Real Estate

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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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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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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WHY IN THE HECK DO YOU TAKE SHORTCUTS?

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So you’ve inherited real estate with your brother. He’s willing to sell you his half of the estate. He’s family. You pay him in cash. So now what do you do? You get him to sign a deed, right? It’s just a deed, you can type it up, there’s forms online, why go to an attorney to have him type it up (and knowing attorneys, they’re going to talk you into getting title insurance), he’s family, what can go wrong?

So you are about to take a shortcut on Real Estate Title, let me share a little story. Once upon a time—no, scratch that, this is no fairytale. Unfortunately what I’m telling you is a true story in Florida. The names have been changed, but the situation is real and ongoing.

This story begins with a set of grandparents. Let’s call them Bob and Sally. Sally died, leaving the house to Bob, and then Bob died shortly thereafter. Bob had a will that left the house to Bob’s son and daughter, we’ll call them Jack and Jill. Seems simple enough, but wait-there’s more.

Jill had agreed previously to purchase all of Jack’s interest in their father’s (Bob’s) estate. Because Jack was her brother, a handshake and a hug was all they had to solidify their agreement. They would take care of the legal paperwork later. “We’re family, what could go wrong?” she said. Some months later, Jack unexpectedly becomes ill and goes into the hospital.

Shortly thereafter, Jack dies.

Jill decides to sell the property, and then realizes in order to get this property in her name so she can sell it, she is now going to have to pay for a probate—penny-wise dollar-foolish! When the probate was complete, Jill was designated as the personal representative and Jack’s wife and her two children would get Jack’s share of the money for the sale of the home.

So Jill lists the property and finds a buyer.

The buyer insists on getting title insurance so a title search was ordered. Title search came back squeaky clean and closing was set. A simple happy ending to what could have been a very complicated situation, except for, prior to closing, a young lady by the name of Jackie surfaces and claims to be the biological daughter of Jack. Talk about sliding home and missing the plate entirely!

Right / Wrong / or Indifferent-it doesn’t matter! Jackie felt that she had rights to seek financial interests in her father’s estate.

Had this closed and Title Insurance issued ( thank heavens it didn’t!), we would have paid a Title Claim to the Biological Child either in legal fees incurred to defend the title, or given her the money she needed to make her go away.

Did the Title Examiner miss something?

No. No matter how many times you look at the Title Search, you can’t see what’s not there.

Was it the Probate Attorney’s fault for not asking about other heirs?

In the end, it doesn’t matter! If you are the Owner, you are stuck with the problem!

I don’t care how many times you look at a Title Search and the Title Search looks great, you can still have problems for things not recorded in the public records. Shortcuts on real estate title can bring unnecessary hardship on you and your family.

Whenever you take title to real estate, get title insurance, no matter if you’re inheriting a piece of property, someone gives it to you, no matter if it comes from your pastor, your brother, your father, your best friend, your son’s wet nurse—crap happens! Unless you’re independently wealthy and have a slush fund with my brother, Rusty’s name on it (he’s an attorney by the way) get title insurance.

This is story 283 in my book of 1001 reasons to get title insurance.

Land Title of AmericaWHY IN THE HECK DO YOU TAKE SHORTCUTS?
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TERMS OF OH-DEAR-MENT!

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Some words you cannot say in polite company-at least you shouldn’t-and some words you cannot print online. Automatic censors will mark out the Latin genus of the human species, and also will not allow the customary gender distinction of a male roach. While these words in context are okay for radio-speak, they get edited for a general public online forum.

Smash your thumb with a hammer and you might be given to shout: “Shania Twain!” But that’s nothing compared to to what you’d sai if you lost your home in a ownership dispute and you didn’t have title insurance.

Title insurance helps to keep the language clean. If you’ve got title insurance and somebody says, “Hey, that’s my real estate,”you’d get to reply, “Oh, drat,” instead of “Oh, BLEEeeeeeeeeeeeeep!@#$%^&*!!”

Title insurance takes the high drama out of home ownership risk. Sorry about that if you were seeking more stress in your life. The reason is, title insurance pays for the legal defense of your ownership rights. Whether someone disputes two feet of easement of all two acres of your lot, proper title insurance takes care of the court fees and pays valid claims.

You don’t need a string of expletives if you’ve got a title insurance policy. You won’t need to wash your mouth out with soap if someone claims your land is theirs.

Land Title of AmericaTERMS OF OH-DEAR-MENT!
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SPAGHETTI! SPAGHETTI! SPAGHETTI!

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I’m glad you’re paying attention because title insurance is often overlooked. In the half-inch stack of disclosures and mortgage documents you sign at your real estate closing, you might not realize the threat you have of losing your home or land—it’s odorless, soundless, and you can’t see it with a title search—you don’t know it’s there until it’s on top of you! And then you’ve got to pay to defend yourself against it!

I’m passionate about title insurance, maybe you’ve noticed. It’s not just spaghetti on the wall. Title issues are a real estate subject with broad reaching ripples. What affects the real estate market affects the overall economy. I don’t care if you’re buying a singlewide mobile home or the Taj Mahal, title insurance helps protect everyone.

Everyone can see flood damage, everyone knows what a fire can do to a house, but the harmful effects of losing your home or land because of a legal challenge to your ownership aren’t real obvious to outsiders.

There’s a lot to know in a real estate transaction, and there’s a lot I want you to understand at the closing table. If I can educate you on the importance of title insurance beforehand, then we’re ahead of the game. The closing table is not an ideal place to learn all the subtleties of risk to your ownership. You’ve got the title search in your hand showing clear title—it’s hard to see the need for title insurance when the risk is hidden.

Some people learn the hard way , and that’s very bad. If you’re aware of the risk, what you’re up against, and the advantages of title insurance, then you can prevent a financial loss that could swallow up your property.

No, the law does not require title insurance. But the law does allows its citizens the right to own property and the right to protect it. If you buy a security system for your home, why not title insurance? Both protect your property.

I live here. Your loss is my loss. We’ve had enough devaluation in the real estate market. Support sure ground with title insurance.

Land Title of AmericaSPAGHETTI! SPAGHETTI! SPAGHETTI!
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AFTER THE FACT

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You’re after the facts before you buy real estate. That’s why you get a title search. Not only do you need to know who owns the property, you also need to know if anyone else has ownership interest that could complicate the title.

For example, let’s say you go to buy a home from a Seller who’s owned the place for eight years. The Seller had bought the property from the Next Door Neighbor. You have a title search done and find that the Next Door Neighbor sold a private mortgage on the same property to Another Party two years ago. That’s the kind of thing you as the home buyer want to know ahead of time! You don’t wait till after closing to find that out!

But a title search can come back clear and you can still have title issues. Errors and omissions, heirs, and sometimes even fraud can be revealed after the transaction. A title search can’t see a misfiled deed, an undisclosed heir, or a forgery. So what do you do then? Hopefully you’ve got title insurance.

Title insurance financially protects after the fact if title problems occur. Yes, you’ve had your real estate closing, you’ve lived in the place for a decade, and made payments on the mortgage. That does not prevent a title claim against your ownership.

Title insurance covers you from the day you purchase it forward through all the title issues of the past. It pays for the legal defense of your ownership rights, and should that defense fail, it pays out the policy amount insured. You don’t want to have to use it—matter of fact the best title insurance policy is the one collecting dust in the drawer—but title insurance can save you a bundle if you do need it.

The best time to get title insurance is when you acquire a piece of real estate ,however, if you’ve owned a place for a while and never had title insurance on it, you can buy title insurance after the fact as long as there’s no title claim against it. That’s like putting on a bulletproof vest after getting shot—a little late isn’t it?

Get Title Insurance when you own real estate..and before someone challenges your title to the property.

Land Title of AmericaAFTER THE FACT
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PISTOLS AT DAWN & PROPERTY DISPUTES

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Pistols as dawn was a much faster way of settling property disputes-a lot less paperwork. Forget the title search, who needs a survey, never mind easement issues- we can solve all that at twenty paces! Personally, I think the modern way we handle disputes in this country is a lot better.

We’re evolving as a nation. We have an election system which allows a peaceful transfer of power, and we have channels for making laws and changing laws which don’t involve violence. What we can’t change is the past.

In our early history, many people did not have the land ownership rights we enjoy today- Native Americans, blacks, women. Land ownership in the United States was an exclusive right for a long time…. not any more. The wrongs of the past do not invalidate the good of today. We can learn from out past and better our future because of it.

Land ownership is open to any US citizen and enforceable with equal housing laws. Land ownership rights provide the landowner with distinct delineation of property on which to live, raise a family, keep a dog, or all of the above with stability of homestead and the financial investment in that land. It may not be the perfect system, but this is the United States, where the process has the opportunity to evolve, and do so peacefully.

Today I can disagree with you (and you can disagree with me) in words rather than gunpowder. Land ownership is not a sad concept- it’s a sign of equality and freedom.

Land Title of AmericaPISTOLS AT DAWN & PROPERTY DISPUTES
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PEACE OF MIND ON A PIECE OF PROPERTY

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Home ownership should be hassle-free. Once you close on your house and get settled, you shouldn’t have to worry about who owns your home. Doesn’t always work that way.

In our human world, errors occur… and sometimes omissions… or disclosed heirs. Sometimes a title company (not mine I hope!) misses a document in public records during a title search. And every now and then, there’s a case if forgery. Any of these things can put your home ownership in jeopardy.

Title Insurance can’t fix that. What it can do is pay litigation costs should one of these events become an event in your life.

Home ownership comes with responsibility. As a homeowner, you are responsible to defend your ownership. Title Insurance gives you peace of mind knowing that if your ownership comes into question, the cost of legal defense (an attorney and all court fees) is paid for with you policy.

Home ownership is not hassle-free, but you can have financial peace of mind over a piece of property with Title Insurance.

Land Title of AmericaPEACE OF MIND ON A PIECE OF PROPERTY
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DOUBLE ENTENDRE

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“Title Claim” has two meanings. (1) Threat to your real estate. (2) Threat to your money.

The French invented Double Entendre, or at least they came up with the cool saying that means “double meaning“. Probably they weren’t thinking of real estate when they coined the phrase.

In the immediate sense, a Title Claim is a lawsuit filed against you claiming that all or part of your real estate belongs to someone else. It seems ridiculous that these things happen, but they do. Just because you paid money for your home and a lawyer closed it, or you inherited it does not make you exempt from a Title Claim.

In the secondary sense, a Title Claim obligates you to defend your rightful ownership in a court of law, and in that way involves your money in legal expenses… unless you have Title Insurance. Sure, you could walk away from the lawsuit and the property, in which case both threats come true at once- you lose your house and your money by virtue of the equity in the house. Or you could fight the lawsuit on your own at your own expense, paying legal fees until you run out of funds or lose your house, whichever comes first-in which case both threats come true.

While a Title Claim is a threat to your house and your money, you can financially protect yourself from a Title Claim with Title Insurance.

Title Insurance also helps protect against loss of your house in that it provides and pays for legal representation to defend your ownership rights. Title Insurance is not a guarantee you will win your court battle; however, in the worst case scenario with Title Insurance, you lose your house but you also receive the policy amount insured, enabling you to make a down payment on another house.

In real estate, two independent owners claiming 100% each cannot both hold title to the same piece of property at the same time, which makes the Double Entendre of “Title Claim” particularly dirty.

Land Title of AmericaDOUBLE ENTENDRE
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