiries. If you still have questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to give us a call. We are here to help.

FAQ: Kansas State Property Taxes

With tax deadlines right around the corner we get asked a lot of questions about property taxes before, during and even after closing. Part of our job during the closing process is to make sure you and your clients understand what is on the settlement statement before signing. The following are the most frequently asked questions we hear regarding real estate taxes:

Q – When are real estate taxes in Kansas due?

A – Taxes are paid in December and May.

Example: Annual taxes are due in December of every year but the second half of the payment may be deferred until May of the following year.  Therefore, most real estate taxes are paid in two installments in December and May.  For example, the first half of 2019 taxes were due on December 20, 2019 and the second half will be due on May 10, 2020. 

Q – When will I receive my tax statement?

A – Tax statements are sent out by your county treasurer’s office on or after November 1st but no later than December 15th each year. You can also look them up online at the county treasurer’s website..

Q – I paid this year’s taxes, why is it showing up on my settlement statement that I have to pay it again?

A – Taxes for the year 2019 are due in December of 2019 and May of 2020. We make sure that all of 2019 taxes are paid at the time of closing and if they are not, we put the payment on the settlement statement to pay them current.  The other real estate tax payment appearing on a settlement statement  is a tax proration. If a closing happened in April of 2020 and all of 2019 taxes are paid in full the sellers will give the buyers a credit for the time the Sellers owned the real estate from January 1st to the date of closing. Then, when 2020 taxes are assessed and become due in December 2020, the Buyer is responsible for paying the 2020 taxes in full.

Q – I closed in October, why did I receive a tax statement, shouldn’t this go to the new owners?

A – Yes, however when closing happens so close to issuing statements, the county offices do not always have time to get addresses and ownership updated in their system before statements are issued and sent out. If you paid your taxes through closing you will not have to pay them again.

If you have other questions regarding property taxes we are here to help answer them. Our team at Tallgrass Title is very knowledgeable and eager to assist.