Tag: escrow

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!

 

 

 

What’s new at Tallgrass Title in 2022?

We hope that you had a wonderful Christmas season and we wish you good luck in the coming year. The past two years have been incredibly eventful at Tallgrass Title and we are grateful to every buyer, seller, realtor, lender, and vendor we’ve have the opportunity to work with during such unprecedented times. We’ve seen many businesses bloom as the region responds to growth and an everchanging market. It has been so good to do business with you.  We want to make note of a couple of changes you might notice around Tallgrass in the New Year.

RON is coming to Tallgrass

RON Swanson? Weasley? Not quite! Remote Online Notarization.  Kansas passed legislation last spring that allows Kansas Notaries to complete notarizations through remote audio-visual conferences, beginning in January 2022.  With this capability, we will be able to conduct a deed packet signing or close a loan with your client over a video call. We will be able to close your deals anywhere in the state of Kansas!  Look for an announcement about this service in the coming weeks. This is a service we cannot wait to provide!

New Rates & Fees

Tallgrass takes pride in providing top-notch customer service and the best value for title insurance premiums and closing costs. In order to maintain our high level of customer service, we have made a small adjustment to our premiums for the new year.  To compliment our rate adjustment, we have opted to give back to the consumer by including complimentary endorsements in the cost of our loan policy on simultaneous issue packages.  While growth requires adjustments, we believe we will remain the most competitive option for the services we provide in our tri-county service area.

Again, it is a true delight to serve you and your clients.  We look forward to seeing much more of each other in 2022!

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!

Five Common Misconceptions about Title Insurance

When it comes to purchasing a new home, you are making a long-term commitment with your money and your time. One oversight when purchasing is the consideration of the history of the home.  I do not mean the structural integrity of the home rather, the history of the legal title to the home. We are talking about the history of ownership of the land and the structure located on it. Title Insurance is a way of giving you peace of mind that you have full ownership of what you have just purchased, and that no monetary claims will arise from an individual or a business entity in the future. If that were to ever be the case, Tallgrass Title would have your back!

When it comes to Title Insurance, there are some pretty common misconceptions that might deter a buyer away from deeming it necessary. We want to help you navigate some of those misconceptions in order to make sure you are aware and get the coverage that you need.

If the Lender orders Title Insurance, the Buyer does not need to.

In most real estate transactions, the Lender involved will require Title Insurance. As discussed, Title Insurance protects from future claims of lack of ownership, liens, undisclosed heirship issues, ordinances, lack of right of access, etc. However, the insurance that the Lender requires only protects the Lender, not you as a Buyer.  Two separate insurance policies exist that Title Companies offer: a Lender’s Policy and an Owner’s Policy. Often, a Lender will require the Buyer to purchase an Owner’s Policy.  Most title companies offer a significant discount the the issue of simultaneous Lender’s and Owner’s Policies.

If I have Homeowner’s Insurance, then I do not need Title Insurance.

As previously mentioned, Homeowner’s Insurance only protects your home from damage caused by hail, fire and wind. Title Insurance protects your ownership and against aforementioned claims.

I have built a brand new home; therefore, I do not have to worry about ownership issues.

Although it is true that you are the very first owner of a home, the land that your home sits on has long been in existence and has had many previous owners. Title Insurance not only protects your house, but it also protects the land that your home is settled on!

Title Insurance is transferable from one owner to another.

While the idea that one owner can transfer Insurance to another does seem plausible, Title Insurance only covers specific owners of the specific property for their specific transaction for the duration of ownership. This coverage will end upon the transfer of the real estate, so each new owner needs to make sure they are protected.

Title Insurance is expensive.

When considering the amount of money being invested in your home, an Owner’s Title Insurance policy has very minimal cost, and unlike a Homeowner’s Insurance policy, Title Insurance is a one-time payment that protects you the entire duration of your ownership. Further, Kansas has some of the lowest title insurance rates in the nation.

Not only does Title Insurance protect you, but your Title Company will also be there to help you navigate through the milieu of Real Estate and give you the assurance you need while owning your home!  We are also here to answer your specific questions regarding what is covered.  This can at times seem daunting, but our trained professionals are here to assist in these regards.  That’s our job!

 

Are you Ready2Close?

We are happy to introduce the newest member of the Tallgrass Title closing toolkit: Ready2Close! Ready2Close is a plug-in to our title software that will work alongside PaperlessCloser and allows buyers or sellers to follow along with the progress of their transaction, from start to finish!
We will continue to use PaperlessCloser as the primary platform for realtors, lenders, attorneys, and admins to stay engaged with the transaction while Ready2Close will function as an additional piece that is both mobile and consumer friendly.

What does it do?

At your request, we will invite your buyer or seller to Ready2Close. Once in, they will see a photo from Google Maps of the property associated with the transaction. Users will also find a Milestone tracker showing the progress of their transaction. Just like ordering a pizza! 😉

Once the user clicks View Details, they will be directed to the other components of Ready2Close. Within Ready2Close, they can do the following:

  • Upload documents to be shared with Tallgrass Title, through a secure platform
  • Access details about their transaction including closing location, date, and time and contact information for their realtor, lender, and closing agent
  • Securely locate wiring instructions
  • Review and e-sign documents

Mobile Access

Ready2Close provides your buyer or seller with the ability to view transaction documents, e-sign, and obtain other details necessary for closing from their mobile device. While designed with the consumer in mind, realtors and other agents associated with the transaction can view all of their current files from one log-in and access requested documents in a mobile-friendly environment.

Security

Users must be invited by Tallgrass Title to create a Ready2Close account and to obtain access to a file.  Much like PaperlessCloser, we will identify which parties will be able to access specific information and will continue to protect your client’s non-public personal information. Your personal and your clients’ log-ins for Ready2Close will be protected by two-factor authentication.

What about PaperlessCloser?

Think of Ready2Close as buyer or seller’s PaperlessCloser. PC isn’t going anywhere, and we hope to harness both of these tools in sync to create ease and transparency in your transactions. If you’d like to give Ready2Close a shot on your next transaction, let us know and we’d be happy to invite both you and your client; you may find that you’d prefer to continue using PaperlessCloser exclusively or you might find you enjoy the mobile access and simplicity of Ready2Close. Or any combination of options. 😊

For Sale By Owner

If you’re a seller or buyer representing yourself, Ready2Close is the best way to stay in sync with the title company and up to date on all stages of your transaction. Give us a call and ask to be invited to Ready2Close on your transaction!

The team at Tallgrass Title is looking forward to providing a more transparent closing experience for the customer and we believe that Ready2Close is the next right step for making that happen.  Notifications will be sent whenever there is a status change to the file and clients have the option to opt out at any time.

If electronic document sharing and signing does not appeal to a party involved in your transaction, we are happy to continue to offer our free courier and mobile notary services. We will continue to do whatever we can to cater transactions to the unique needs of all parties involved.

Earnnest: the future of real estate transactions

Last March we introduced our partnership with Earnnest, a tool that allows for the fully digital transfer of funds (much like PayPal or Venmo) but made for real estate transactions! That means it was designed with safety and security in mind.

Earnnest provides a way for the digital transfer of client earnest money into the title company of your choice’s escrow account, verifies “good funds,” and distributes documentation of the payment and deposit to all parties.

How does it work?

The title company or the buyer’s agent can complete a request for earnest funds through the Earnnest app.  We are happy to complete this request on behalf of the realtor – just ask us!  In order to, we will need your buyer’s email, phone number, the property address, and the dollar amount. Your client will then receive a text and an email that “Tallgrass Title” is requesting funds.

     

Utilizing electronic methods of contract signing and delivery along with Earnnest allows your client’s new home to go under contract in minutes with zero travel and zero wire fees. The only cost associated with Earnnest is a $15 processing fee paid by clients when they complete the request.  With wire fees approaching $30 or $40, this saves you time and your client money.

What makes it secure?

Earnnest is partnered with the payment processor Dwolla, which sets up a secure connection between all parties with multiple levels of encryption. Earnnest uses Plaid to connect the buyer to their bank to complete the earnest money request and neither party obtains or stores your client’s bank account credentials or financial information.

It’s quick!

Once the buyer completes the request for earnest funds, all parties – the escrow company, the realtors involved, and the buyers – receive an email receipt verifying “Proof of Payment.” This tells us that the earnest money has been withdrawn from the buyers account, is verified as good funds, and is on its way!  Within 3 days, all parties will receive another receipt called “Proof of Deposit” – this tells us that the funds are officially in the hands of Tallgrass Title.  Contrary to how quick handing over a check seems, it isn’t always so fast.  Personal checks can take up to 10 days to clear the bank. Earnnest is the cleanest and quickest way to ensure the secure delivery of earnest money.

While entirely coincidental, adding Earnnest to our toolkit when we did was a gamechanger! Many of our everyday business practices have changed and we will continue to adapt as we move out of the Covid-era.  Adopting cutting edge tools for secure and paperless transactions will continue to be our standard.  We’re happy to utilize PaperlessCloser, CertifID, Dotloop, HelloSign, Earnnest, and another nifty product we’ll share with you in a couple of weeks that is going to make mobile transaction information and document access a reality.

Earnnest has even more to offer than we can cover here, if your curiosity is brimming, give us a call! Or you can check out Earnnest here! And if your client wants to complete their earnest deposit through Earnnest, we’d be happy to place the request for you or show you how!

 

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.

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.

Legals with Lippman: Section-Township-Range and Land Surveys

We’re starting a new series on the Tallgrass Title blog: Legals with Lippman!  In this series, our Production Manager, Sydney, will be focusing on topics related to real estate legal descriptions.  Sydney will help make sense of plats (and replats), original townsites, water rights, condemnations, and how all of this affects you and your clients’ transactions.

Section-Township-Range Legal Descriptions (and Why Surveys Can Make Your Life Simple)

Legal descriptions are a graphic depiction of a property. They outline the boundaries and features of a tract of land creating a map.

Legal descriptions commonly start out with a section-township-range description (with the exception of “platted” ground which will be covered in a future post.) This type of surveying system was adopted in 1785 and is used throughout the United States.  Through this system townships and ranges are separated into sections, each section totals 640 acres and is one square mile, forming a grid pattern to help locate a given property. Townships run north and south while ranges run east and west. Each township range is broken into 36 sections making them 6 square miles.

Many legal descriptions start by dividing sections into quarters, halves, and quartered quarters. However, when real estate is broken down further, it can get a bit complicated. For example, suppose that in 1901 John Jacob purchased the NW/4 of Section 10, Township 10, Range 10. Then, John Jacob gave a portion of the property to each of his four children and each received a quartered quarter. Allen Jacob received the SW/4 NW/4 of 10-10-10. Allen wanted to pass this land on to his two sons but wanted the house to go to his daughter. This is where things can become less cut and dry. Allen decided to divide the property along a stream that runs halfway through the property. Everything North of this stream went to Bart, everything South went to Chester. Seems simple, until you take out the house and five acres surrounding. The five acres and the house are also along this stream. This is where a survey of metes and bounds legal description comes into play.

A surveyor will draft a legal description beginning at a designated starting point; also called a point of beginning. In this case it might be the southwest corner of the northwest quarter of Section 10, Township 10, Range 10. A particular degree and number of feet is then determined, and the legal description continues through a variety of angles and distances until it comes back to the point of beginning. This creates a map of the property boundaries.

After reading the above example, one can see that there are many instances where a survey is needed to produce a metes and bounds legal description. They can help resolve any possible boundary disputes, accurately determine the size of a tract of land, or to determine the location of any easements, setbacks, or other such restrictions on future development.

Surveys can also be extremely helpful when a legal description has become convoluted. Say John Jacob decided to sell half of the NW/4. Peter Crow now owns the N/2 of the NW/4. Peter then sells the South 10 acres of the N/2 of the NW/4 to Monica Chang. Monica sells four one-acre tracts off for housing development. Monica’s legal description is now the South 10 acres of the N/2 of the NW/4 of 10-10-10 less one acre less one acre less one acre less one acre. Having a survey done of the remaining six acres would  simplify her legal description. .

Dealing with legal descriptions can be tricky, that is why we are here to support you. If you have any questions about section, township, range legal descriptions or surveys feel free to contact one of our real estate professionals for guidance.