Tag: farm

Escrowing Insurance Premiums and Taxes

When folks purchase residential real estate and require financing, most likely an “escrow account” will be established during the loan process for the payment of insurance and taxes. This is different than “putting a contract into escrow.”  “Putting a contract into escrow” means that the contract signed by the buyer and seller has been delivered to a title company to begin working towards a transaction.  An “escrow account” established for the payment of insurance and taxes basically means that you will make a monthly mortgage payment to your bank and a portion of that payment will be set aside to pay your homeowners insurance and real estate taxes automatically.  This is done for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, lending regulations require a bank to establish an escrow account with most residential real estate loans.  Secondly, because the home is the bank’s security for the repayment of the loan, it wants to make sure that its security is protected.  Therefore, the bank wants to make sure the home is insured against loss and they also do not want the home taken away for the failure to pay the real estate taxes.

During the loan process, you will be informed of how much the monthly insurance and taxes escrow will be. Also, because your transaction will most likely not happen on the 31st of December, some proration of taxes will be required.  Proration means that the seller will be responsible for the taxes while he/she owns the home and you will pay the taxes when you own the home.  However, taxes are only payable at the end of the year.  Therefore, the seller gives a portion of the taxes to the buyer and the buyer pays all the taxes at the end of the year.

Also, the bank will collect additional funds to be placed into the escrow funds at the time of closing your loan. Those beginning funds will be added with the monthly payments to pay the insurance and taxes when they come due.  The bank handling the escrow account will receive the yearly bill for insurance and taxes and pay them when each comes due.  You will still receive a statement from the County Treasurer and your insurance provider, but this is simply for your information.  Additionally, you are always welcome to choose or change your homeowner’s coverage and insurance company.

Upon selling your house, you may have funds left in the escrow account that will not be needed to pay any future insurance or taxes. These funds will be returned to you following the sale of your real estate.  It is important to work with the escrow service to make sure they are mailed to your new address.  Questions about escrow accounts, homeowner’s insurance coverage and real estate taxes during the loan process are quite common and can seem complicated.  If you have questions, speak with your banker or our closing agents here at Tallgrass Title.  We are happy to explain the process.  It’s our job!

Inspections in a Residential Home Purchase

Imagine you are considering purchasing a new home. You may not be the most construction-oriented person or know exactly what to look for when purchasing a home.  Additionally, your financing may require that you have a home inspected prior to being qualified for funding.  Lastly, you may just feel more comfortable having experts look at your potential purchase and point out potential problems before they become, well, your problems.  After all, for most Americans the family home is the single largest investment they will make during their lives.  The purpose of this post is to describe the inspection process and the common and important issues that often arise.

Prior to purchasing real estate, most buyers (the smart ones at least) will take a look at the real estate. Either they have the knowledge to identify defects in the improvements to the real estate or they hire a person to assist them.  Another option is to inspect the real estate after a contract has been signed by the Seller and Buyer.  It is important to note that if this is the intent of the parties, the contract must specifically give the Buyer the option to inspect the property and to request repairs of unacceptable conditions if they are found.

Prior to entering into the contract or after entering into the contract (whichever the case may be) and during the “inspection period”, inspections are made. At this point, a home inspector is hired and gains access to the home in order to perform the task.  The inspector will look at a multitude of items to gather information regarding the condition of the home.  This information will be compiled in a report that is provided to the buyer.  The report will identify items of various concern and make recommendations for repair, when needed.  Major items to be inspected consist of the foundation, walls, roof, mechanical systems, plumbing, electrical and the layout of the site.

Additionally, if a loan is being procured, a termite inspection will most likely be required. This is typically performed by a different company than the home inspection.  A pest control technician will inspect the house for termite damage and active colonies and make recommendation for treatment, if needed.

Another inspection common to this region is radon testing.   Radon gas is an odorless and harmful gas that seeps into homes and can cause health problems from prolonged exposure.  For more information regarding radon issues when buying and selling your home, please refer to this link: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-05/documents/hmbuygud.pdf

After the inspections are made, a buyer should review the reports and determine whether there are issues of concern to the buyer. For example, if the roof requires replacement, is this in the buyer’s budget?  Is it an unacceptable condition to the seller that will require replacement before moving into the home?  Will the seller either replace the roof or pay a portion of the repair?  Will your bank still finance the transaction if the roof is not replaced?  Again, your real estate agent can assist you in navigating these concerns.

There are many licensed home inspectors, pest control technicians and radon testing and mitigating outfits in the Tallgrass Title service region. If you are unsure which inspector to hire, it is recommended to work with your realtor or banker to identify an inspector to assist you in your transaction.  In any event, buyers should always educate themselves about the home they are purchasing and protect what may be their largest investment.

Water, Water and Water (Part I – Drinking Water)

Leonardo Da Vinci is quoted as famously saying “Water is the driving force in nature.” The modern world of real estate is no exception.  Real estate use will most always require that there is some access to water.  Whether the property be a residential home or a cow pasture, the need for water is present.  Part I of this post will focus where you obtain your tap and drinking water.

In residential real estate, there are three main sources of drinking water in this region of the country: Municipally supplied water utility, Rural Water District or owner owned and maintained well.

Municipally supplied water is just that. The City supplies water to its residents and charges a fee for the service.  This is how a majority of homes are supplied with drinking water.  However, where does the City obtain the water supplied?  Typically, a City will own and maintain wells or obtain water from a reservoir or river and treat and supply the water.   The water is then provided to residents through a City owned water system.  Often, the water obtained from wells is pure enough that the City will not be required to treat the water.  Reservoirs or rivers almost always require some form of treatment to the water before providing it to residents.  Furthermore, to ensure the safety of the water supplied, the State of Kansas and the Federal government require periodic testing of public drinking water.

Rural Water Districts are “member-owned” cooperatives that are most often established to provide water to areas not served by a City. The “members” are basically the individuals that purchase water from the water district.  The members maintain a board that oversees the water system and its sources of water.  Water districts are also required to periodically test its water to maintain that it is pure and uncontaminated.  In order to purchase water from a water district, one must first become a “member.”  This usually involves a small transfer fee from the previous owner of the real estate.   If you are establishing a new residence or other new water service, the fee requirement can be substantial.  It is important to investigate this issue when planning a home building project.

The final, most common source of water is the private well. The owner has a water well that pumps water and provides it to the residence or farm.  In Kansas, water windmills were once a part of most farm yards.  Today, the work is done by electric pumps and pressure tanks in order to provide constant, consistent water to the owner.  Owning your water source may sound liberating, but a private well comes with its own headaches.  The owner of the well is wholly responsible for checking the quality of the water.  Additionally, wells can go dry; especially in drought years.  Lastly, the equipment required to pump and pressurize and possibly treat the water requires maintenance.  It is important in a real estate transaction to investigate these issues prior to closing.

When purchasing or selling real estate, it is important to understand how water is obtained at the real estate. This will prevent unwanted surprises down the road.

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.

Kansas Farm Lease Basics

A common issue that comes up with the sale of agricultural real estate in Kansas is whether the real estate is currently leased to a farmer or rancher and when that tenancy ends. Simply put, if you purchase real estate that is currently leased to another person, you take the property subject to that lease.  This could mean that even though you purchased the real estate and received a deed, you may not have possession of that real estate until many months in the future!  If you know this fact in advance, it may be addressed in the contract to protect the interests of the buyers.

The information in this post is meant to educate the buyer of rural real estate so that there are no unexpected surprises following closing. In Kansas, absent a written agreement to the contrary, leases are governed by the Kansas Landlord Tenant Act.  This is basically a series of statutes (laws) that dictate the arrangement between land owners and tenants.  Again, written agreements may change this arrangement so long as they do not violate the Landlord Tenant Act.

Basically, all farm tenancies are year-to-year beginning and ending on March 1 of each year. If the owner of the real estate does not properly terminate the lease, it will automatically renew for another year.  One section that causes continuous issues, is the termination of farm tenancy statute.  If the owner of the real estate wishes to terminate a farm tenancy, written notice must be given to the tenant at least 30 days prior to March 1 and set the termination date for March 1.  Now, there are typically 28 days in February, which sets the typical termination date at January 29.  In a leap year, the termination date would be January 30.  As there are 31 days in January, this is counterintuitive as the termination dates do not fall on the last day of the month.  However, if there are already fall planted crops (typically wheat) on the real estate at the time of termination, the termination does not take place until the harvest of the crops or August 1, whichever is sooner.

Often, agricultural real estate is sold in February-April.  A contract for sale could foreseeably close after the tenancy termination deadline has expired and the Buyer would be subject to the existing lease.   An easy solution before entering into a contract during this time of year would be to request that the contract would be contingent upon adequate proof of termination of the tenancy.  Lastly, if there is a written contract, they often run on the calendar year and not the March 1-March 1 statutory term.  In order to avoid issues with written agreements, one needs to simply ask to review the contract, and any termination notice, prior to entering into an agreement to purchase.

Kansas agricultural leases can be a complicated subject.  Should you have any questions regarding your rural real estate transaction, feel free to call and ask to discuss the issue.