Tag: realtor

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!

The Tallgrass Title Cinnamon Roll Vision Quest

After many debates around the office about the best bakery in the area, and more specifically, the best cinnamon rolls around, we decided to conduct an experiment.  I present to you the Tallgrass Title Cinnamon Roll Vision Quest.  In providing title services across the Flint Hills region, our staff has gotten into the habit of making pit stops for cinnamon rolls (and cookies and muffins…stay tuned) in the various towns we travel to and from to conduct title searches, perform mobile notary services, or deliver commission checks.  We decided to put the debate to rest and execute a super scientific analysis.

The Contenders

Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe, Alma
Sugar Creek Country Store, St. Marys
Friendship House, Wamego
Bluestem Bistro, Manhattan
Tasty Pastry, Clay Center
Kawffee Pot, St. George
Radina’s, Manhattan

Our Process

After sampling each cinnamon roll, our team completed a survey evaluating the specimen in regard to the flavor and quality of icing, roll density and flavor, the element of cinnamon (or lack thereof), appearance, and one’s personal desire to buy this cinnamon roll for their friends.

Our Findings

Best in Cinnamon-tography

Whereas many of the otherwise delicious cinnamon rolls we tested lacked a strong cinnamon flavor, the rolls from St. George’s Kawffee Pot possessed a delightful amount of cinnamon goo. These rolls also had a rich and flavorful icing with elements of vanilla and almond.  These were definitely the sweetest of the contenders; if you’re looking for a rich and dessert-like treat, Kawffee Pot is the way to go!  The rolls themselves were quite fluffy, moist, and flavorful.

The Heartiest

Radina’s and Bluestem Bistro, both located in Manhattan, served up the heartiest rolls we tried – maybe meals in themselves.  Both rolls were light, airy, and very fluffy!  Both less sweet than their rivals, Radina’s quality bread delivered a cinnamon roll that felt a little more appropriate for breakfast than dessert. Bluestem Bistro’s rolls were by far the fluffiest and most moist of our contenders.

Icing on the Cake!

The Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe and Sugar Creek in St. Marys both had such impeccable icing, our data collection resulted in a tie.  Thick, buttery, and perhaps sour cream-y, Sugar Creek delivered an outstanding icing that complimented their perfectly sized moist, albeit a bit dense, rolls.  Alma has stood out as a fan favorite around the office, in part due to their delicate, natural flavored icing paired with light and airy rolls with a strong cinnamon flavor.  These rolls didn’t last long around the office, what did last was the team scheming up reasons to drive to Alma for more.

Best in Show

Perfect and strategically located down the street from Tallgrass Title headquarters.  Our old faithful Friendship House cinnamon rolls.  Moist, light, and hearty cinnamon rolls with a perfect ratio of rich, buttery icing. And impeccably cute.  100% of respondents said these rolls were just right on sweetness, although there was some disagreement on whether they had quite enough cinnamon.

A Nutty Honorable Mention

A visit to Clay Center brought the Tasty Pastry into the competition. However, they were fresh out of cinnamon rolls that day.  Lucky for us, a local advised we check out the Nut Rolls.  Covered in scrumptious nuts with plenty of cinnamon, icing, and still in a roll shape! These treats might qualify more as donuts but trust me, they still won us over.

 

Here at Tallgrass Title, we’re happy to help with all your title insurance needs, it’s our job!  Feel free to contact our title professionals with questions arising with a current closing or general inquiries about title and escrow services.  We’re also happy to offer our recommendations for the best local treats and eats. …we’d like to think it’s our job!

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!

What Do Lower Interest Rates Mean to a Realtor?

Those in the real estate industry are well aware of the fact that interest rates for loans have been lowered by the Federal Reserve over the last couple of months.  This reduction in turn lowers the interest rate paid by a borrower for a loan with their bank.  Lower interest rates have caused a large increase in loan “refinancing.”  Refinancing simply means replacing your existing home loan or commercial loan with a new loan at a lower interest rate to save financing costs or to increase the amount borrowed without affecting monthly payments.  For example, if a consumer borrows $200,000 at 4.0% interest with a 30-year term, their monthly payment would be $955.  That same loan at 3% interest would result in a monthly payment of $843.  The benefit is clear:  under this scenario, a consumer would be paying $100 less per month for the same borrowed amount.  Who wouldn’t want to save a $100 a month on their monthly payment?!!

So, people are refinancing their home loans and other commercial loans.  But how does that affect a Realtor?

As a buyer’s agent, you are well aware of your client’s “buying power.”  Meaning: what can your buyer afford?  At the end of the day, what your buyer can afford translates to “what payment can they afford.”  With lower interest rates, principal goes farther and a buyer can afford payments on a larger mortgage and ultimately the buying power of a buyer increases. Therefore, what houses you are showing a client could change.  Even more important is if you have a Buyer that was pre-approved several months ago and has not yet found a home to purchase, it would be wise to have the buyer update their pre-approval.

As a seller’s agent, you are often tasked with consulting with your client on how to reach a listing price for real estate.  Through comparable sales, inventory and available potential buyers, a list price is reached.  As discussed above, due to lowered interest rates, the buying power of potential purchasers has increased.  Based upon the increased buying power, there could be a larger pool of potential buyers for your list property.  Therefore, the list price may be increased if supply does not support the potentially higher demand created by the larger pool of buyers.  It’s basic economics.  However, the interest rates decrease is certainly important to evaluate when consulting on establishing new list prices.

Of course, this post is not encouraging agents to encourage buyers to purchase to the maximum amount of their financing ability or to encourage the increase on listing prices of property.  Each transaction will require the expertise and market knowledge of a Realtor to make those determinations.  Rather, this post is meant to spur the discussion of market impacts due to lower interest rates, especially in the Riley, Geary, Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee County markets.  Our team at Tallgrass Title understands the market impacts caused by interest rate changes and have recently seen a significant increase in refinance title insurance orders.  We are happy to discuss these changes and how they affect your clients.  It’s our job!

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!

Website Security Added at Tallgrass Title

In the digital age that we live, everything is online.  You can shop online, meet people online, even work online.  The internet has made everything from checking the time for a movie to buying groceries faster and more convenient.  However, while it is super convenient, it comes with its own risks.  Cyber crime is at a record high.  We all know how to use the internet, however, not everyone knows how to keep themselves and their information safe online.  At Tallgrass Title, we recognize the need for people to protect themselves and are constantly looking for new ways to protect our clients.  We blog, teach classes, and review online security with our clients.  However, there is always room for improvement, and we are always looking for more ways to be more secure.  We found one.  Our website document sharing portal is now secured with SSL Certificates.  These are Secure Sockets Layer protocol certificates, or SSL Certs.  Secure Sockets Layer is a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client.  Without the SSL, anything you send out of your computer is in plain text, something that is more easily read.  However, with SSL, instead of sending out plain text, an algorithm is used to determine the secret code in which the email will be sent.  So, to put it simply, we have made communication with our office encrypted.  Technology is constantly growing and evolving, as are the risks that come with using it.  We tell our clients and patrons different ways to be safe online, but now we can say: We are extra safe for you!

Thank you Manhattan!

Last week we officially opened a Manhattan, Kansas office.  This move follows requests from real estate professionals to locate an office to better serve their regional needs.  You asked, we listened!  Our Manhattan office (TGT MHK) is located at 210 N. 4th, Suite A in the Hartford Building.  We are fully staffed Monday – Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00pm and are open over the noon hour.  A drop box is located on the front of the building for after hours drop-offs.  Both the Wamego and Manhattan offices are equipped to deal with closings, escrow deliveries, deed packet deliveries and notary services.  Additionally, TGT MHK will continue to offer free courier service in the Manhattan area as well as mobile closings.  We are here to serve your needs!

At Tallgrass Title, we love feedback about how we may better serve your needs.  Feel free to speak with any of our title experts about your needs as a real estate professional.

You’re Invited

Hello Manhattan! Please join us at the grand opening of the Manhattan office of Tallgrass Title. We are having a reception at our location in the Hartford Building on April 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. and we’d like for you to attend.

Local group, Solar’s Jazz Quartet will be delivering musical treats for your ears.  Amazing food will be provided by Blacksheep Catering and Jake will being offering specialty cocktails.

We’ve heard from many of our customers they’d like for us to open an office in Manhattan, and as your newest neighbors, we want to hear how we can best serve you. We are excited to see you at our event so that we may learn more about your needs as a real estate professional.

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

Come out and eat, drink and say hello!

Deed Packet Pro Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Deed. (No kidding, right?)

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

The Affidavit as to Debts, Liens and Indemnity.

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

The Authorization for Release of Information.

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

The 1099 Tax Information Sheet.

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

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

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

New Year, No More Mortgage Registration Tax!

In Kansas in years past, mortgage registration tax was charged by the State of Kansas for the filing of a mortgage at the county register of deed’s office. This tax was based upon the size of the mortgage and had to be paid at the time of filing the mortgage.  In the last year of its existence, a residential mortgage in the amount of $100,000 would result in a tax in the amount of $50.00.  As you can see, this amount can quickly multiply on larger mortgages.  Additionally, a filing fee based upon the number of pages to be filed was charged along with the mortgage registration tax.  A standard, thirty-year mortgage typically results in a filing fee of anywhere from $100.00 to $350.00.  These fees will typically show up as financing charges or “closing costs” on a settlement statement.  In my experience, most individuals were not aware of the fees until they reviewed their closing statements.  It was usually a shock for buyers to learn that they had to pay a couple hundred dollars simply to file a document at the register of deeds.

A few years ago, several homeowner, realtor and homebuilding groups lobbied State Legislators for the repeal of the mortgage registration tax. Their efforts were successful, and the tax was phased out over a few years until now.  Beginning on January 1, 2019, mortgage registration tax is no longer charged in Kansas.  This means immediate savings for homebuyers and homeowners that are refinancing their existing loans.  Additionally, the filing fees charged at the register of deeds will not increase in 2019.  Again, this is helpful to the Kansas home buyer and homeowner.  Should you have any questions regarding the repeal of the mortgage registration tax or the current filing fees, feel free to contact Tallgrass Title.