All posts tagged: experience


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What’s buried in your backyard:  a jar of cash, the family pet, human remains?  A home inspection doesn’t usually involve shovel work, and even a good survey can’t cite unmarked graves.

True Story:  There was a man who bought a new home in a new development.  Each of the lots was five acres, and on this man’s new property, the front yard had a nice grass lawn, trimmed with shrubs and flowers.  The back section was wooded.  Now the developer had disclosed that there were stones in the backyard that seemed out of place, in other words, not of a natural formation or deposit, but he gave no further details.

The developer really didn’t know what they were.  That part of the five-acre property did not fall into the construction area of the house, nor into the landscaped part of the yard.  The man moved in and was very happy with his new house on his new property, but when he went to clear a garden, he discovered a cemetery in the woods!

Nineteen headstones marked slave graves, untouched for over a century.

The man wanted none of this.  He didn’t hold a séance; he started a sue-ance.  He sued the developer, the real estate agent, and the title company.  The man felt the property was contaminated, compromised.  He didn’t want the bodies relocated—he wanted to be relocated instead!

In the end, the nineteen bodies were relocated, the developer resold the property, and the man lived unhaunted ever after.

What to do if you find human remains in your backyard:

  1. STOP.
  2. Call the Medical Examiner. In St. Johns County the phone number is (904) 209-0820.

The Medical Examiner will determine the age of the remains.  If more than seventy-five years, then an archaeologist gets involved.  If less than seventy-five years, you may have a police investigation in your own backyard.

This is not as much a property rights issue as it brings up issues of crime, public health, historical value, and respect for human remains.

* True story.  Some of the details are changed to protect the parties involved.

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You Might Still Lose

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Homeownership comes with the responsibility to defend that ownership, even against hidden risk. It is not your fault someone at the courthouse didn’t record a deed, or that the previous owner forgot to include an estranged daughter in the will, but you are responsible to defend your ownership against these kinds of problems.

If someone challenges your ownership of your home, that person could be right. It sounds ridiculous, but yes, someone could have a valid claim to your property. Just because a rigorous title search didn’t reveal the estranged daughter of the previous owner doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a legitimate right to claim. Title insurance doesn’t prevent that kind of thing—it pays for it. Risk to ownership is inherent with real estate ownership itself.

Furthermore, title insurance doesn’t guarantee you’ll win in court. No one can do that, not even my brother, Rusty, even though he thinks so. If you have title insurance and the estranged daughter of the previous owner challenges you in a court of law, your title insurance will pay your legal fees—it pays for your attorney and all legal-related expenses of your case. The bottom line is you might still lose your house, in which case title insurance pays your legal expenses plus the amount of money you insured the house for.

Title insurance pays valid claims and legal fees to defend your ownership. The big advantage of title insurance is that it protects you from financial loss. Nobody wants to lose all their money and their home. Title insurance keeps your shirt on even if you lose your house.

Ownership challenges are not pretty and they can be difficult to deal with, but if you have title insurance, then you keep a bad situation from becoming a worst case scenario.

Stephen CollinsYou Might Still Lose
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What Experience Has Taught Me

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I’ve called St. Augustine and Palatka home since 1979. From my early years in high school, I worked in my father’s title company, Collins Title & Abstract Co., Inc. In 1987, I graduated from St. Augustine High. I went to college, got married, and returned to work with my father. In 1997, I started Land Title of America, Inc., and have been at it ever since, carrying my foundation of family values and solid business practices forward to meet the challenges of today’s real estate market.

I have seen lots of crazy things in the real estate industry over the years, and my experience has taught me the inherent risks of owning real estate. I’ve been around long enough to see the loss from unnecessary risk and how awful that is, like where spending a few hundred dollars on a survey would have saved thousands in a lawsuit. I’ve seen firsthand the need for title insurance, like when title does not get recorded properly. I don’t say what I say because someone told me to—I didn’t hear it at a seminar—I say what I say because I’ve seen it firsthand. And I’ve seen what happens to the people who take a risk without precaution.

I’m glad to do what I do, because title insurance protects people from risk. The threat to real estate ownership can be financially devastating for those who are uninsured.

Stephen CollinsWhat Experience Has Taught Me
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Moon Over Memories

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I started with my family’s title insurance business when I was in high school. I was the fax machine. I delivered documents back and forth on my bicycle. I continued working for my family after I went to college and got married. We used to have an office downtown on King Street back when the courthouse was where the Casa Monica is now. Trying to get out on King Street at five o’clock was a death wish. Everyone was leaving the courthouse and it was difficult to pull into traffic. For clients with late afternoon closings, I would have to drive their car out for them into the street, leave the car in the middle of traffic (it wasn’t moving anyway) and help the client across the street to his car and on his way.

One night in late December I was having a healthy discussion with my father about internal office procedures. We were in the closing room that fronted King Street, no curtains, after dark, the lights were on, and traffic was stopped outside. I tend to be a little sure of my ideas and felt very adamant that what I was trying to convey was imperative for Collins Title to implement. After trying to get me to understand his point of view, my father finally gave up and expressed his feelings by mooning me. Needless to say, I saw where he was coming from and we ceased the discussion.

I’ve seen a lot of crazy things over the years in the real estate industry, thus I have a story for every situation—some are more light-hearted than others. Enjoy the good times, and take advantage of experience.

Stephen CollinsMoon Over Memories
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