Author: Monica Fawver

Judgments That Appear on the Commitment – and what to do about them

Our job as a title insurance provider is to insure the parties are passing clear title to the real estate. We perform an in-depth search of the real estate to prove that. We also perform a judgment search on both sellers and buyers. We check for court cases filed against each party and any liens that have been filed against the real estate. If we find any open matters that need to be resolved, we add requirements to the commitment. Once the required documents are provided to us, we can clear the lien from the real estate.

Child Support

If a divorce has been filed by one (or more) of the parties, there may be a court order for child support or spousal maintenance. The title insurance commitment will list a requirement for proof that the payments are current.

Tax Liens

In some cases, the real estate taxes may be delinquent. When this happens, the delinquent taxes must be paid off during closing. The seller can certainly pay the taxes before closing, but we are usually asked to pay them off out of the seller’s proceeds. We obtain a payoff statement from the county treasurer’s office and add the total payoff amount to the settlement statement. If the seller chooses to pay the back taxes early, we will update the commitment as soon as we receive proof of payment.

Mechanics Liens

Contractors who do certain types of repairs or improvements have a period of time to file a lien. For example, if a homeowner doesn’t pay a bill for their driveway being paved, the buyers could be stuck with paying it. The unpaid contractor has up to a few months to file a lien at the county. This is why we have each seller sign the Affidavit of Debts and Liens. By doing so, they are swearing that there are no other outstanding debts that could attach to the real estate.

Civil Matters

If there has been a civil case filed against one of the parties, we have one of our attorneys review the documents to be sure it will not attach to the real estate. We may require additional documents or a payoff in order to release the suit.

Here at Tallgrass Title we understand that each real estate transaction has unique twists. Feel free to call or email if you have any questions about your transactions. As always, we are here to help!

Title Insurance 101 – Refresher Course

Most of you have probably been in the real estate world long enough to know what title insurance is. However, we thought it would be helpful to provide a “refresher” course to help answer your client’s questions.

Let’s face it, most people closing on real estate don’t read through the details of all of their closing documents. However, there are people who look at the settlement statement and want to know what they are paying for. Also, suppose you have clients who are keeping a close eye on finances. If they want to save some money, they might ask if title insurance is necessary. Here are some pointers to help out your clients, or those professionals who are still new to the real estate world.

“Title Insurance protects property rights.”

This is the simplest definition of title insurance. A title insurance policy insures that the property owner actually has full title to the real estate. When a real estate legal description or address is brought to us, we start an extensive search. Our search follows the “chain of title”, the deeds that show how the real estate changed hands over the years. Any mortgages filed against that real estate must have been properly released. Not only do we look at the records for that tract of real estate, but we also look for judgments against the buyers and sellers. We look for any law suits or claims that could potentially attach to the real estate as liens.

Title Insurance brings peace of mind.

The title commitment is our promise to issue a title insurance policy once the requirements have been met. The title insurance policy is issued after closing, once the deed and mortgage have been filed, and the liens properly released. Once the new property owners receive their policy, they can be assured that they truly own their real estate. If a claim is made by someone challenging their ownership, they have the policy to back them up.

Here at Tallgrass Title we work hard to provide the information and assistance everyone needs for a smooth closing. Feel free to contact one of our agents today to help get your real estate questions answered.

What Happens to Your Mortgage When You Sell Your Property?

Many people have at least one mortgage on their real estate. When you intend to sell your real estate, that mortgage must be released so the buyer will receive clear title. You may wonder, how do I get my mortgage paid off for closing? Do I need to contact the mortgage company to get the payoff amount? Will I need to send the payoff money to the mortgage holder after closing?
We are here to tell you that paying off a mortgage at closing really does not have to be as complicated as it sounds. Our closing agents are used to handling this as part of a regular closing.

Mortgages

A mortgage is simply the document that secures repayment of money borrowed by placing a lien on real estate. The mortgage needs to be paid off and released from the real estate; otherwise, the mortgage will remain with the real estate sold. Nobody wants to buy a house with somebody else’s debt attached! The mortgage may either still belong to the original bank that issued the mortgage, or it may have been sold off to a different bank. It may be a surprise, but it usually isn’t more complicated if the mortgage has been sold. The payoff process stays the same.

What is the payoff process?

The process begins with the Seller completing an information release form for us. This form typically accompanies the deed and other documents for the Seller to sign weeks before closing. It only requires a small amount of information from the seller: current mortgage holder name, loan #, signature, and SSN. In most cases, this document may even be signed electronically and sent back to us. Electronic signatures are a big help, because the sooner we get the completed form, the sooner we can get the payoff quote for the settlement statements.
As soon as we receive the filled-out form, we contact the mortgage holder on the Seller’s behalf. The mortgage holder sends us a statement with the total payoff amount and their wire instructions. We add the payoff amount to the closing statements and send the payoff amount immediately after closing.

After the Closing

After the mortgage holder receives payment, the amount is applied to the underlying debt and a “release” is sent to the county for filing. To complete a seamless closing, our agents will typically add a couple extra days-worth of interest in order to make sure enough funds are sent to secure a release of the mortgage. If there are any excess funds, the lender will refund them to the Seller.
If the Seller has set up automatic payments, he or she should contact the mortgage company to cancel the payments following closing. Also, prior to the closing date, the Seller should be aware of when payments are due. If a payment is not made within the grace period, late charges may be applied.
Our closing agents are always happy to answer any questions you may have about the closing process. Give us a call today or visit our website www.tallgrasstitleks.com.

Tallgrass Title Going Paperless

With the continuous technology development going on right now, advisors in the title industry have been encouraging title companies to go paperless. Going paperless is not a new idea for us. We have been talking and planning for this for some time. We have already started uploading certain search and closing documents for new files. When someone sends or gives us a document, we scan it and publish it as soon as possible. However, we intend to officially go paperless in the next couple of weeks.

What This Means for You:

Our search documents will be uploaded to Paperless Closer. This is the program we use to securely store documents with a portal that you can access. Access the portal through our website using the “Client Login” button at the top of the page. We already upload the contract, receipts, closing statements, and invoices during the closing process, but you will be able to view even more information. You will be able to see the deeds, restrictive covenants, plats, etc. that we researched during the search process. This should make it easier, especially for realtors, to see which documents have already been given to us, as well as help you collect the documents you need to keep for your records.

A tip for cutting down on paper: we only need originals of notarized documents back in our office for closing. In the deed packet, a seller may sign all of the non-notarized documents electronically. Just be sure to send us a copy od the completed documents and we will add them to paperless closer. As a reminder, please do not send documents with personal information through email without making sure it is protected. Scammers and hackers are becoming more and more common, and none of us want to see our clients’ identities stolen!

If you (or an auditor) are going through your files and notice a missing document, look for it on paperless closer. For older files, if you don’t see it, just send us an email or quick call and we can publish it immediately. You won’t have long to wait since it is a very quick and easy process for us to pull something from our electronic archives.

Not familiar with Paperless Closer?

For those who are not as familiar with Paperless Closer, just let us know and we can get you some training. It only takes minutes to create a new account if you don’t have one. And, it is a simple, user-friendly program that won’t take up much of your time.

As always, please call or email if you have any questions or need any assistance with Paperless Closer. We are happy to answer any questions you may have!

How Do Flood Zones Affect My Real Estate?

If the property you own or plan to own is located near a waterway, creek, river bottom or other low-lying area, it may be in a flood zone. These zones are areas that may have a likelihood of flooding. Did you know that your homeowner’s insurance policy probably won’t cover flood damage? What can you do to protect your property? What will a Lender require if you purchase real estate in a flood zone? Flood zones are also not covered by title insurance.  Since there are several flood zones in Riley, Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee Counties, we at Tallgrass Title would like to provide some basic information about them.

  1. Who determines where a flood zone is located?

The agency who oversees flood zones is FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). This agency works with a floodplain administrator and community officials to produce maps showing where the risk areas are. Over time, flood zones may change, and new maps are drawn. According to FEMA, a flood zone is a “Special Flood Hazard Area” and is commonly referred to as a 100-year floodplain. This does not mean you can expect a flood once every 100 years. It means that a Special Flood Hazard Area has a one-percent chance of flooding each year.

  1. Is the real estate in a flood zone?

If you are purchasing real estate near a waterway or other low-lying area, it is a good idea to check whether the property is in a flood zone. Your realtor can usually assist with this question, but you can also check for yourself at the following link: https://msc.fema.gov/portal.

  1. If your real estate is in a flood zone, what will be required?

If you have a lender, they will require flood insurance if the house or structures are in a flood zone. This is a requirement that banks are forced to follow by bank regulations. It is wise to check the coverage of the policy to determine what is actually covered by the insurance. In most conventional residential loans, you will see a “flood zone determination” sheet. Usually, this simply notifies you that the lender checked to see if the real estate is in a flood zone. If the real estate is in a flood zone, there will be some additional paperwork.  If you have questions, speak with your lender or real estate agent.  The following link will answer a great deal of questions: https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program

  1. Can my real estate be removed from a flood zone?

In some cases, it is possible to have the structure on your real estate reassessed and removed from the flood zone. There are certain procedures to follow to make that happen. The document that grants the amendment is called a LOMA (Letter of Map Amendment). The application for this document can be downloaded from the FEMA website. Most of the time, a licensed surveyor or other engineer will be required to provide elevations and a site map. FEMA will review the elevation and other data to make the determination. However, this process can take several months to complete.  Also, there are no guarantees as to whether the LOMA will be granted.

As you can see, there are questions that often arise with flood zones in real estate transactions. Our closing agents are trained to understand these concerns and answer questions you may have.

Email Fraud – the Everyday Scam

Over the last couple of years, there has been a growing concern about email hackers, scammers, and phishers. Here at Tallgrass Title we receive fishy-looking emails on a regular basis. Our title agents go through regular training sessions to help detect these potentially dangerous messages. In order to help you protect your clients and yourselves from these pitfalls, we would like to share some things we have learned.

Here are some red flags that usually indicate an email is not legit:

  1. The message contains grammar and punctuation errors. A lot of emails coming from scammers sound like they come from someone living in a foreign country. If the language does not make sense to you, don’t follow their instructions.
  2. The sending email is usually misspelled, even it it’s just one letter missing or added to it. This is a big one and is easily missed since it is so small. Instead of order@tallgrasstitleks.com you may see order@tallgrastitleks.com. (See, it can be very difficult to detect…)
  3. If you hover over the sender’s email address, it may show a different address. The email may say “from: order@tallgrasstitleks.com”, but when you move your cursor over it, there is a different email address or a whole string of random letters and characters.
  4. Another thing that should be an immediate cause of concern is any phrase that conveys a sense of urgency. Phrases like “do this immediately” or “as soon as possible” are often used. Also, the message might ask you to do something sooner or in a different order than you expected.

Here are some actions you can take:

  1. Google the company name in the auto sig. Does the address under the signature match the information on the company website?
  2. If you ever get a feeling that an email just doesn’t sound right, call the sender. Remember that you might not want to use the phone number listed in the suspicious email. Try to use a number you already have saved from before. Most people will be reasonable about it as soon as they realize that you are trying to protect them.
  3. Never send a client’s contact information or other personal information by email without protecting it. For example, do not email a completed deed packet back to us with the 1099 form. If the 1099 form has been filled out, it will have your client’s Social Security Number, address, and phone. This is a good opportunity for a scammer to steal your client’s identity!
  4. Use our paperless closer program to send documents to us. Access it through the client login on our website, www.tallgrasstitleks.com. We are able to view the document as soon as you upload it.
  5. Educate your clients. Go ahead and mention to your clients that there is a concern about this. Let them know a couple of things to watch out for.

Here at Tallgrass Title we are very serious about protecting our client’s information. Something very important to remember is, we will never ever email wire instructions without password protection. If someone emails wire information to us, we will call the sender to confirm. Please be sure to contact us if you have questions or concerns about a message you have received. We are always happy to take a phone call to confirm any instructions or requests we have sent to you.

Understanding the Title Commitment – Part 2

Towards the end of the Title Insurance Commitment, you will find a list of “Exceptions from Coverage”. This list appears in Schedule B – Section II. The Standard Exceptions are general and appear on every commitment. However, many of the Additional Exceptions are specific to your tract of real estate. Here are some common types of documents that show as Additional Exceptions:

  1. Plat

A plat is a picture of a subdivision. It is basically a drawing that shows the shape of the lots, and where the roads are. Many also show utility lines and easements originally planned by the developers.

  1. Restrictive Covenants

Restrictive Covenants list any restrictions on lots located in a subdivision. The purpose of these is to ensure that the owner of each lot can enjoy his real estate without causing annoyance to his neighbors. Many of these documents also contain rules concerning the upkeep and appearance of the subdivision. For example, these may include specific guidelines on what materials or color(s) are used for your house. They may also contain rules about fences, additional structures, or vehicle parking. These documents may include information about setting up a Homeowner’s Association (or HOA).

  1. Oil & Gas Leases

In certain parts of Kansas there is active exploration and production of oil, natural gas, and other natural resources. In the past, there were many oil and gas leases given, but a good number of them did not result in any actual activity. Additionally, many of them were for a certain number of years and the terms have already expired. Most of the leases we see on property searches today can be dropped off from the policy by a simple affidavit signed during closing. For more information on oil and gas leases, click here to view a blog we posted earlier this year.

  1. Ordinances

An ordinance is a public declaration made by the city. These may have some effect on your real estate, depending on what type of ordinance it is. For example, the document may provide for the installation of water lines or sidewalks.

  1. Easements

Easements give other persons the right to use your real estate for a specific purpose. A very common easement is an “ingress/egress easement”. This allows someone to travel across your real estate usually to access real estate they own adjacent to yours. Another very common easement is a utility easement. These agreements allow electric, natural gas, or other specified companies to construct or maintain utility lines. Most easements contain language saying that the easement will “run with the land”. This means that when you sell your property, the new owners will have to honor the easement. As mentioned above, an easement is for a particular purpose. As the owner of the real estate, you do have the right to make sure that the person using the easement isn’t trespassing on or causing damage to another part of your real estate.

As you review your title insurance commitment, please remember that you can ask for copies of the documents that are listed. At Tallgrass Title we are happy to answer any questions to help make your transaction as smooth as possible.

Paperless Closer: Top 5 Power User Tips

Here at Tallgrass Title we work hard to make the closing process as hassle-free and convenient as possible from start to finish. One of the tools that we have been providing for years is Paperless Closer. Access this program via the “Client Login” link on our website and provides a secure portal for sharing documents. Not only do we post the commitment, contract, receipts, and closing documents to it, but realtors can use it to send documents to us.

Here are 5 tips to become a Paperless Closer Power User:

1. Use the “New Order” button on the main Lobby page to submit new orders. Fill out the basic order information, like the property owner’s name and the address. As soon as you hit the submit button, an alarm goes off on our end. You can also leave a note on the form to have our courier come pick up the earnest money from your office. As soon as the check arrives at our office we will post the receipt to paperless closer.

2. View tasks assigned to you. On your homepage, you can view any tasks we have assigned to you. The task may be a reminder to submit an invoice for an inspection, so we can pay it during closing. Usually, we use this to remind you of tasks that aren’t a standard part of every closing process. For example, if there is an additional document required like a rural water payment book, we may schedule an activity to remind you and us to make sure it gets done.

3. Use the Status dropdown tool to view closed files. We understand that realtors are audited periodically. If you forgot to get a copy of one of the documents you need, use this tool to complete your set.

4. View the name of the assigned closing agent and his/her contact info. Don’t know who to send invoices or questions to? Find the name of the closing agent and click on the E-mail link to send a direct message.

5. Use the “Closing Disclosure” button on the order page to view the document draft. Want to make sure a particular fee will appear on the Closing Disclosure? Use this button to view the current draft of the document.

Call us at (785) 456-2779 to create your account today! It takes less than 5 minutes to set up a new account and grant access to a file. Should you experience any difficulty at any time in locating your file or viewing documents, just send a quick email to order@tallgrasstitleks.com. We monitor this email address 9 hours a day and our goal is to respond to assistance requests within minutes! Most paperless closer troubleshooting issues are resolved very quickly and easily. Also, we understand that technology can be frustrating. If you would like further instruction on this program, contact our office to set up a training session at your office. It’s our job to make sure you are comfortable using this tool.

Is the Mobile Home Part of the Real Estate?

A traditional dwelling house built onto a foundation or basement is part of the real estate and will transfer over by deed. However, a manufactured, mobile, or modular home built somewhere else and moved on-site may not automatically be transferred.

So, what are the differences between Manufactured/Mobile Homes and Modular Homes?

A manufactured, or what used to be called a mobile home, has the following specifications:
1. A structure which is built to the HUD code
2. Transportable in sections
3. Dimensions of 8’W x 40’L and 320+ sq. ft. or greater
4. Built on permanent chassis
5. Designed to be a dwelling
6. Can be attached to a permanent foundation
7. Certified by its manufacturer, evidenced by labels on the home
8. Has a title and owner pays personal property taxes

A modular home has somewhat different features:
1. Built in sections in a factory
2. Pieced together at building site
3. Cannot be moved from its foundation
4. Becomes real estate once attached to the foundation

Why Should We Care?

If you are getting financing, the bank will need to know whether or not the home is attached, since it affects what type of mortgage they can offer you. If the home is part of the real estate, a mortgage will secure it. However, if the home is personal property, such as a trailer, the mortgage is on the real estate. There would be a perfected security interest on the trailer, in the same manner as on a vehicle.

How do you convert a Manufactured or Mobile Home to Real Property?

You complete an Affidavit to confirm that the home has been permanently attached. This form is also the formal application to eliminate the title. Send the filled-out form to our office along with the original title. All liens and taxes on the home must be paid in full. We will then send the documents to the appropriate offices for approval. The title is considered eliminated when the affidavit form has been recorded in the Register of Deed’s office in the county in which the manufactured or mobile home is affixed.

What if the title can’t be found?

If the owner does not have a title for the manufactured or mobile home, he or she will need to obtain the title before selling the home. An owner of a manufactured or mobile home with a model year of 1979 or older may execute certain documents to establish ownership. If the manufactured or mobile home is a model year 1980 or newer, a quiet title suit will be needed in order to obtain title.

Though the process might sound a bit complicated, it doesn’t have to stress you out. Tallgrass Title has experience with the issues surrounding these prefabricated homes. Give us a call today to get the assistance you need!

Understanding Closing Statements

A few days before your closing, you can expect to receive a document or two called a Settlement Statement and maybe even something called a Closing Disclosure. These documents can look a little intimidating, but we can give you some pointers to help you understand what is going on.

For cash transactions or transactions with in-house financing, you can expect to receive a simplified Buyer’s or Seller’s Statement. This simple statement is set up to be pretty easy to read. Here at Tallgrass Title, we give a separate sheet to the Buyer and a separate one to the Seller to protect your privacy. The fees are set out in a list as shown in the sample Seller’s Statement below:

As you can see, there are two columns showing the debits and credits with the subtotals at the bottom. The last line item is the actual proceeds amount that will be given to the Seller.

If you are purchasing a home and obtaining financing, you may get a loan that will be sold on the secondary market. If you are getting this type of financing, your Lender will give you a document called a Loan Estimate soon after you apply for the loan. Then, during the week before closing, you will receive two final settlement documents. One is called the Closing Disclosure and the other is called the ALTA Settlement Statement. The good news is that these documents will have very similar numbers; the bad news is there are a few more sheets to read through.

The Buyer’s Closing Disclosure is 5+ pages long. Here is a brief overview of what is on each page: 1. Basic details about the type of loan. 2. List of fees associated with the transaction. 3. Credits, subtotals and the grand total of funds you will need to bring to closing. 4 & 5. Further details about your loan and contact information for your Lender, Realtors, and your Title Company. The Seller’s Closing Disclosure is usually 2-3 pages long. Page 1 shows details of the transaction, subtotals and totals. Page 2 lists the fees the Seller has agreed to pay.

We prepare the ALTA Settlement Statements to go along with the Closing Disclosures. These documents are formatted differently from the simple Statements, but they still show a line-by-line breakdown of the closing fees.  Here is a sample of what part of one looks like:

As on the simple version, there is a separate line showing the amount “Due From Borrower”. This is the amount the Buyer will need to bring to closing.

The thing to remember is that you will want to review the documents as soon as possible after receiving them. Don’t wait until the closing to ask your Lender or us any questions that you may have. If you wait until closing to ask your questions it could possibly delay the closing. Please remember that we at Tallgrass Title are always happy to take the time to answer questions and explain information.