Tag: closing

The Secret is Out!

Please save the date! Tallgrass Title is opening a new office in Manhattan, and we’re hosting a bash at the Hartford Building on April 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. that we’d like for you to attend.

At Tallgrass Title we know how to throw a great party, so expect more than a typical grand opening. We are excited to meet you and learn more about your needs as a real estate professional.

We’ve heard from many of our customers they’d like for us to open an office in Manhattan, and as your newest neighbors, we want to hear how we can best serve you. In the coming days, look for updates and an invite containing details regarding food, cocktails and music.

The event will be held at our new office located in the Hartford Building located at 210 N. 4th.

We cannot wait to see you there!

Internet Safety Tips

In this technological age, it seems like everything is at your fingertips. Have business to conduct?  Pull out your smart phone and get it done.  Have a report that is due while you are out of town and do not have all of the information you need?  Find an internet café or public wifi, pull out your laptop computer and get to work.  With the help of Wikipedia, Google, and any number of search sites, all of the information you need is at your fingertips.  Great, right?  It can be, but while it is easier for people to access information, it is also easier for hackers and scammers to access people’s personal information like social security numbers, bank accounts, and other personal information.  Once they have that information, Tada!  You now have six new credit cards, your debit card has been used to buy a new car half-way across the world, and you managed to get a speeding ticket in some hole-in-the-wall town three states over!  Your identity was stolen!  Scary, right? How can you protect yourself and your clients from this type of threat?  Here are some tips for practicing public (and personal) internet safety:

  1. Never log into your email using public wifi. Get yourself a mifi device. A mifi device is a personal wifi that uses cellular broadband to make a wifi connection. Not super convenient, or free, but using a mifi device is much more secure. You can password protect it and it pulls from a private source. You can also typically use your smartphone as a personal hotspot.
  2. Change your passwords frequently. If a hacker gains access to your password, they may try to access your system or account more than once over a period of time. Changing your password reduces the risk that they will have frequent access. It also keeps things like a keystroke logger, which is surveillance technology used to record keystrokes, from obtaining your password through repeated logins.
  3. Never email any documents that have your client’s personal information. If you do email any documents that have that type of information, make sure it is password protected and encrypted.
  4. Stop and read an email before opening any attachments or following any links. If you do not have your email set up to preview a message before opening, modify your settings to allow it. A lot of attachments and links in fake emails from scammers and hackers have viruses and other little nasty surprises that can corrupt your system or open a backdoor for someone to get to the rest of your information.
  5. Do not use a free email service for your business email. Yes, they are convenient, and better yet, free. However, they have the barest minimum of security when it comes to allowing junk through.

Computers can be a convenient tool that can make our lives easier in many ways.  By following these 5 rules, they can continue to be the tools that they are intended to be. Here at Tallgrass Title we are committed to protecting all of our associates and clients. Let us know how we can help you protect yourself and your clients from scammers and hackers.

Deed Packet Pro Tips

So, what comes next after the signed contract has been delivered to the title company and the title commitment is complete? The Deed Packet!

The number one thing to remember is: EARLY SIGNATURES MEAN SMOOTHER CLOSINGS!

The sooner the completed deed packet is sent back to the title company, the easier it is to complete the pre-closing tasks. For example, the information release allows us to obtain the mortgage payoff quote. The deed and other documents to be recorded must be reviewed to ensure they will meet the county recording requirements.

The second thing to remember is: Let the title company know asap if the seller doesn’t live close by.

If the seller lives some distance away, they may need extra time to ship the completed documents back to us in time for closing.

Here is a breakdown of the most common documents in the Deed Packet:

The Deed. (No kidding, right?)

However, this is the most important document of the bunch. Please ensure that each party signs it in the presence of a notary. As we mentioned in a previous blog, it is also paramount to keep the same original formatting to ensure it is accepted for recording. And, it really makes our job easier if all of the documents are printed single-sided, not double-sided!

The Affidavit as to Debts, Liens and Indemnity.

This is a complicated title for a document that actually has a rather simple purpose. The purpose is for the seller to confirm that there are no other liens that can attach to the real estate. Each party will have to sign in the presence of a notary. However, the important thing to keep in mind are the checkboxes that usually appear on pages 2 and 3. Each of the statements that accompany the checkboxes should be read carefully before being marked off.

The Authorization for Release of Information.

All mortgage holders require that 3rd parties receive authorization from the mortgagors to receive any information from them. Without this document, we can’t prove how much money will be needed to get the mortgage released. It is also important for the seller to fill out the name of the lender, and the account number if they have it. This is because there are certain types of mortgages that don’t have to report to the county when they are sold. It could potentially delay closing if the title company doesn’t know who is actually holding the mortgage.

The 1099 Tax Information Sheet.

Yes, the title company must report most sales to the IRS. Besides the signature lines that are clearly visible at the bottom of the page, there is other information that is needed. Near the top of the page, please guide the seller to fill in their social security or tax ID number(s), their new/forwarding address, and their phone number. We have to mail out a copy of the actual 1099 form to each seller for the next tax year, so a valid mailing address is really, very helpful.

Here at Tallgrass Title, we also include Fraud Warnings to put people on their guard. This is very important to us, since fraud is becoming more common.

These are the documents that are included in most Deed Packets. There may be other documents specific to the transaction, but they usually don’t appear as often. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about any of the documents you see in the Deed Packet. We are always happy to help and will even send out a notary to meet with your sellers who are in the area!

Tips for Recording and Filing Documents

We realize that many of you will probably not have to take a document to the county Register of Deeds Office. However, it is still helpful to know a little bit about the requirements. It makes filling out and completing the deed packet and other documents necessary for closing much easier.

Tip 1:

This first thing to keep in mind is: Only documents with original signatures can be recorded. As of 2019, the Register of Deeds will not accept documents that have been signed electronically. What that means, is that each deed, mortgage, and affidavit must be signed in person in front of a notary. The original documents must be sent back to the title company for closing. (Remember, if you can’t drop it off to us, we will come to you!)

Tip 2:

Don’t change the formatting of a deed or other notarized document. Let’s face it, technology is complicated. Your computer or printer might try to change the margins, font, font size, or spacing. Why is that a big deal?

It is the duty of the Register of Deeds to keep the real estate records legible and clear. In order to do this, there are strict guidelines to help make that happen. One of the rules is the size of the font. If the wording is too small, the documents can’t be scanned correctly into the archives. There are also rules in place about document margins. There needs to be plenty of space at the top for the filing information, as well as enough space on the sides so no information will be cut off. If your printer likes to cut off the top or bottom of a legal-sized document, you run the risk of losing important information. For example, part of a legal description or a signature line could be left out.

Also, it is very important to print the documents single-sided, not double-sided.

Tip 3:

When will the recorded original deed be given back to the buyers after closing? This is a question we get asked on a regular basis. The answer? Usually within 30-60 days following a closing, we send out the recorded original documents with the Title Insurance Policy. Unfortunately, we cannot just pull out a magic number that fits all cases. This is because we have to wait until the commitment requirements have been met. For example, some banks take a bit more time than others to file mortgage releases. Rest assured though, that we will work to send out the policy and documents just as soon as we possibly can.

Here at Tallgrass Title it is our goal to help you successfully complete your real estate transaction as smoothly as possible. Reach out to us to let us know how we can help you make it happen!

Easement Basics

Easements to real estate are simply an interest in some other person’s land for the limited purpose identified in the easement. In plain language, it is the right of another person to use your land for some limited purpose.  Easements can be exclusive; meaning that the use is restricted to a certain person or persons.  Easements can also be limited to a certain amount of time or can be perpetual and “run with the land.” As there are countless different variations of easements, it is impossible to explain all the law surrounding easements.  The purpose of this post is to point out two of the most common types of easements and give a brief overview of common issues.

Some of the most common forms of easements are travel easements and utility easements. A travel easement is the right for another individual to cross real estate not owned by them.  Usually this is for the purpose of accessing their own real estate.  Commonly, a travel easement (otherwise known as “ingress-egress” easement) is granted to a homeowner who owns real estate that is only accessible by crossing another person’s land.  With agricultural real estate, a travel easement is typically given to a farmer so that they may access their field or pasture as there is no direct access from a road.  Most of these types of travel easements are perpetual or “run with the land.”  This means that if the owner of the easement sells their real estate that is accessed by the easement, the new owner will have the right to continue to use the easement.  When representing buyers of real estate, if there is not apparent direct access from a government roadway, it is wise to inquire as to whether there is a travel easement and whether it transfers to your buyers.  Nobody wants to purchase real estate only to find out they cannot access it!

The other major type of easement is a utility easement. Based upon reading the first portion of this post, it should come as no surprise that a utility easement is simply the right to cross another person’s real estate with utilities.  These types of easements range from a small water line running to a house all the way to high voltage transmission lines.  The most important thing to take into consideration with utility easements is whether the easement will affect the planned use of a potential buyer.  Utility easements commonly do not allow a person to build any structure over or under an easement.  For example, if a Buyer had plans to build a garage, the location of an easement could affect these plans.

An easy way to determine whether there are easements on real estate being purchased or sold is to review the title commitment. This report should list all easements that are affecting the real estate being transferred.  The easements will be listed under the “exceptions” section or following the legal description.  Often the commitment will only list the existence of the easement and not specify the details.  At Tallgrass Title, we happily supply the underlying document listed in our commitments upon request.  That’s our job!

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!

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.

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!