Tag: buying

Probate Information for the Real Estate Agent

A common cause for the sale of real estate is when an individual passes away. As a listing agent preparing to list and market the real estate, it is important to answer a few questions regarding the status of the real estate.  You do not want to sign a contract with a buyer, only to find out that the seller does not have the ability to sell the real estate.  Similarly, when representing buyers, it is important to determine whether the seller has the ability to sell the real estate or if there will be a delay in transferring title.  The purpose of this post is in no way meant to be a guide for decedent’s estates.  Instead, the purpose is to identify a few of the common pitfalls and items that routinely delay closings.

When a person passes away owning real estate in Kansas, that real estate will pass to the people identified by the decedent (a person that has died) in some written document. If no such document exists, the real estate will pass to the “heirs” of the decedent as directed by Kansas law.  The three methods of passing real estate by written document are:

  1. Transfer on Death Deed or Joint Tenancy Deed
  2. Trust
  3. Will

A Transfer on death deed or joint tenancy deed will automatically transfer the ownership of real estate to the person or persons identified in the deed. The filing of a death certificate at the register of deeds is all that is required to finalize the transfer.  As a real estate agent, take a look at the deed or ask your title company to take a look to verify that the seller has the authority to transfer title.

The second method is through a trust. Typically, but not always, the trustee of the trust will have the authority to sell and transfer real estate.  However, there are innumerable varieties of trusts with varying powers being granted the trustee.  Therefore, it is wise to verify that the trust document grants authority to sell real estate to the trustee.  Additionally, it is important to make sure that there are not special requirements in the trust document that must take place before a sale is allowed.  For example “I grant the trustee the right to sell real estate….so long as my son does not want to purchase the real estate at the appraised value.”  This example illustrates a potential issue that could delay a sale.

Lastly, if the decedent had a will or passed away without a will, a probate proceeding will be needed prior to a sale. Simply put, probate is the court process of transferring assets of a decedent to those entitled to the assets.  The most important thing to remember with a probate proceeding is that it is not a quick process.  It usually takes at least sixty days from the first court document filed until authority is granted by a judge for the sale of real estate. Based upon the buyer, this may be an unacceptable amount of time to wait.  If you are unsure of where the probate process is, simply contact the attorney representing the estate and ask.

Decedents estates can be overwhelming and often times complicated. At Tallgrass Title, our attorneys have years of experience transferring real estate following death.  We are happy to answer questions pertaining to your transaction.  It’s our job!

Real Estate Taxes – 1st Half Due

In the state of Kansas, real estate taxes are paid in arrears. This means that the taxes for 2018 are not payable until the end of 2018. The county issues the tax statements in the beginning of November each year. The 1st half is due on December 20th and the 2nd half the following May.

How does this affect real estate sales?

As soon as the new tax statement is available at the county treasurer’s office in November, we obtain a copy of it. For all closings that happen between early November through the end of May, our closing agents ensure that the taxes are paid in full during closing. The only exception to this rule is when the Lender will pay the taxes directly out of the escrow account. For example, if a closing happens in February, the seller will pay the 2nd half taxes during closing, even though technically they are not due until May.

Why we do it this way:

In most counties, the new owners will not receive a 2nd half tax statement. So, it would be very easy to forget to pay the 2nd half in May. The treasurer’s office would think that the previous owners are responsible and send notices to them. However, the previous owners have already given a credit to the new owners to pay the bill (through the tax proration), so they actually aren’t responsible. As you can see, this can cause a lot of unnecessary stress on all the parties.

Things to tell buyers to reduce the stress:

  1. If there is an escrow account with the Lender, the taxes usually will be paid from it.
  2. The tax proration is a credit to the buyer for taxes that will come due in the future.
  3. We cannot be sure exactly how much the new taxes will be until the county tells us in November. But they usually are close to the amount due last year unless there was a building project.
  4. Realtors or buyers can always call our closing agents to ask questions. It doesn’t matter how many months ago the closing happened. We are happy to help you find the answers!

Flint Hills Area Builders Fall Parade of Homes

At Tallgrass Title, we believe in the strength and growth of our area. Several major additions, both private and public, have been added to the job market regionally.  Additionally, the quality of life in the Flint Hills region continues to improve.  This, in turn, has made the Flint Hills region a wonderful place to live and raise a family.  These factors have caused rapid growth in the region.  A major contributor in assisting with that growth is the Flint Hills Area Builders Association (FABA).  Tallgrass Title is a proud member and supporter of FABA.  We feel that FABA best represents the builder and associated supporting businesses and their needs in the region.

This weekend is the Flint Hills Area Builders Fall Parade of Homes. Tallgrass Title is a proud Grand Marshall sponsor of the Parade of Homes and has been so for several years.  We feel that this is a wonderful opportunity for potential buyers to see the quality homes built by FABA members.  It is also a chance for consumers to view the latest designs and products used in the area.  We encourage any interested folks to take advantage of the tour this weekend and join the parade!  The tour is free and guide books are located at each of the Grand Marshall sponsors, online or at each of the homes on the tour.  We hope to see you on the parade!

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.

How to Securely Share Documents to Paperless Closer

With email fraud at an all-time high, it is highly important that any information shared with your title company be transferred securely.  In addition to password protecting emailed documents, the Paperless Closer technology utilized by Tallgrass Title allows for you to securely upload documents to our system.  The process is simple, secure and live in our system as soon as the document is uploaded.  Utilizing this platform is an easy alternative to emailing documents that may possibly contain Non-public Personal Information.  We will have immediate access as soon as you complete the process below.

When you upload a document to Paperless Closer, the system automatically restricts access to it.  No one other than the admin for that Paperless Closer (the title company) can change the restrictions and allow others to access the documents.

If you have never uploaded a document to Paperless Closer before, here is how you do it.

STEP 1: Click on the Add Document Button at the bottom

STEP 2: Click on Choose File to browse and locate the document you would like to upload.

STEP 3: Make sure you name your document in the Description Box. Then hit the Save button.

STEP 4: Once you have saved the Document will appear in the Document Tab List along with any other Documents you have permission to view.

Documents will also be available to us on our system right away.

Paperless Closer requires that the user has a login ID and password.  If you do not have an account, call or email and we will set up login information for you.  Once you have access, you will need specific permission for each file you would like to view.  Finally, uploaded documents are restricted until permission for access to any document is granted.  Every layer is one more way that the client (Buyer, Seller, Realtor, Lender) is protected.

Paperless Closer functions in real time.  This means that as soon as a document is uploaded, anyone with permission can access it.

Additionally, the document can be uploaded securely to this portal from anywhere in the world.  This means that you can upload a contract without delivering to our office.  More and more, folks are uploading their new contracts and requesting our free courier to pick up an earnest money check.  In this scenario, you never have to leave your office or home!

At Tallgrass Title we take our clients’ security seriously.  If you have any questions or need some help with your Paperless Closer, we are only a phone call away!

A Beginner’s Introduction to Real Estate Auctions

Oftentimes, real estate will be offered for sale by using the auction process. An auction is the process by which the public has an opportunity to offer (“bid”) money for property and the property is then sold to the highest bidder. However, the auction process can be confusing to understand or a bit intimidating. This post is by no means an exhaustive explanation or definitive guide to real estate auctions. Instead, I hope to provide some basic information and point out some potential sticking points that could cause issues in the auction process.

In this area of the state, auctions are most often used to sell agricultural real estate, estate property, distressed property, investment real estate or the liquidation of assets belonging to a business or individual for one reason or another.

The basic premise for an auction is the same: An auctioneer will begin by stating the rules for the auction. He or she will also indicate the terms that a successful bidder will be agreeing to in a contract to be signed following the end of the auction. Typically, the auctioneer will indicate whether the auction is an “absolute” auction or whether there is a “reserve.” However, the auctioneer will rarely indicate what the reserve amount is. If no statement is made about whether the auction is with or without reserve, consider there to be a reserve. Lastly, most auctions are tape recorded or video recorded in order to verify what was said and who bid the highest amount.

Following the statement of rules and terms, the auctioneer will call for bids. This is the portion of the auction that you are probably familiar with from television or the internet. The auctioneer is not in fact offering the real estate for a set amount but instead inviting people to offer a bid. The auctioneer is usually stating something along the lines of “I have been offered $1.00, who will offer me $2.00?” The rest of the words are typically just filler words that do not mean anything. Some auctioneers will chant the call quicker and others slower. Additionally, the filler words will change between various auctioneers. However, the most important part of the calling of the bids is understanding how much the current bid is. If you get confused, just ask the auctioneer, he will tell you.

At the close of the bids, the auctioneer will usually count down “going once, going twice, sold” or some other statement that the bid will close soon. Following the close of bids, a written contract will be signed by the seller and buyer with the actual closing happening sometime in the future.

A couple of quick pointers to remember:

  1. Make sure you have money to support your bid or have your financing approved prior to the auction. Auctions are not contingent on financing. By signing the contract, you are promising to pay the amount bid.
  2. Auctions typically require you to make all inspections prior to the date of the auction. The real estate is almost always sold “As-Is.” This means that you are buying the property in its present condition.

Auctions can be intimidating for the untrained buyer or seller. Therefore, if you are concerned, employ a real estate agent or attorney that understands the process to assist you. Also, attend an auction and plan on not bidding. They are generally open to the public and can be interesting to observe. Lastly, here at Tallgrass Title, we routinely assist sellers and buyers on both sides of auctions. We are here to answer questions or direct you to somebody that can assist you. It’s our job!

Selling or Purchasing Property with a Trust

When buying or selling real estate involving a trust, many questions can arise. Who signs the documents on behalf of a trust?  What is needed to prove that a particular seller has the authority to sell property?  Are there additional documents that require filing with the County Register of Deeds in order to transfer real estate to and from a trust?  The purpose of this post is to help people involved in a real estate transaction to become more comfortable with these issues.

A trust is simply a contract between the creator of the trust and a person that promises to carry out the wishes of the creator.  The creator of the trust and the trusted person, “trustee”, are often the same person.  I know, it’s weird, but that is the basic arrangement.  So, basically, in a real estate transaction involving a trust, land is deeded to the trustee to hold at the direction of the written contract or “trust agreement.”  Oftentimes, people will state that property is “in a trust” or “held by a trust.”

When deeding property to a trustee, it is important for the buyer to understand how to properly title the deed.  Most often, it will read something like “John Smith, Trustee of the John Smith Revocable Living Trust date 1-1-2018.”  If you are buying real estate to be titled in the name of a trustee, you will need to provide this information to the title company.   If you are uncertain, please contact your attorney that prepared your trust document or provide a copy to the title company.  Often, the document will indicate how real estate is to be titled.

When selling real estate owned by a trust, the trust agreement must specifically give the authority of the trustee to sell or “alienate” real estate.  The title company handling the transaction will require to see this portion of the trust document or have the trustee complete a “certificate of trust” document that states that the trust grants them the authority to sell property.

Lastly, if the original trustee has passed away or resigned as trustee, the role of the trustee passes to a “successor trustee.”  Again, in order to prove that a successor trustee has authority to act on behalf of a trust, the trust agreement or some documentation of the transfer of authority will be required.

As real estate transactions involving trusts may require additional information, it is important to timely provide documentation as required by your title company.  Additionally, here at Tallgrass Title, our closing agents and title examiners are knowledgeable in how to handle transactions involving trusts.  If you have questions, feel free to contact our office.

Construction Loans – Mainly for Lenders

As a Lender, do you have clients who want to build a new house on their lot? Here at Tallgrass Title, we offer a construction hold-open, also known as a construction commitment or policy. We get questions about this product quite often, so we thought we could help clear up some of the confusion surrounding this topic.

How it works:
You, as the lender, contact us, the title company, to request the title work. An email sent to order@tallgrasstitleks.com is sufficient, or you can fill in the online order form on our website. We complete the title search and send the commitment to you. The commitment will contain a specific set of construction language and the date of the first search. Here is an example of what that commitment language might look like:

The title search must be updated every 120 days. This is because title insurance commitments have expiration dates. Here at Tallgrass Title, we keep an eye on the expiration dates and remind you when it is time to request an update. You can just send us a quick email to “officially” request the update. We keep the message in our file for our underwriters to see. Our initial construction loan fee covers the cost of the initial search, plus two update searches.

When construction is complete, the loan can be closed. At that time, the lender can determine if the initial mortgage will stay in place or if a new mortgage will be filed. The cost of the final policy is charged at the final loan closing as soon as the title company has been notified of the final mortgage amount. The lender’s policy is generated and sent to the lender after the final loan closing has happened.

FAQ’s:

• The property owners want to remodel, will a construction loan work?
– At this time, the title construction commitment is only for new construction, not for a remodel of an existing structure. If the house is already standing, the construction commitment is not something we can offer you. It has to be a new structure, or a brand-new wing added on to an existing structure. You may need to consider a 2nd mortgage, HELOC or some other financing product.

• The construction is going over-budget. How does that affect the construction commitment?
– We are very flexible when it comes to the projected loan amount. If the amount needs to be increased, we can certainly do that once you send us the request.

• Our clients haven’t yet purchased the lot they want to build on. Do they have to purchase the lot, then get a construction loan?
– We can work with lenders on the lot purchase and construction hold-open as parts of the same transaction. We can issue the owner’s policy soon after the initial sale closing and issue the lender’s policy later, once the construction is complete.

• The sale transaction closed, when will we get the lender’s policy?
– As mentioned above, we cannot issue the lender’s policy until the final mortgage has closed and has been filed. As soon as construction is complete and the mortgage finalized we can go ahead and issue the lender’s policy.

Here at Tallgrass Title, we work to make the deal go as smoothly as possible. Give us a call today and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have about construction title policies!

Fraud & Hacking Update

With wire fraud and email hacking on the rise, we must all become more diligent in protecting our clients’ information. Here at Tallgrass Title, we take multiple steps to ensure that our clients’ information is protected.  One aspect of protecting our clients’ information is educating prospective buyers, sellers and real estate professionals about the dangers of wire fraud and email hacking.  With this purpose in mind we have created two informational fliers to educate all parties in a transaction. They are for use by real estate agents, banks and other real estate professionals.

We recommend that you provide these fliers to every new client that you represent.  You will also notice that this information will accompany every deed packet sent out by Tallgrass Title to Sellers in a transaction.  Protecting against wire fraud and email hacking requires all parties to a transaction to stay diligent throughout the process.  Should you have questions regarding potential wire fraud, email hacking or anything else that “just doesn’t feel right,” please feel free to contact our office and discuss the issue with our trained closing agents.  It is better to be safe than sorry!