Tag: title insurance

What the Heck is a “Notary” Anyway and Why Do Certain Documents Need One?

A “Notary Public” or simply “Notary” for short, is a public officer that has received legal authority to perform certain functions intended to prevent fraud and forgery.  Each state has its own set of laws that govern the duties of notaries.  Notaries in Kansas perform five basic functions:

  1. Take acknowledgments
  2. Administer oaths and affirmations
  3. Take a verification upon oath or affirmation
  4. Witness or attest a signature
  5. Certify or attest a copy

With real estate transactions, you will most likely encounter a notary for the purposes of witnessing a signature and administering an oath.  In witnessing the signing of a document, the notary will verify that you are the person you claim to be, watch you sign a document and then stamp the document with their notarial seal.  When administering an oath, the notary will have you raise a hand and swear that the information contained in the document is true and correct. Most people will encounter this scenario in their lives.

But what is the notary actually doing and why do you need them to perform these functions?

With a non-notarized signature, another individual viewing a signed document must identify, prove, or trust that the signature was actually made by the person purporting to sign.  If you consider that a deed in a real estate transaction can pass real estate worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, it is easy to see that the area could be rife with fraud.  A Kansas Notary, as stated above, is a public officer that has been vetted by the Kansas Secretary of State and deemed trustworthy to perform the duties of a notary.  A notary also must provide a “bond” insuring their duties as a notary.

In witnessing a person sign a document, the notary is creating a presumption that a person is the individual that signed the document.  In the law, a presumption means that the burden of proving a fact has shifted to the other side.  Therefore, when a signature is notarized, it is presumed, or more likely than not, that the signature is authentic.  A person challenging the authenticity of a notarized document has the burden of presenting evidence that is persuasive enough to overcome the presumption in proving that a person did not sign a document.

Additionally, in Kansas, all documents that are filed with a county’s Register of Deeds must  be notarized as required by law.  So, for most real estate transactions, this includes a deed and mortgage.  These are also the documents that are responsible for the conveyance of the interest in real estate, making it easy to understand why such a requirement exists.

In real estate transactions, affidavits (sworn statements of fact) are the most common sworn statements encountered.  Usually, these come in the form of affidavits of death, affidavits of equitable interest, or affidavits of debts and liens.  Most of the time, they are used to clarify or clear a title concern and are required by a lender or title company as part of a transaction.

As one can see, Notary Publics serve a very important role of preventing fraud and forgery in every real estate transaction. At Tallgrass Title, every one of our team members is a Notary Public and understands the importance of that role and duty that it carries. Should this post present questions regarding the role of a notary in a real estate transaction, feel free to contact our office.  We are happy 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!

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!

Combating Current Trends in Wire Fraud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closings Continue at Tallgrass Title

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

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

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

Accessing Paperless Closer after Closing

With the increased social distancing brought about by the containment of the COVID-19 virus, Tallgrass Title is presenting several solutions for electronic closings.  This week, our closing agent Karissa is presenting how to access Paperless Closer following closing to retrieve any closing documents needed.

Congratulations! Your transaction has closed and managing the final signed docs does not have to be a nightmare. When closing remotely, your biggest concern should not be “how do I get a signed copy?” We can help with that!

All documents that enter our office are uploaded to Paperless Closer and made available online to only the parties who should have access. For example a Buyer’s Realtor will only have access to Buyer specific documents and a Seller’s Realtor will only have access to Seller specific documents. All parties will have access to documents that are not party specific.

Once the transaction is closed we will mark it as such, which in turn clears it out of the Open files list in your Paperless Closer. But don’t worry, you will still have access to all closed, old, and even cancelled orders.

To search files that are not currently open, log into Paperless Closer. In the Lobby, change the Status from Open to the status of your file: i.e. all, canceled, or closed

 

 

 

This will refresh the list of files you can access.

But what if I can’t find the document I need in the list?

The default in the Documents Tab allows you to view ten documents at one time. As seen in the example below, the Displaying items shows 1-10 of 26; you can switch pages using the arrows to the left or clicking on the page number you want.Once you find the document you are looking for in the list of Descriptions click on the button to open in a PDF to print or save.

Our Team here at Tallgrass Title is ready to help keep you organized. Let us keep track of the paperwork so you can focus on helping your clients make their dreams come true.

Tallgrass Title partners with Earnnest!!

In efforts to further assist our buyers, sellers, and realtors, we are pleased to announce our partnership with Earnnest to bring an additional option to your tool kit.

What is Earnnest?

Earnnest is a web app that allows for the electronic and instantaneous transfer of buyer’s earnest money into our Tallgrass Title trust account.  This service eliminates the requirement of delivering a physical check to our office or paying costly wire fees.

Functioning much like Venmo, PayPal, or Cash App, Earnnest is a perfect tool for transactions with out of town buyers, buyers unable to leave work, or for Millennials without check books!

How does it work?

  • The real estate agent or the title company (that’s us) sends a request to the buyer for the value of the earnest money
  • The Buyer gets a text or e-mail notification
  • The Buyer verifies their identity and makes the payment
  • The title company and escrow holder receives the payment instantaneously!
  • Tallgrass Title generates an electronic earnest money receipt for the realtor file.

With the technology of Earnnest in conjunction with electronic signature apps, the contract signing and escrow set up can be fully digital! No one needs to leave their office or their couch.

At Tallgrass Title, our mission is to make your transaction as smooth and easy as possible.  Earnnest is another step we have taken to continue that mission.  We would love to demonstrate further how this new tool works for you! Please give us a call for details or simply request to get started with Earnnest for your next escrow!

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!

MHK Office

 

As most of you know, we recently opened an office in MHK. We had the opportunity to talk a little about our new adventure! Check out the video below!

 

 

HELOCs and Second Mortgages

When most consumers purchase a home, they obtain conventional financing for the purchase.  This often takes the form of a 30-year, fixed rate loan.  In order to secure the loan made to you, the bank files a mortgage with the register of deeds.  This document tells the world that the bank has a first-place lien against the house and if any other creditors file a lien, that lien will be inferior to the first-place loan.  Now, let’s say that the same homeowner would like to make improvements to their home, add a pool or build a garage and would like to borrow additional money to do so.  The homeowner may also want to borrow funds for reasons unrelated to the home such as consolidation of credit card debt, assisting a child with college tuition or a business venture.

So, rather than to refinance the entire home loan and file a new mortgage, etc, to account for the increase in the loan, a bank will often file a second mortgage.  This can also take the form of a home equity line of credit type mortgage (HELOC) which is also usually a second mortgage as well.  The difference is typically the bank will automatically release a second mortgage upon payoff.  With a HELOC, the bank will keep the mortgage filed and the note open to allow a consumer to re-advance funds as needed.  Only upon request of the homeowner will the bank release the mortgage upon payoff.  This saves the costs and expense of making a new loan every time a homeowner wants to borrow funds.

HELOC’s and second mortgages can be obtained with the bank that made the first purchase loan or with a different institution as selected by the homeowner. The bank handling the loan will usually order title insurance to insure that the mortgage is secured against all liens, besides the first place mortgage.  If a consumer with a second place mortgage or HELOC later decides to sell the real estate, the title company simply pays off the second mortgage the same as it pays the first at closing.  The only additional step is to request additional payoff information.  Of course, there are many different types of second mortgages and HELOC’s.  it is a good idea to discuss options with a finance professional.

Here at Tallgrass Title, we deal with second mortgages and HELOCs on a daily basis.  Should you have any questions during your purchase, sale or refinance, feel free to contact our title professionals.  We are here to help, its our job!