Tag: homes

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.

How Does Title Insurance Work?

Here at Tallgrass Title, we have discussed many topics about the nuts and bolts of real estate transactions: closings, probates, commitments, policies, etc.  But what is title insurance and how does it actually work?

Title insurance is essentially insurance that either insures that you actually own a tract of real estate and/or that a bank’s mortgage is valid and filed of record.  Title insurance, like other types of insurance, is governed by the individual state.  Insurance in Kansas is established and governed by state statutes that establish the types of insurance allowed to be sold in the state and various regulations governing the sale.  The major types are life, health, hazard, liability, property and title.  Further, Kansas Statutes establish the Kansas Insurance Department and Commissioner of Insurance. The Kansas Commissioner of Insurance is tasked with enforcing Kansas Statutes relating to insurance, licensing and regulating the sale of insurance.

When purchasing an insurance policy, an individual or entity enters into a contract with the insurance company.  The contract establishes the amount of coverage sold, the terms of the policy, exceptions to coverage and what constitutes a claim.  Kansas state law also establishes how fees are established and charged, how the money is accumulated, and who is entitled to the proceeds.  This ensures that when a claim (loss) happens, that the insurance company has retained sufficient funds to pay potential claims.  Otherwise, an unscrupulous company could sell policies and spend the premiums paid and then be without sufficient funds to pay a claim.  For example, if a consumer purchases a title policy insuring the person as an owner of the real estate with a policy amount of $100,000 and it is later shown that the property is actually owned by another party, a title insurance company is bound to pay up to the amount of $100,000 loss.  Now, there are a multitude of corrective measures and potential outcomes of any claim.  The bottom line is that a title insurance company is bound to hold a certain amount per $1000 of insurance sold for potential claims.

Kansas insurance statutes also require that reinsurance be purchased when a particular title insurance company’s “reserve” or “pool” is not large enough to cover the size of policy sold by the company.  This is done by purchasing reinsurance from another title company or other insurance company.  This protects the customer from an insurance company failing to have the reserves to cover certain sized policies.

In Kansas, most title insurance is sold through independent agents (including Tallgrass Title!).  An independent agent sells title insurance on behalf of a title insurance company, otherwise known as an underwriter.  An underwriter and independent agent enter into an agreement allowing the independent agent to sell its title policies with a certain division of the premiums.  Here at Tallgrass Title, we currently write title policies for three underwriters.  In our experience, each offers a unique product and the variety of options available allows us to better serve our customers.

In the end, title insurance is simply another form of coverage that specifically protects property rights.  Here at Tallgrass Title, we are proud to serve our customers in this regard.  This includes explaining any aspect of your real estate transaction or title policy.  If you have a question, feel free to ask one of our real estate professionals.  We love to talk title!

What’s the Timeline for Closing Your Deal?

Here at Tallgrass Title, once we receive the signed contract in our office, the clock starts ticking on our countdown to get everything out in a timely manner.  Our goal is to be efficient, friendly, and fast in all aspects of what we do, but, sometimes the fast part does not always happen as fast as we would like. We get asked often what the time frame is to close a transaction.  In most instances, we are able to say that we can have it done within 30 days. There are situations where that is not possible and there are situations we can close in as little as a few days. The following is a rough timeline of the steps we take to get transactions closed in order to give you an idea of the potential timeline for your unique closing.

Commitment

Within 24 – 48 hours of receiving a signed contract we try to have to commitment issued to all parties. This can take longer depending on whether additional research is needed to clear the title. Generally, this means tracking down additional documents to trace the chain of title or add exceptions.

Preliminary Documents

Once the commitment is sent out, the file is assigned a Closing Agent. Your Closing Agent will put together two preliminary packets: a Deed Packet and Buyer Documents. These packets will then be sent to the clients’ respective realtors or directly to the clients (if unrepresented) to get reviewed and signed prior to closing. Getting the preliminary packets signed and returned well in advance can help make the process smoother as we sometimes experience delays in the process of getting payoff instructions from lien holders.

Invoices and Payoffs

Once both of the preliminary packets have been sent out, the Closing Agent begins working on the preliminary settlement statements. With a cash transaction this can mean closing as soon as the deed packet and buyer docs have been returned, we receive any invoices and payoffs we need to obtain, and the buyer and seller are both ready to close. For a transaction that is being financed the process is a little longer. The lender has to disclose fees three days prior to closing, we need have underwriter approval or a “clear to close” status, and the bank has to have the property appraisal back.

Closing

Once we have everything in our office we need and the lender, if there is one, has received approval to close as well –what’s next? We will set up a time for closing either at the bank or in our office.

Cash Sale Closing

Buyers and Sellers may sign all their final documents electronically and certified funds can either be wired or dropped off at one of our offices.  After disbursement and recording the deed, the transaction is complete!

Financed Closing

When there is a mortgage involved, we ask you block off about an hour for closing as there are several documents to work through and sign. Once signing is complete, we will send the loan packet to the lender for funding authorization. Once we have authorization and all funds, we will disburse, record the deed and mortgage, and the transaction is complete.

We strive to make the closing process as smooth and easy (and quick) as we can.  Hopefully this gives you better picture of the timing of your unique transactions. We are here to facilitate everything and take the pressure off you and your clients. Please feel free to give us a call with any questions you have.

Inheriting Property (and Inheriting Liens?)

When individuals pass away, their assets are left to their heirs (next of kin) or individuals listed in a will, trust, etc.  These assets will oftentimes include real estate.  Sometimes, this real estate has liens against it.  When it does, the recipient of the property might ask: “Am I responsible for these liens or the debts of the person that passed?”  The lawyer answer is “yes and no”.

Typically, surviving individuals are not liable for sole debts of a passing individual (certain exceptions exist for a surviving spouse regarding specific expenses incurred by a passing spouse but we won’t muddy the water with this one today).  So, if your aunt passes and you are her sole surviving heir and she has insufficient assets to pay the bill, you are not responsible for it.  However, if you are her sole surviving heir and she has assets sufficient to pay the bill, then it is typically paid out of the estate and the difference is paid to you.

On the other hand, liens on real estate are different and follow the real estate. So, if an individual has borrowed money to purchase a house and the bank has taken a mortgage (lien) and the property is transferred, that mortgage follows the house.  So, if your passing aunt also left you a house with a mortgage you will own that house subject to the mortgage.  If your aunt did not also leave specific funds to satisfy the mortgage, you will either need to pay the debt associated with the mortgage or the bank will take the house from you, sell it, satisfy the debt and pay you any difference.  This process of a bank taking real estate to satisfy its debts is known as a “foreclosure.”  The process is time consuming and costly and interest will most typically continue to accrue during the interim.  These additional costs will be collected from proceeds from the sale of the house.  Conversely, you may also sell the house yourself and pay the underlying debt and most often save substantial equity in the real estate that would have been wasted in a foreclosure.

Again, an individual is not typically liable for the sole debts of a decedent (mostly, as stated above) but may choose to pay the debts of a decedent in order to protect equity in property received from a passing individual.  One of our roles at Tallgrass Title is to find and potentially clear liens on real estate being inherited.  This process can often be confusing. Our title professionals are available to answer questions during this process.  It’s our job!

Tips and Tricks for Submitting a New Order

How do I submit a new order and what info do I need?

Here at Tallgrass Title we are always happy to get new orders started for you and hope to make it as easy as possible.  To do this, we offer three simple ways to submit new orders or ask questions. Whether it be a contract, refinance, informational report, or preliminary title, any of these methods should cover you!

Email or Fax

A simple way to contact us is through email. A quick email to order@tallgrasstitleks.com is all it takes to get us started.  Whether it’s an order, a simple question, or preliminary title you are just getting started, we can get things going for you with minimal information. All it takes is a quick email.

We can also receive new orders through fax at (785)456–8581. Just send over your contract or title order form and we will get a file started for you!

Our Website

We can also receive new orders through our website: tallgrasstitleks.com! All it takes is to go to the website and follow the link on the main page to Submit Order or follow the Services drop down and click on “Get Started”.

This will lead you to an online fillable order form. Just fill this in, to the best of your ability, and hit submit at the bottom. The fields marked with an * will help guide you through required information.

We will receive your order like this and get a file started for you.

Just remember to include your name and contact information so we can contact you with any questions!

PaperlessCloser

Another way to submit a new order to us is through PaperlessCloser. Access to this program can be found on the main page of our website or through the Client Login drop down. This will direct you to the log on for PaperlessCloser. Once logged in there will be a button for New Order in the bottom right corner.

Fill in the fields with your information and hit Add Order. This will send your order directly to our system so we can get it started for you.

We can get pretty much anything started with an address or current owner so don’t let the details slow you down; feel free to submit what you have, and we will help you with the rest.  However, if you can provide information regarding the buyer or sellers marital status, that will help us immensely in the initial stages! For more information on placing orders or all things title insurance, feel free to give us a call or send an email! We are so happy to help.

Construction Hold-Open Commitments

The 2020 residential building season is now upon us!   Building season brings construction loans and the title concerns that come with this type of financing.   There can be concerns about the duplication of title services and costs that come along with it as well as insuring that the title to the real estate does not collect liens and other title issues prior to permanent financing.   At Tallgrass Title, we are pleased to offer a “construction hold-open” type commitment to assist in the construction of residential property.

Tallgrass Title is proud to say that we can assist in this area!

Q:  How is residential construction financed?

A:  People constructing a home will typically borrow money in order to finance the construction with a “construction loan.”  A construction loan is short term financing of real estate construction.  Generally, a construction loan is followed by long term financing called an “End Loan” that is issued upon completion of improvements.

Q:  Do both loans need title insurance?

A:  Because of the nature of a construction loan, Lenders are often concerned about the length of time a commitment is valid from its issuance.  Commonly, the commitment expires before the construction can be completed and  before going to end loan. To solve this issue, lenders will pay for a full title policy on the construction loan and then again on the end-loan.  The downside is that this creates duplicated costs.

How we can help:

Tallgrass Title is the only title insurance company in the area that offers a “Construction Hold-Open Commitment.”  A Construction Hold Open Commitment provides periodic updates of the construction loan commitment every 120 days keeping the title coverage valid until the end loan is closed.  Therefore, the costs are not duplicated between the construction loan and the end loan.

How to request:

Simply order a Construction Hold-Open Commitment from Tallgrass Title and we will perform the initial search and issue a Commitment for a $200 fee.  The Construction Hold-Open Commitment is then valid for 120 days from the Commitment Date and can be renewed for an additional 120 days with an update. We will perform two updates as part of the initial fee.  We will typically send out an update reminder when the expiration date is near. However, we do not perform updates without a request from the lender. After the second update, if further updates are required there will be an additional $50 fee per update. Construction Hold-opens can remain open indefinitely with the appropriate updates.

When the construction is complete and the mortgage is ready to go to End Loan or final policy we will do a final update at no additional charge. When the Final Mortgage is ready to be filed we collect the Premium and any Endorsement fees and record the New Mortgage. Our office must record the Mortgage and any other required documents with the Register of Deeds Office to ensure that the title is free and clear of any possible new liens. When the recorded documents come back from the county and all the requirements are met we will issue the Policy.

For those of you that use our Paperless Closer system, simply note that the loan is for new construction and type into the notes that you want a Construction Hold-Open Commitment.  If you prefer to email the order, please note the request on your order form.

Please contact our office if you have any questions!  We look forward to assisting you in the 2020 building season. 

Wet-Ink or Electronic Signatures on Closing Documents

Here at Tallgrass Title we are focused on helping to make each transaction happen as smoothly as possible. One of the tools we encourage people to use is electronic signatures. Programs such as Dotloop®, DocuSign®, and many others provide a secure platform for buyers, sellers, and realtors to affix their signatures to documents quickly and efficiently.

At the beginning of a transaction, contracts, addendums, and disclosures can be signed electronically. This cuts down on the time and shoe leather it takes to obtain documents to get the process started. Most programs also have a way to send a copy of the signed documents to the title company, so you don’t have to save a copy somewhere else on your computer to pass on later.

Soon after the commitment is sent out, our closing agents generate the Buyer Preliminary Documents and the Seller Deed Packet. We send them out as soon as possible and encourage early signatures as it helps the closing process go more smoothly. Our Buyer Prelim Doc packet can be signed electronically in its entirety.  This packet includes a warning sheet about wire fraud; it is very important that it is read by the buyers at the earliest opportunity. Scammers and fraudsters try to steal earnest money deposits, not just closing funds! The fraud sheet also shows that we have partnered with a secure company called CertifID® to send and receive wire instructions. This program verifies the senders/receivers’ identities, verifies the wire instructions, and insures each wire sent using the verified instructions.

The Seller Deed Packet also includes a warning about wire fraud in case they would like to have us wire their proceeds to them at closing. This document and all other documents that do not need a notary’s signature may also be signed electronically. As a reminder: the Information Release form and the 1099 tax sheet require the seller’s social security number so please send the completed documents back to us securely. The Deed and any Affidavits will need to be signed in the presence of a notary. Your clients can either meet with a notary of their choice or they can visit our office where one of our notaries would be happy to assist. During this time of social-distancing, we do ask that you call us to let us know when they are coming.

The final documents that are needed for closing are the settlement statements and the loan paperwork if the buyers are receiving financing. For our purposes, the sellers can sign their statements electronically and don’t need to come to a closing appointment in person unless they choose to do so. As of this time, the buyers do need to sign their loan packet in person, either at their bank or in our office. Some lenders have begun to have buyers sign a portion of the documents electronically to reduce the amount of time needed to complete the closing. However, the buyers do need to sign the mortgage and a few other documents before a notary.

Please reach out to us to discuss which methods best fit your transaction. Our agents are happy to help walk you through the tasks that can be completed electronically in order to help your transaction go smoothly.

FAQ: Kansas State Property Taxes

With tax deadlines right around the corner we get asked a lot of questions about property taxes before, during and even after closing. Part of our job during the closing process is to make sure you and your clients understand what is on the settlement statement before signing. The following are the most frequently asked questions we hear regarding real estate taxes:

Q – When are real estate taxes in Kansas due?

A – Taxes are paid in December and May.

Example: Annual taxes are due in December of every year but the second half of the payment may be deferred until May of the following year.  Therefore, most real estate taxes are paid in two installments in December and May.  For example, the first half of 2019 taxes were due on December 20, 2019 and the second half will be due on May 10, 2020. 

Q – When will I receive my tax statement?

A – Tax statements are sent out by your county treasurer’s office on or after November 1st but no later than December 15th each year. You can also look them up online at the county treasurer’s website..

Q – I paid this year’s taxes, why is it showing up on my settlement statement that I have to pay it again?

A – Taxes for the year 2019 are due in December of 2019 and May of 2020. We make sure that all of 2019 taxes are paid at the time of closing and if they are not, we put the payment on the settlement statement to pay them current.  The other real estate tax payment appearing on a settlement statement  is a tax proration. If a closing happened in April of 2020 and all of 2019 taxes are paid in full the sellers will give the buyers a credit for the time the Sellers owned the real estate from January 1st to the date of closing. Then, when 2020 taxes are assessed and become due in December 2020, the Buyer is responsible for paying the 2020 taxes in full.

Q – I closed in October, why did I receive a tax statement, shouldn’t this go to the new owners?

A – Yes, however when closing happens so close to issuing statements, the county offices do not always have time to get addresses and ownership updated in their system before statements are issued and sent out. If you paid your taxes through closing you will not have to pay them again.

If you have other questions regarding property taxes we are here to help answer them. Our team at Tallgrass Title is very knowledgeable and eager to assist.

Combating Current Trends in Wire Fraud

By now most of you are probably familiar with the idea of scammers trying to steal buyers’ purchase funds. Since that amount is usually several thousands of dollars it makes sense that thieves would be interested in it. It ends up being a decent-sized reward for very little effort and risk.

Recently, we were made aware of a different twist in the wire fraud trend. Lately, title companies have started seeing scammers go after earnest money deposits. Even though the amount is relatively small, multiple thefts can add up to a nice paycheck.

How do they do it? A scammer hacks into a realtor’s or a closing agent’s email and waits. Pretty soon he (or she) starts seeing messages about a sale transaction. He emails the buyer posing as the realtor or title agent with wire instructions for their earnest deposit. The contract is signed and the buyer follows the scammer’s instructions not knowing he has been scammed. Eventually someone notices that the earnest money never was deposited, but it is usually too late to stop the funds from going to the wrong place. Unfortunately, the amount is so small that it might be virtually untraceable as well.

Here are a couple of ways to help reduce the risk of it happening to your clients:

Educate your clients! As soon as a potential client contacts you, begin arming them with the tools they can use to protect themselves. Sure, you don’t want to freak anybody out, but go ahead and warn them about the potential risk and what you will do to help keep them safe. Have them read and sign wire fraud information sheets as they sign their initial offer. Explain to them that you will NEVER, EVER email them about wire information. Go ahead and give your clients the confirmed contact information of the title company they will be using so they can confirm any wire information being sent to them.

Make sure your email is secure. Do not use a free email service. No matter how annoying it is to do it, change your password often! Send all documents relating to a transaction securely. If you think about it, a contract has names, money amounts, closing date, and contact info for some of the parties. It’s a goldmine of information for any scammer who may have managed to hack into your email. So send those documents through secure portals to keep everybody safe.

Help keep funds secure. Encourage your clients to use the secure programs offered by title companies, including CertifID for wire instructions and Earnnest for digital funds transfers.

The bottom line is we must respect every transfer of funds and work to protect those funds. If we don’t try to do anything about wire fraud, or think that it only happens to someone else, we are letting criminals have their way. A small action on our part could spike a scammers gun.

Closings Continue at Tallgrass Title

At Tallgrass Title, we understand that real estate transactions must continue during the COVID -19 pandemic.  Real estate sales and transactions cannot simply stop because of this serious health scare.  Many contracts for the sale of real estate were signed prior to the global outbreak.  It is doubtful that the contract was contingent on a global pandemic.  Additionally, numerous folks began the refinance process for their home loans.  Without closing within a specified time, loan locks are in danger of expiring.  Therefore, closings continue to take place but with new added precautions and measures to support social distancing and prevent the further spread of the virus.  At the same time, many of these measures have been in place at Tallgrass Title for several years.  The purpose of this post is to share these measures with our customers and how they’re convenient and will save the parties time, pandemic or no pandemic.

  1. Early deed packets mean smooth closings. Having the Seller sign deed packets ahead of closing allows for the Seller to be absent from the closing.  The Sellers can sign their packet in front of a notary at their convenience and simply drop the packet in the drop box at either one of our locations.  The only in-person interaction that a Seller must currently have with another person is signing the deed packet.  However, notaries (as well as TGT staff) are providing ways to prevent spreading the virus further.  We are also offering several different options to assist in social distancing loan closings.  Ask one of our closing agents for options!
  2. Use of electronic signatures. With the growing use of online services, wet-ink signatures are simply not needed for most documents.  Several programs like HelloSign, DocuSign and Dotloop allow for a person to sign from their phone or computer.  Therefore, there is no need to meet face-to-face with a person to execute closing paperwork.  At Tallgrass Title, we routinely offer parties the option to sign settlement statements electronically.
  3. Use of Earnnest for delivery of earnest money. Earnnest is a program much like Venmo, Cash App or PayPal that allows for the instantaneous transfer of earnest money.  Therefore, there is no need for the physical delivery of earnest money to our office.
  4. Wiring of proceeds or delivery to bank. Tallgrass Title offers free wiring of real estate agents’ commission checks. We also offer to wire Seller’s proceeds from their transactions.  Additionally, our free courier service will deliver proceeds or commission checks to any local bank free of charge.  This means that there is no need to pick up a paper check at our office.  Ask your closing agent for details.

Our goal is to make your transaction as smooth and convenient as possible.  This includes in times of uncertainty.  As stated, most of these techniques and measures have been in place before the COVID-19 pandemic so our team is well acquainted and comfortable with their use.  Should you have any questions, our real estate professionals are happy to help. It’s our job!