Tag: realtor

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!

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.