Land Title Blog & Radio Show

OUT OF THE BALLPARK

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When a batter hits a ball, everyone can see where the ball lands…unless he hits it out of the ballpark. Similarly, a real estate title search only reveals deeds recorded in the public record. The deed in the back of Uncle Ernie’s sock drawer may have a legitimate claim on your newly purchased home, but you’re not going to learn that with only a title search, no matter how good the title company is. That’s where Title Insurance can change the score in your financial favor.

If only baseball teams could take out insurance against homeruns hit by their opponent! Well, you wouldn’t have much of a game if that could happen. When it comes to homeownership, though, you don’t want to play games.

Homeowners can buy Title Insurance. For a low, one-time fee homeowners can level the playing field should someone make an ownership claim to their real estate—could be something like a well on the wrong side of the property line or an inheritance misunderstanding (who knew Uncle Ernie had an illegitimate son who he loved dearly enough to leave him his entire estate?). Title Insurance provides and pays for the legal defense of your ownership title.

A title challenge is no walk in the park, but Title Insurance reduces the risk of you losing your house and your out-of-pocket money for an attorney and court fees. Title Insurance gives you the home field advantage.

Land Title of AmericaOUT OF THE BALLPARK
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IS ANYBODY THERE? THE PROBLEMS WITH NATIONAL TITLE COMPANIES

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National title companies are easy to find online…unless you have a problem.  If you need help to defend your ownership rights of your property, then it’s up to you to navigate a website, or you’re at the mercy of a telephone tree.

It could be a lesser claim, like your neighbor says that your well is three feet on her property, or it might be something bigger, like a survey error puts a highway smack-dab through the middle of your living room.  Either way, legal fees are expensive.

The claim may be crazy, but it’s your responsibility to defend your ownership rights.  Title Insurance goes a long way to help you.  Title Insurance not only pays for your legal defense, your policy also provides the attorney.  That’s great…so long as your title company answers your call.

A local title company has more accountability to you.  If there’s a challenge to your real estate title, a local company will take your call, or you can walk in the door and speak to someone face-to-face for help.  People who work at a local title company are going to see you at church or school functions, shopping at Wal-Mart, or enjoying downtown.  When they review your closing documents with you, they’re going to make sure you understand them.  A local title company is not going to close the deal over the Internet and never see you.  They’re there to make sure your ownership goes smoothly, and to defend your rights if it doesn’t.

Furthermore, a local title company normally costs less than a national title company.  A national title company may tag on a fee for one region which does not apply for your location.  A local company will only apply fees specific to the area—you won’t have superfluous expenses.  National companies also may add fees for working long distance, fees that would not be charged when using a local title company.

The personal touch of a local title company gives you superior service in cost and accountability for your most valuable investment, your home.

Land Title of AmericaIS ANYBODY THERE? THE PROBLEMS WITH NATIONAL TITLE COMPANIES
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A DEED AMONG FAMILY?

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Who needs deeds a deed among family members? The family members do!! Good deeds support good relations among kin, especially when inheritance gets involved.

When property changes hands from branch to branch on the family tree, keep the paperwork in order and maintain title insurance so that ownership rights can be properly recognized and defended should a dispute arise. Don’t take shortcuts just because it’s family—don’t take shortcuts because it IS family!!

A major source of title challenges is from family transactions in real estate.

Even if the old homestead has been in the family for fifty years, property disputes can happen at any time. Family disputes tend to be the biggest and most emotional. When there’s a lot of emotion, there’s no rational—and it’s costly! Want to help an attorney pay off his college loan, pay for litigation on a family dispute. When somebody says, “I’m fighting this for the principal of the matter,” they usually mean: “For all the principal in your bank account!”

It’s expensive to be totally right!! Have you hired a lawyer lately? Remember, if a person—family member or otherwise—files a claim against your property, YOU have to pay for the legal defense of your real estate rights. Title insurance covers those court costs and provides the legal representation.

Whether Uncle Elmer thought your daddy left the place to him, or Cousin Jesse claims your septic tank is on her side next door, a title insurance policy provides the financial and legal means to assert your ownership rights.

As of March 2001, a lot of companies started issuing the new and improved title insurance forms which allowed for those who inherit property to also inherit the title insurance. But any policy issued without the updated forms is not assumable to heirs; therefore, even though granddaddy had coverage, it doesn’t mean you do.

Don’t know if your inherited property came with title insurance? Land Title of America, Inc will be glad to check—it’s a free service—just stop by our office located on U.S.Highway 1 South in St. Augustine (in the Lewis Point Plaza) or give us a call:

Land Title of America, Inc
2495 U.S. Highway 1 South
St. Augustine, Florida
(904) 797-9600

Land Title of AmericaA DEED AMONG FAMILY?
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DREAM HOME OFFICE & YOUR LOCAL TITLE COMPANY

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If you’re going to paint, add lighting, put in shelving and storage, move electrical outlets, and install a computer network, expenses can add up quickly, not to mention if you’re going to pull a permit and build an addition.  Refinancing may be the solution to remodel a bedroom into the home office of your dreams, and using a local title company keeps closing costs low.

You don’t have to use the lender’s title company when you’re refinancing real estate.  In fact, you’re better off to use a local title company.  A national title company usually costs more; whereas, a local title company can normally give you a better price because they’re not going to overcharge, or charge you fees that don’t apply to the area.  (And if you ever do have a problem with your real estate title, you’re not at the mercy of a toll-free number; you can walk into an office to get help.)

Invest where you’ll get the best value, and that’s putting money into your home office renovation rather than toward unnecessary closing fees.  Whether you’re self-employed or a home-based employee, using a local title company is a smart business decision.

Land Title of AmericaDREAM HOME OFFICE & YOUR LOCAL TITLE COMPANY
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WHAT’S CHEAPER, A SURVEY OR A JACKHAMMER?

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Jackhammers are not as easy as they look. (And if you thought it looks easy, you scare me a little bit.) SO why in the heck is a Land Title Blog talking about jackhammers? Why not? Aren’t you tired of hearing about title stuff? So I figure I’ll spend this paragraph and talk about jackhammers and the importance they have in everyone’s life. Nah, you’re not that lucky!

If you’re one of those highly intelligent souls who thinks they can just take a visual of their property lines and that’s good enough to save the cost of a survey, you might need a jackhammer. As comedian Bill Engvall says, “Here’s your sign!”

Jackhammers cost around $3,000 and a land survey is a fraction of that expense.

Don’t try this at home! Leave property disputes to the professionals. Use a Survey instead of a Jackhammer to settle property line disputes.

Land Title of AmericaWHAT’S CHEAPER, A SURVEY OR A JACKHAMMER?
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SOUTH FLORIDA CONDO NIGHTMARE: PAST DUES!

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In a Florida home foreclosure, when the bank repossess the home, the lender is not liable for more than one year of back home owners’ association fees when it’s a subdivision, and six months when it’s a condo.* Often that’s not nearly what is owed, but it gives the association some recovery from the loss of income. That’s what’s supposed to happen, but one South Florida condo association—which shall remain nameless here—sees it differently.

The condominium owner went into foreclosure on his unit. He didn’t make his mortgage payments and he also couldn’t afford the condo association dues. Financial hardship led to foreclosure and months of unpaid association fees. Finally the condo unit went to auction on the courthouse steps, and the lender ended up with the property.

Then a buyer came along. He bought the foreclosure condo from the lender and got title insurance. As part of the closing process, the title company obtained an estoppel letter from the condo association that provided a certain amount to catch up all the back association fees.

Everything was great. The new buyer became the owner of their dream condominium. They got done, closed, everybody thought everything was wonderful. Now if that were really the case would I be writing this blog? In a typical situation, everything that transacted here here would be considered normal and customary—everybody crossed their proverbial t’s and dotted their proverbial i’s—why would the buyer waste money on title insurance?

Let’s list all that has transpired: There was a proper foreclosure and sale at the courthouse steps. When a new buyer was found, a new title search was done and everything came back spotless, no issues. In preparation for closing, the title company acquired all proper estoppel letters and all monies due including taxes. And the closing was conducted properly—what could go wrong?

I’ll tell you what could go wrong: the association came back and demanded all unpaid association fees prior to the buyer purchasing the condo.

“But we have an estoppel letter that says all association fees are current,” said the buyer.

The association said, “Show us the original letter.”

The buyer says, “ The lender only has a faxed copy.”

The association says, “That’s not good enough. Pay up, because if you don’t we’re going to foreclose… and by the way, thank you for the new cabinets and flooring and the updated toilet seats, they’re nice.”

How could this happen? Everything was done right. The answer: crap happens, and it’s expensive when it does.

There is a happy ending to this story even though this story has not ended: the buyer has title insurance, and the title insurance company is paying to defend the buyer’s ownership.

In a case like this, it doesn’t matter if the lawsuit is right, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal, it doesn’t matter if it’s covered in spaghetti and meatballs—the New Owner has to defend his interest in the property in a court of law… and that costs money. Without Title Insurance, the full force of the legal expense lands on the New Owner’s wallet.

The legal expense—hiring an attorney and court costs—versus the balance of the condo association. Which is more? Doesn’t matter if you have Title Insurance. Your Title Insurance Policy will either settle the claim or provide and pay for the legal defense of your ownership interest (and pay out the policy amount if that defense fails).

You buy Title Insurance for peace of mind—not because you know you are going to use it. Title Insurance is a one-time fee you pay at ground level in case a high rise of legal expense happens related to your property ownership.

No matter where you live, the view is better if you’ve got clear title, and beyond that, you’ll rest well if you’ve got financial protection through Title Insurance.

*This limitation on what’s owed on back association fees is only applicable if the foreclosing lender is the highest bidder at the courthouse steps. If a private party is the highest bidder, that person is responsible to pay all back association fees no matter how high the fees are or how far back the fees go.

Reason #328 to get Title Insurance.

Land Title of AmericaSOUTH FLORIDA CONDO NIGHTMARE: PAST DUES!
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INSURE YOUR HOME OWNERSHIP LIFESTYLE

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Not everyone should own a home. No offense, but we need all types to make the world go round—we need homeowners, and we need landlords and tenants. Not everyone is suited for the stability of home ownership, and thankfully in America, we have the freedom of diversity.

In the United States we can enjoy different lifestyles, some of which aren’t compatible with a permanent living situation. Home ownership requires a certain lifestyle with certain sacrifices. What do I have to give up for a beach house? Renting a place to live may be a temporary situation, or it can be a way of life.

However, if you can afford a home, insure your title to it. If you are able to put your hard-earned money into a home, pay the one-time for an owner’s title insurance policy, which insures your rightful entitlement to the property. Just because you got a survey and a title search and did everything right doesn’t mean that someone else didn’t do something wrong.

If home ownership is the lifestyle for you, insure that lifestyle with title insurance, to protect yourself financially from the legal expense of a challenge to your ownership. Remember, it’s expensive to be right.

Land Title of AmericaINSURE YOUR HOME OWNERSHIP LIFESTYLE
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GOOD TITLE IS GOOD BUSINESS

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Title insurance covers more than ever in the telecommuting trend.  If you work from home, your real estate title insurance is pulling double duty to protect your personal and professional life, because it’s insuring the place where you live as well as where you work.  Therefore, good title is good business.

Telecommuting is the big trend in work style. While working at home was once the exclusive purview of housewives and homemade entrepreneurs, the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau reports a 67% increase in home-based work for employees of private companies over the past decade.

By combining your primary residence with your primary source of income—your job—you tie workplace security to your home ownership rights.  Any question or claim to your real estate title could put your jobsite at jeopardy.  That makes title insurance more valuable than ever.

Title Insurance is a policy that protects the real estate owner from financial loss due to a challenge against his or her real estate ownership.

Title insurance costs a low, one-time fee, typically purchased at your real estate closing.  However, if you have inherited your home or your home was given to you by a family member, it is never too late to insure your real estate.  Title insurance provides and pays for the legal defense of your real estate ownership should somebody challenge your rights to the property.

If you are uncertain of your title insurance coverage, you can call Land Title of America, Inc. at (904) 797-9600 for a free status check.

By C. J. Godwin

Land Title of AmericaGOOD TITLE IS GOOD BUSINESS
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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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