Tag: selling

Early Deed Packets = Smooth Closings!

We have a saying in our office: “early deed packets means smooth closings!” But why would a few signed documents mean closing would run smoother? The more information we receive ahead of closing allows our closing team to gather any additional information we may need well in advance.  An early and complete deed packet allows us to balance with your client’s lender and get final numbers out for buyers in cash transactions. That way, when the day of closing comes around finalizing the transaction is a smooth process, leaving more time for celebration and little to no concern about whether things will fall into place.

Deed Packets contain several documents that consolidate much of the information we will need prior to closing.  This includes a form that allows us to contact the Seller’s current mortgage holder to obtain a payoff. This is especially important right now with many mortgage companies experiencing staffing shortages with extended processing times.  Oftentimes, it can take up to 20 days to get payoffs returned to us.

Early deed packets also allow us to deliver early settlement statements to you and your clients.  This gives plenty time for review and provides a clear picture of what the closing day will look like on the financial end of the transaction.

Additionally, some expenses will not be clear to us until we have the deed packet returned, including information about Homeowners Associations.  Having information about a property’s HOA membership in advance allows us to ensure that prorations are applied appropriately at closing.

This early document package also contains important information about email fraud and wire fraud. We want to help protect your client’s money just as much as you do.  This information is available to all of our clients in order to inform them of the dangers of spam emails and the possibility of fraudsters intercepting wires. Likewise, we include information about how we protect our clients from theft with CertifID.  We use CertifID to send or verify wiring instructions prior to the day of closing.

We understand sometimes coordinating a deed packet signing can be an issue as schedules vary.  Your clients are more than welcome to come to either of our offices Monday through Friday during business hours and we would be happy to walk through the deed packet with them. Alternatively, we offer free courier service and would be happy to meet your clients at a convenient location in Manhattan, Wamego, Alma, and Westmoreland.

Should you have any questions about the contents of a deed packet, feel free to contact one of our real estate professionals to assist you through the process.  It’s our pleasure to assist you!

What Day of the Week is the Best Day to Schedule Your Closing?

In today’s market with interest rates so low everyone is looking to buy. Why is it important to pick the right closing day? What are the best and worst days to close? For most clients, the bottom line is “When will my proceeds check be ready?” or “When may I move into my new house?”

Any day is the best day to close!  You are purchasing a home and are anxious to move in or are ready to close on the sale of your home and eager to use the proceeds for another transaction.  However, based upon the hectic housing market and record transactions taking place, certain days may just not be as convenient for all parties as others.

We will start with the best days to sign. From a title and lender standpoint the best days are Tuesday through Thursday with the exception of the 1st, 15th, or last day of the month. No one really wants to leave work early, come in late or take a day off in the middle of the week to go sign a bunch of papers, right? But those are the least busy days for a title office or lender which for the client means more flexibility on scheduling the appointment, more time available to go over specific questions about the transaction, and a more relaxed atmosphere.

So why are certain days less ideal than others? The short answer is that Fridays just seem to be a popular day for closings. We are also seeing an increased volume of closings on Mondays as well as the 1st, 15th, and last day of the month. While closing can still take place those days, scheduling will not be as flexible, and the appointment may be restricted to a certain time frame due to the high volume of other transactions.

Another consideration to make is that picking a Friday to close could actually result in further delaying your transaction if something doesn’t go as planned or a funding number is not received by the close of business. If a Friday closing has to be delayed for whatever reason, the earliest it can occur would be the following Monday or even Tuesday if the issue that caused the delay cannot be corrected in enough time for a Monday closing. If Friday is your only option for closing, consider closing in the morning to ensure funding can take place before the end of the business day.

So when will the checks be ready? Most lenders have requirements to be met before authorizing the title company to fund each transaction. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Rest assured that as soon as funding is authorized, we will issue checks and notify all parties.

For updates on your transaction, we offer Ready2Close. This portal allows clients to track the progress of their closing with a milestone tracker. Clients can also securely transmit and receive documents, e-sign certain documents, and access contact information for those involved with their transaction.

Happy Closing Day!

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.

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.

Different Types of Deeds and Interest

Quite frequently we are asked what deed is appropriate to transfer real estate in particular situations. The truth is there is not one deed for all transactions. There are different scenarios that require different verbiage to complete the transfer of real estate. Below is a brief explanation of what the different deed and interest types are and when they would be used in a real estate transaction.

Deeds

General Warranty Deed – A General Warranty Deed transfers real estate from one party to another.  Most importantly, the grantor is “warranting” that they own the real estate and guaranteeing that the grantee is receiving title to the real estate. It is the most commonly used deed and affords a grantee the grantor’s warranty of ownership..

Trustee’s Deed – A Trustee of a Trust in accordance with the Trust Agreement would sign a Trustee’s Deed to transfer real estate.  Again, most often Trustee’s deeds will appear as a warranty deed.

Administrator’s Deed – If the title holder passes away intestate (without a will) and the real estate is part of a court action, the Administrator may sign an Administrator’s Deed with permission from the court to transfer real estate.

Executor’s Deed – If the title holder passes away testate (with a will) and the real estate is part of a court action, the Executor may sign an Executor’s Deed to act in accordance with the Will of the decedent to transfer real estate.

Sheriff’s Deed – If the real estate being transferred was sold at a sheriff’s sale as part of a foreclosure or other civil procedure, a Sheriff will give a purchaser a Sheriff’s deed.  Such a deed will contain the specifics of how the sheriff gained the authority to make such a deed. 

Quitclaim Deed – A Quitclaim Deed is used when a party may have an interest that needs to be transferred to another party. The Grantor of the Quitclaim Deed is not Warranting that they have an interest, instead they are relinquishing any interest they may have.

Interest

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship – When two parties own real estate together, if one were to pass away all their interest would transfer to the other party by filing a Death Certificate, Affidavit of Death, or filing the Will with the court.  Real Estate held between spouses is generally held as Joint Tenacy with Right of Survivorship.

Tenants in Common – When two parties own real estate together, if one were to pass away their interest would transfer to their heirs at law or by a will or other estate planning device.  This type of interest is common when two or more parties who are not married to each other own real estate together.

Life Estate – This is when a party retains an interest in the real estate for the duration of their life. They have the all the rights of use they would if they held title but only for the duration of their life. The real estate may be transferred to another party by the party holding the life estate but the tenancy terminates upon death of the original life estate holder.

Our team is knowledgeable and passionate about title insurance related inquiries. If you still have questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to give us a call. We are here to help.

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!

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.