Tag: property

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 This tells us that the earnest money has been withdrawn from the buyers account, is verified as good funds, and is on its way!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!

 

Real Estate Property Taxes are Due Soon – Don’t Forget!

It’s property tax season! In Kansas, property taxes are due in arrears and paid twice a year. Taxes for the first half of the year are due December 20th of the current year; the second half of the year is due on May 10th of the following year. This means that unpaid taxes for the current year are considered delinquent as early as December 21st.

In order to avoid delinquency, we recommend paying before December 20th, otherwise you could encounter long lines or delays in processing your payment.  With varying restrictions due to Covid-19, be sure to contact your county treasurer in advance to see if an appointment is required to pay your bill or be sure to mail in your payment early enough to ensure it is postmarked prior to the due date.

Selling your real estate?

If your real estate is currently under contract, you may have very specific questions. Like, what if I am selling my real estate and the closing date is near the tax due date? How does our title company handle taxes? Do we pay them ourselves? Do we pay them at closing?

First, take a deep breathe. Then call your closing agent and ask them how they would prefer to handle the taxes.

If the closing date is prior to the due date your closing agent may prefer that you wait and pay the taxes through closing. If they are due after closing, they may encourage payment prior to closing to prevent late fees and penalties. Either way, if a payment is made your closing agent will need proof of payment in order to remove the payment from the settlement statement. Otherwise funds will be held in escrow and paid to the county by December 20th or refunded to the Seller upon proof of payment prior to December 20th.

How do I get proof of payment?

When paying taxes in the county office, the treasurer will provide you with a receipt for your payment. Hand deliver or email a copy to your closing agent and they will take care of the rest. If you mail in your payment, your closing agent can call the county and request the receipt.

If taxes are paid at closing, do I have to take the check to the county treasurer myself?

Nope, the title company will send a courier to the county and take care of getting them paid, you will not need to worry about the taxes getting paid we will take care of everything.

If you are unsure of next steps please feel free to reach out to our office. We can walk you through the process to make your closing as smooth and stress free as possible.

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.

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!

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.

Multiple Owners of Real Estate and Ownership Interests

Ownership in Property

When it comes to holding title in real estate with another person or entity, there are two highly common ways to be vested on a deed: Tenants in Common and Joint Tenants with the Rights of Survivorship.

Tenants in Common is ownership of the real estate between two individuals and entities or more.  The ownership is undivided, meaning that your ownership is of the whole tract or real estate and not a particular portion. Additionally, the ownership can be held in equal shares or unequal shares. If owned by individuals and one of those tenants dies, their interest would then pass to their heirs.  Also, as a tenant in common, you may typically freely transfer your percentage of ownership in the real estate.

The second main way of holding title to real estate with another is Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship (JTWRS).  JTWRS is mostly seen between married couples or various family members. Like tenants in common, each party shares an undivided interest in the real estate. However, that interest share is equal and upon the death of one party their share transfers automatically to the surviving owner.   You can see why this is most typical between married couples.

Interest in Property

Marital interest also comes in to play when owning real estate in Kansas. The State of Kansas is what is known as a “One to Buy, Two to Sell” state. Even if a spouse is not named on a deed or other document transferring ownership, they still have what is called a marital interest. This comes in to play when selling or mortgaging a piece of property. Even if John is the only one in title, John and his wife, Jill, must both sign any deed transferring or mortgaging the property (with one small exception that is specific and too lengthy for this discussion. However, feel free to give me a ring and I will explain).

Another way to possess interest in a property is by way of an equitable interest. This is commonly seen in installment contracts. Typically, the buyer of the real estate under contract will not receive a deed until all of the payments are made.  Therefore, an Affidavit of Equitable Interest is filed. When an Affidavit of Equitable Interest is filed with the Register of Deeds it is a declaration that another party has interest in the property creating a cloud on the title. Party A still retains ownership of the property, but Party B has declared that they have equity in the real estate.

Finally, a Transfer on Death Deed is a statement of future ownership in property. This is often used in estate planning and can simplify things for loved ones after an owner has passed away. This type of ownership does not pass an interest in the real estate until the grantor on the deed has passed.  Additionally, this deed is fully revocable until the death of the grantor.

These are just a few of the different types of joint ownership of real estate and common ownership interest scenarios that you might encounter when buying or selling property. At Tallgrass Title, it’s our job to walk through these situations with you and ensure that our clients are transferring and receiving real estate with clean title. We’re happy to answer any question you may come across about the many kinds of ownership!