Land Title Blog & Radio Show

WHY DO YOU NEED A TITLE COMPANY?

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At Land Title of America, Inc., we’re not just an air-conditioned office full of friendly faces.  We’re here to help—in the immediate sense when you have a real estate closing, AND if there’s a problem.  If someone questions the real estate title to your home, you can walk in our front door and receive assistance in defense of your ownership rights.  Our services breakdown into three parts:

  1. Real Estate Closings – Yes, one function of a title company is to conduct real estate transactions. It’s a process, and it starts with a title search. We examine public records to make sure the chain of ownership is strong.  If we find a weakness, then we assist the seller in addressing that weakness.  We’re also watching the clock and the punch list to make sure surveys are done, inspections are made, and the money is in place.  We make sure funds are distributed correctly and documents are recorded into public record.  We want all parties involved to walk away from the closing table satisfied that their deal has been done as specified in the real estate contract.
  2. Title Insurance – Title companies sell title insurance. Though title insurance is not required by law, it’s normally a contractual obligation, and a real good idea.  Furthermore it’s a real good deal at a low cost that gives you a lot of financial protection on your real estate investment.  While title companies research every detail to minimize risk to the new owner, they also offer (at a one-time, low cost fee) an insurance policy that financially protects that owner from claims against his or her ownership.  The title search is an analysis of the situation, but it’s no guarantee; title insurance is the financial protection in case the title search doesn’t catch something.  Title insurance provides and pays for the legal defense of your real estate ownership should somebody challenge your rights to the property.
  3. If There’s A Problem With Your Real Estate Title – If someone questions your ownership to your home, you’re going to want a title company that can help you stand up for your rights by providing legal representation and paying for it.

It’s a bad day when a customer walks through our door because someone has filed a lawsuit against them, claiming ownership to their home.  But it’s good when we can be a big part of the resolution by putting that title insurance policy to work.  That’s what a title company like Land Title of America, Inc. is there to do.

Land Title of AmericaWHY DO YOU NEED A TITLE COMPANY?
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LAND TITLE CELEBRATES 20 YEARS IN BUSINESS

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Land Title of America, Inc. celebrates two decades of business in St. Augustine in 2017.  The best part, according to company president, Stephen Collins, is the homeowners they have helped in that time.  Since 1997, Land Title has performed title searches, assisted in real estate transactions, and offered title insurance to protect homeowners from financial loss due to a challenge against their real estate ownership.

In 1997, the first Harry Potter book came out, the stock market hit record highs, and Stephen Collins opened Land Title of America, Inc. in St. Augustine, Florida.  He credits his aunt and uncle, John and Faye Gullett, who financed his venture, and Robert Mooney who granted him an agency agreement through Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.  These people provided him with the infrastructure to make his company a reality.

Stephen Collins was no stranger to the title industry, having grown up in the family business, Collins Title & Abstract Co., Inc., which had served Northeast Florida since 1979.  Stephen remembers being a human fax machine:  biking documents from one office to another starting when he was in middle school.  Raised with a foundation of family values hand in hand with solid business practices, Stephen carried the tradition forward to meet the challenges of today’s real estate market.

“On the one hand, I can’t believe it’s been twenty years,” says president and owner, Stephen Collins, “but on the other hand, so much has changed.”

Twenty years is a major milestone given the real estate market over the past two decades.  Land Title opened when the Dow Jones and New York Stock Exchange hit record highs and real estate was booming too, but then the subprime mortgage crisis began in 2007, which led to the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.  Land Title not only had to shift its focus within the market, it also had to adjust how it did business according to the new regulations.

Flexibility and creativity became keys to survival and success.  Stephen Collins expanded the company’s online presence with social media and a new website (www.GoLandTitle.com/).  Also he and his brother, Rusty, began to host the bi-monthly radio show, “Land Title Talk” on 102.1 FM WFOY (first and third Fridays at 8:00 a.m.)  The on-air discussions keep the public informed about real estate and legal issues affecting our area, and helps Stephen to know the concerns of homeowners living here.

Probably the most creative business strategy was the music marketing.  In 2011 the Collins brothers started a band called Old Enough-2-Know Better (OE-2-KB), which gave Stephen another way to reach out to customers and potential customers.  Now OE-2-KB performs every third Wednesday at Gypsy Cab’s Corner Bar, and every third Friday at the Orioles Nest #324, plus special events, like the Blue Crab Festival and St. Augustine Beach Blast (www.oe-2-kb.com).

Over the last twenty years, Land Title of America has played an important role to solidify property value in Northeast Florida.  Their commitment to customer satisfaction and their dedication to homeowner rights remain unchanged into their future.  You may contact Land Title at (904) 797-9600 or visit their website at www.GoLandTitle.com.

Land Title of AmericaLAND TITLE CELEBRATES 20 YEARS IN BUSINESS
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THE BIRDS & THE BEES OF TITLE CLAIMS

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Where do Title Claims come from? Do they fly in from outer space? Does the man on the moon make them? Does the stork bring them?

Nobody really knows where title claims come from-just kidding. They come from the person suing you because they feel they have rights that you’re infringing upon. The issue is you don’t know they’re coming.

Often the birds and the bees of title claims are human error-honest mistakes made at the courthouse, or an omission in public records. Sometimes there’s a disgruntled heir who comes forward after being written out of the will of a previous owner, or a disgruntled step-son who feels in the divorce mom didn’t get what was hers. And every now and then there’s a case of fraud or forgery. Many title claims come from a simple property line dispute-not the whole parcel, but a matter of a few feet. Regardless of where title claims come from, you never know if one’s going to land on you.

Title Insurance is like a nest egg. For a nominal one-time feem you can buy Title Insurance at closing, then no matter where a title claim come from, you have that policy to pay for the legal defense of your property ownership rights.

Legal costs to defend real estate ownership rights are a beehive of expenses, but if you have the nest egg of Title Insurance, you can crack the yolk over the sting of legal fees.

Next Blog Topic: “How Babies Are Made” – just kidding!

Land Title of AmericaTHE BIRDS & THE BEES OF TITLE CLAIMS
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BIG BROTHER

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When I testify in court for Rusty, he asks me my name, if we’re related, and how we’re related. I always say that Rusty is my big brother…because he is.

I recently testified at one of Rusty’s foreclosure hearings and I was surprised how many people don’t understand a Truth In Lending form, including the opposing counsel who represented the lender-he didn’t understand anything about the Truth In Lending form. It was very humbling to realize when I’m in a closing room with a customer how important my role is to make sure that buyer understands what Truth In Lending means and all the other closing documents.

The Truth-In-Lending Act (TILA) is a federal law that requires disclosure of a truth-in-lending statement for consumer credit. The statement includes a summary of the total cost of credit, such as the annual percentage rate (APR) and other specifics of the credit.

For people buying real estate, they rely on my expertise and knowledge to explain the deal they’re signing and make sure they know what they’re getting into. Rusty is my big brother, but sometimes I get to be the “big brother” for other people.

Land Title of AmericaBIG BROTHER
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BENJAMIN FRANKLIN & SALMON P CHASE

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Neither Benjamin Franklin nor Salmon P. Chase were President, yet both appear on US money; however, there’s a hundred-fold difference between them.

Benjamin Franklin-everybody knows him! He was an inventor, a statesman, and public leader. His face is printed on the hundred dollar bill, a handsome portrait to have in your wallet!

Salmon P. Chase-doesn’t tend to ride in people’s hip pockets so often (even when buying gas!). He served as Secretary of The Treasury and he’s on the ten thousand dollar bill.

The cost difference between having Owner’s Title Insurance on your real estate could be as great as the difference between these two men.

Owner’s Title Insurance typically costs a handful of Franklins (The base rate is $5.75 per thousand up to $100,000, and then $5.00 per thousand thereafter. The minimum charge for an Owner’s Title Insurance Policy is $100). It’s a one-time fee, and then those Franklins are ready to go to work should a property dispute arise.

Without Owner’s Title Insurance, a property dispute could cost the homeowner a lot more. The homeowner has to pay out-of-pocket for attorney’s fees and court costs to defend his ownership rights. Legal defense is expensive regardless of the property value of your home. The Salmon P. Chase bill is rare and hard to come by, yet title defense could cost $10,000 or more, and in the end, you could still lose your house.

When you spend a Woodrow Wilson (hundred thousand dollar bill) on the home of your dreams, it’s worth some Franklins to insure your title to it. Use correct denominations to get the maximum value. It’s a lot easier to reach into your walle for a Franklin
than for a Chase!

Land Title of AmericaBENJAMIN FRANKLIN & SALMON P CHASE
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BANK-OWNED EYESORES & TITLE TRAUMA

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The Florida Times Union recently ran a story on the problems of Bank-Owned Properties-unkempt, dilapidating properties that stand vacant for months driving down real estate value around them. They’re not just eyesores-they’re title traumas as well!

Bank-Owned Properties (also known as Real Estate Owned or REO’s) occur when a homeowner goes into default on their loan and the bank forecloses on the home. Unfortunately this process often brings problems for subsequent buyers of the property, problems including: No Accountability, Over-Charging, “Bad” Title Product, and No Survey.

No Accountability – The attorney who did the foreclosure normally owns the title company. They play a game of “catch me if you can,” leaving accountability as the “monkey in the middle”.

Over-Charging – The banks’ attorneys charge a “cheap” fee for the foreclosure, then make up for it by over-charging the buyer in closing fees. Their loss is their gain, and the buyer gets the bill. Over-charging shows up on Settlement Statements on items that customarily not as high or charged to the seller.

“Bad” Title Product – Ever heard of David Stern? Banks’ attorneys and and Bank-Owned Title Companies are notorious for throwing caution into a hurricane. In their velocity and volume, they don’t do the careful documentation to support a clear, clean foreclosure, thereby opening not a front door, but an airplane hangar door of liability.

Survey – Bank-Owned Properties come “As-Is”-they don’t come with a little gift basket and they don’t come with a survey. Without a survey there are title exceptions. How do you know that your neighbor won’t dispute the boundary lines? Remember it’s expensive to be right.

Bank-Owned Properties are popular for their cheap price, despite steep problems. However, they can be worth the risk if you get Title Insurance. Cheap real estate can cost you a fortune in legal fees if you don’t have your ownership title insured. What was a good investment can become a financial black hole if someone else makes a claim to the title, especially when it involves bad foreclosing.

There are financial risks inherent to the process in purchasing an REO. Insulate yourself from those risks with Title Insurance, which covers all the problems of the past.

Title Insurance is trauma treatment for title problems.

Land Title of AmericaBANK-OWNED EYESORES & TITLE TRAUMA
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“AMBIGUILTY” ATTORNEYS

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The Washington Post published a list of useful words you won’t find in the dictionary, including:

Cashtration” (cash-tray-shun) – the act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent
Reintarnation” (re-in-tar-nay-shun) – coming back to life as a hillbilly
Dopeler effect” (dope-lur) – tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly

I’ve got a word to add to the list: “Ambiguilty” (am-bi-gil-tee) – the state of being at fault for filing a totally bogus title claim against a rightful property owner. This is a term that applies to attorneys.

Real estate could be unfamiliar territory, but that doesn’t stop some attorneys who think they’re jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none from trying to knock down your door with a ridiculous challenge to your ownership.

Regardless of how bogus that claim is, the homeowner is responsible to defend himself in a court of law. And that’s costly. Have you priced a legal defense lately? Have you taken out a second mortgage lately?

Some attorneys are ambiguilty of imaginary title clouds that could cost the homeowner big bucks. The attorneys don’t know any better so they file a claim that they’re not going to win because they don’t know any better- a circular situation that can leave you spinning.

Don’t let lawyers charge you out of house and home when a title insurance policy provides a legal defense for your ownership rights (or pays out the policy amount if needed). Protect yourself from ambiguilty attorneys-get title insurance.

Land Title of America“AMBIGUILTY” ATTORNEYS
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ALL FOR THE BEST

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Some men are born to live at ease, doing what they please, richer than the bees are in honey… the rest of us have to work for a living!

Buying a home is for many of us the largest purchase we’ll ever make. It takes a lot of hard work to afford to live where we live, but we get the benefit of shelter-a place to gather, a place to rest and play, and a safe place to raise our children. A home is a very costly part of our lives, and a very beneficial part.

Hard earned homes can be compromised if a title claim is made against the property. Even if that claim is illegitimate, the homeowner has to defend his title in a court of law. Litigation expense can exceed the property value, making a legal defense cost prohibitive.

However, title insurance can help a homeowner protect his purchase. At a fraction of the cost to hire an attorney, a title insurance policy pays court costs to defend the homeowner’s ownership.

Protect your purchase with title insurance, then all is not lost in the event of a claim or challenge. A title insurance policy is something I hope you’ll never use, but if you need it, it is all for the best.

Land Title of AmericaALL FOR THE BEST
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ALTERNATIVE ENDING

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Owner’s Title Insurance is like a pre-written alternative ending to avoid misfortune. The happily-ever-after of home ownership should be hassle-free. You should be able to own your home and sell your home without any question of your entitlement. You paid for the house-heck, it’s your home-and you should have the right to live there and sell “there”… but life doesn’t always have a fairytale ending.

Sometimes the wicked stepchild of the previous owner comes back to claim her inheritance…and sometimes the next-door-ogre snatches a yard of your yard for his compost heap…and sometimes a courthouse clerk misfiles an earlier deed to your property…and then there’s fraud.

Court costs to defend your property rights can pile up higher than your neighbor’s compost. And they stink if you have to pay them yourself. However, for a one-time fee for owner’s title insurance, you can have an all-time alternative ending should someone make a claim against your land.

A title insurance policy cannot prevent a property dispute, but it can provide financial protection should an ownership challenge arise. Owner’s title insurance pays for the legal defense of your title-it pays for attorney’s billable hours and filing fees and other court costs associated with the matter… If that doesn’t work, then title insurance pays the amount insured.

Title insurance is a two-for-one deal-you get two endings for the price of a one-time fee at closing. If someone should challenge your ownership rights to your property, you either get your legal defense and you get to keep your house, or you get your legal defense and you get the policy amount so you can buy a new home (hey, not what we want, but sometimes we have Mr. Grimm writing the fairytale).

A title claim is not a win-win situation, but with title insurance, you can have an ending different from lose your house, lose all your money.

The expense of title insurance is only “once upon a time” at closing, and it brings you peace of mind for your “happily-ever-after”.

Land Title of AmericaALTERNATIVE ENDING
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ATTENTION ST. AUGUSTINE SOUTH RESIDENTS

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Just because you can get a County Permit to change your property in St. Augustine South does not mean those changes are condoned on the Plat Map. Don’t compromise the resale of your land by violating Plat Map requirements.

St. Augustine South is a unique neighborhood. Each homesite has to be set on at least two lots. Not one and point nine-nine-nine lots, but two lots. Fine. That gives residents elbow room with their neighbors; however, this two-lot rule has to be maintained for insurable resale no matter how many square feet the two lots equal.

If you live in the South, don’t trip over your own square feet. The County may give you a building permit that crowds the rule, but then your homesite will be ineligible for title insurance when you go to sell it. Furthermore, this St. Augustine South two-lot requirement is filed on the Plat Map, and is not a restriction that has to be renewed every 30 years per the Marketable Record Title Act.

Always check the Covenants and Restrictions and the Recorded Plat Map before making changes to your St. Augustine South property.

For more information on setbacks and encroachments in St. Augustine South, see the April 2012 edition of Southern Comfort, the neighborhood newsletter.

Land Title of AmericaATTENTION ST. AUGUSTINE SOUTH RESIDENTS
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