Title Insurance

New Licensed Title Agent, Jolene Martyn

Land Title of America, Inc. is proud to announce that team member, Jolene Martyn, has become a licensed title agent.  In this capacity, she joins ranks with Stephen Collins, Lisa Byers, and Karen Richmond at Land Title to write title insurance policies with their underwriters:   Fidelity National Title, Westcor Land Title, First American Title, and AmTrust Title.  Thus Jolene expands service to customers, and enhances her own professional stature.  Go Jolene! 

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“Jolene Martyn comes from a place where hard work means something, and she’s headed to where experience pays off in lasting value,” says Land Title owner Stephen Collins, “and benefitting the customers the whole way.” 

The best part of home ownership is not paying rent into someone else’s pocket, according to Jolene.  However, the entire closing process, from signing the contract to getting the deed, can be a bit mysterious to many buyers and sellers.  That’s where a good title agent comes in. 

The role of a title agent is to perform accurate closings based on the contract and with the title commitment requirements, and make it look seamless to the customer.  “If you are detail-oriented, like to research, and can solve puzzles, it’s a great job for you,” says Jolene.  She compares her job to a puzzle where you have to put all the pieces together, while actively watching out for fraud (a great reason to use a title company!). 

Does she have a specialty?  Yes she does:  mobile homes and mobile home transfers.  While Jolene is licensed to write title for any type of property, these are her particular specialty niche market.  

With her new professional status, her role as a closer is strengthened, to the deep benefit of her customers.  She now has direct communication with the underwriters.  She can see more information, and has access to more information and tools.  For example, a recent customer needed to sign with a mark (instead of a standard signature), and Jolene was able to directly download the appropriate forms to make that possible.  Thus she can streamline the closing process, making the transaction easier and faster to complete for customers. 

As an insider to the title industry, Jolene’s advice to buyers and sellers is twofold:  1) Do NOT close without a survey, and 2) ALWAYS use a title company, because you have no idea what’s in the chain of title.  And that goes for investors as well as residential customers. 

An area native, Jolene’s first introduction to real estate title started in 2003, and she has been with Land Title since 2017.  She credits her years of experience with helping her pass the licensure test.   The study guide is nearly two inches thick, but her familiarity with the Marketable Records Title Act (MRTA) and riparian rights, as well as numerous other technical topics gave her the qualifying experience to pass the test, and add immeasurable value to every file she touches.  You may contact Jolene Martyn at Land Title at (904) 797-9600 or by email at [email protected].  Go Jolene! 

Land Title of AmericaNew Licensed Title Agent, Jolene Martyn
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Queenie’s Alter Ego

ALTER EGO PROFILE – QUEENIE LEWIS

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Queenie Lews at the Beach

Outside the office, Queenie Lewis prefers a beach backdrop.  You may find her at church and helping others, or doing arts and crafts and making gift baskets, or visiting with family.  But away from those activities, the beach is her happy place, where she can sit and listen to the water, and be refreshed. 

Email [email protected]

Land Title of AmericaQueenie’s Alter Ego
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HISTORY SURPRISE?

Guess who’s a loyal British colony during the American Revolution?  FLORIDA!  All that messy business at Valley Forge, the Boston Tea Party, the Declaration of Independence—all that happened while Florida was Great Brittan’s 14th American colony.

Isn’t that a fun fact?

Via the Treaty of Paris, Florida is peacefully ceded from Spain to Great Britain from 1763 to 1784, and then the second Treaty of Paris peacefully cedes Florida back to Spain.  So during the hard winter at Valley Forge, British soldiers could come on leave straight to sunny Florida.  Here in St. Augustine, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were burned in effigy in the Plaza, and three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were imprisoned in the Castillo de San Marcos:  Thomas Heyward, Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge.

These little historical gems can make for superb conversational gambits, like at a party or trying to impress a date, but other times, what you don’t know about the past can really bite you…right in the wallet.

Let’s say you inherit real estate.  It’s been in the family for years, passed down from one generation to the next, and now to you, the only living heir.  The property is paid for—no mortgages or liens against it.  It’s a nice little house, well-kept, and full of fond family memories.  So you move right in and feel right at home.

And THEN there’s a knock at the door:  it’s the Seminole Indian Tribe.  Just as you are about to serve lemonade, they inform you that your house is sitting atop the sacred burial ground of their ancestors.  Isn’t that a fun fact?  They don’t want your lemonade—they want you out.

Best thing to do here is whip out your Owners Title Insurance Policy.  Even if Uncle Ed had Title Insurance on the house and never had a claim, when you acquire the property, you need a Title Insurance policy that covers your interest.  (Uncle Ed’s title insurance covered his interest, and he isn’t very interesting now because Uncle Ed is dead.)

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. 

You could lose your house if they have a legitimate claim, or the Seminoles could be five hundred feet off and should be knocking at your neighbor’s door—either way your Owners Title Insurance Policy pays for the legal defense of your property ownership.  Title Insurance pays to vigorously defend your ownership rights—they don’t want to pay out on a title claim if they don’t have to, but they will if they need to.  Thus you are doubly covered with Title Insurance—your legal defense of ownership is paid and if that fails, the policy is paid out.

Yes, you could still lose your house, but with Title Insurance, the policy amount will be paid out to you, and you don’t walk away empty-handed.  Isn’t that’s a fun financial fact?

Land Title of AmericaHISTORY SURPRISE?
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MURPHY’S LAW

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, especially in real estate, which is why you should take appropriate precautions to minimize financial risk, whether you’re buying a home to live in or an investment property.

Murphy was a competitive mudder, had him the fastest four-wheel-drive on semi-dry land—‘Murphy’s Mud Bucket.’  Like most of us, Murphy wanted to get ahead in life.  He knew he wasn’t going to drive around the state forever picking up trophies for crossing the quagmire quicker than anyone.  He took his winnings and decided to invest.

So he bought a nice little property on bank auction, a house with a front yard just about the perfect size for a good mud bog, but Murphy was going to sell it before he put any tire tracks through across the grass.

Now Murphy knew you didn’t win races if you got stuck between the starting point and the finish line.  You had to get in and get out fast without getting stuck in the middle.  The only way he was going to make any money off this thing was to get in there and get out fast.  He’d bought the house; all he had to do was sell it and he’d be money in pocket, no prizes for second place.

That’s right, folks, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle between the start line and the finish.  The same is true of real estate investments, only Murphy wasn’t so savvy about what he was doing.

You see the previous owner had bought the house and lived there.  Then that owner had gotten a reverse mortgage.  When that owner died, the property reverted to the Bank, and the Bank had sold it to Murphy at auction.  Murphy had made the purchase without a survey and used an out-of-town title company.  He also did not get an ALTA 9 Endorsement.

Murphy fixed up the house and found him a buyer.  BUT, the buyer got a survey and realized that Murphy only owned the front yard—not the house!!  The legal description on the title when the Bank took it over was incorrect.  Murphy had WAY OVERPAID for a front yard that he couldn’t sell.

Next Murphy tried to contact the out-of-town title company, but they didn’t answer.

They didn’t answer.

And they didn’t answer.

Also, because Murphy didn’t get the ALTA 9 Endorsement which protects property owners from survey errors and inaccuracies, Murphy had no recourse.  Murphy was stuck in the mud with no prize money for failure to finish.

There are ways to get across the bog to the good value side of real estate:

  • Use a Local Title Company that can help you if (and too often when) things go wrong.
  • Get a Survey, not just to know where your boundaries are, but also so you can get proper title insurance.
  • Get an ALTA 9 Endorsement, which is an important part of proper owner’s title insurance.

This is based a true story but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

By Stephen Collins & C. J. Godwin

Land Title of AmericaMURPHY’S LAW
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SHE COULD OWN YOUR HO– USE

Isn’t she cute?  Did you know this little girl could own your home, evict you, and throw out all your stuff? 

In the State of Florida, if a person lives in a home and has a minor child, that child inherits the house.  What if the previous homeowner had a girlfriend you didn’t know about?  And the girlfriend had a baby with the previous owner?  That child owns the home, not you.

The previous homeowner’s girlfriend’s baby is not going to show up in public records on a title search.  But she could evict you.

Do you have an Owner’s Title Insurance Policy? 

Owner’s Title Insurance provides and pays for the legal defense of your property rights.  For a low, one-time premium you can protect yourself against financial loss to any such title claims.   Call Land Title of America, Inc. today at (904) 797-9600, serving all your real estate closing and title insurance needs.

Not sure if your home has title insurance?  Call us at (904) 797-9600 and we’ll be glad to check the title insurance status of your property free of charge. 

Land Title of America, Inc.

2495 U.S. Highway 1 South

Saint Augustine, Florida 32086

(904) 797-9600

www.GoLandTitle.com

Land Title of AmericaSHE COULD OWN YOUR HO– USE
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IMPLIED EASEMENT OR IMPAIRED EASEMENT?

Henry the Hunter bought himself a plot of 40 acres right smack in the middle of nowhere. It was the perfect piece of land. Beautiful layout and just the right retreat from the womenfolk. Only thing was, he couldn’t get to it.

The front side of the property was a meandering swamp that swelled up into a raging river in heavy rains. There was a dirt road off a side street, but that was posted private property with a locked gate. Henry had him a sharp set of bolt cutters, but the law wasn’t fully in favor of him using them.

The Judge said: “Build a bridge.” Regardless of permitting issues, traffic flow, or environmental impact in a wetland—the Judge did not care about convenience. He looked at records of where the lot came down from and the Right of Access was attached to that highway, not the dirt road. Right of necessity is another matter, and what is legal does not equal what is convenient for the landowner.

Henry didn’t have the money for permits and construction to build a bridge, but he did have a pair of waders. Way he saw it, that Judge just made his property more valuable. If his hunting camp was remote before, it was now nigh unto impossible to get to, and there was no way his wife was going to put on a pair of rubber boots to come find him.

In Florida, you can’t stop a person from accessing their real estate. You have Implied Easement to allow you access to your property, the question is where. You need more than a title search to learn about your Right of Access; you need a full land abstract to see where your lot comes down from and which road it is attached to.

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

Land Title of AmericaIMPLIED EASEMENT OR IMPAIRED EASEMENT?
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WHAT’S BURIED IN YOUR BACKYARD?

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.

Land Title of AmericaWHAT’S BURIED IN YOUR BACKYARD?
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WHAT MAKES TITLE INSURANCE DIFFERENT?

Owner’s title insurance is like health insurance in that you never want to use it, but you’re glad to have it if you need it. But unlike health insurance, title insurance has a low, one-time premium that gives you a lifetime of coverage for a property.

Owner’s title insurance is different than other types of insurance because it’s not casualty insurance.

Title Insurance fees are regulated by the State of Florida. The base rate is $5.75 per thousand up to $100,000, and $5.00 per thousand thereafter up to $1 million. Check with your title company for specifics on discounts available for some transactions. Proper title endorsements to the policy are also a part of your complete coverage and those vary depending on the property. The base rate and the endorsements don’t come near the legal cost you’d have to pay to defend your ownership rights. And remember, you only have to pay the premium once for owner’s title insurance and you’re good for life.

Title insurance is good for all real estate ownership. If you are unsure whether or not you have title insurance on your inherited or gifted property, contact Land Title of America, Inc. at 1-904-797-9600, and we’ll be glad to check your title insurance status for free.

Land Title of AmericaWHAT MAKES TITLE INSURANCE DIFFERENT?
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WAD OF CASH

How big of a wad of cash can you flush down the toilet?  Is $10,000 too much?  I mean you might have friends coming over, what if only a few thousand dollars clogged the system?  Are hundred dollar bills septic safe?  Those are the questions you have to ask if you own real estate without an owner’s title insurance policy.

Title claims happen in the best of families, and in the worst.

Even with a title search, there can still be questions of property ownership due to clerical errors, unrecorded deeds and documents, and a whole range of other circumstances.  It is the homeowner’s responsibility to defend their ownership rights against such claims.  Even if the claims have no validity whatsoever, it is still your responsibility to stand up in court and say, “No, that’s mine!”  Otherwise you could automatically lose your home.

If you don’t have title insurance, then you have to pay the legal fees to defend your ownership rights.  The real tragedy is that you could foot the bill in court—the lawyers, the filing fees, and other legal costs—and you could still lose.  That means your money is gone AND your house is gone.  You could be left without a pot…to throw your money away in.

Here’s an idea:  don’t risk your money or your house—get an owner’s title insurance policy. 

An owner’s title insurance policy not only pays the court costs, the policy also provides the legal defense.  Yep, they bring the lawyer.  How much does title insurance cost?  A lot less than a plumber.  For a low, one-time premium, you can purchase a lifetime of title insurance that covers your financial obligation toward the property.  Furthermore, if you do get sued for title to your house, and if your case does not prevail in court, then you get the amount of the policy.

Even with title insurance, you could still lose your case, but you don’t lose everything.  Without title insurance, you might as well chuck wads of cash down the toilet and find out how much you can afford to flush.

Land Title of AmericaWAD OF CASH
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TITLE INSURANCE IS YOUR FINANCIAL SEAT BELT

Are you really that stupid that you would own real estate without an owners’ title insurance policy?  Whether you purchased or inherited, the risk is the same.  Look ya’ll, I’m gotta house!  Risk is in all real estate; however, you can reduce your financial risk with an owners’ title insurance policy.

Now why would I want to go and spend more money on an owners’ title insurance policy when I’m trying to save money?

Let’s put it this way:  whether you drive a minivan or a convertible, you wear a seat belt for safety.  You may have financed your old minivan and made a cash deal on your convertible—either way, the accident risk is the same.  Title insurance is your real estate seat belt.  You never want to use it, but it saves your financial life.

Wear your seatbelt, EVEN ON A CASH DEAL.

ESPECIALLY ON A CASH DEAL!!

IF IT’S A CASH DEAL, IT’S YOUR CASH ON THE LINE.

If something goes funny with your ownership rights, then you stand to lose everything you put into it, and then some.  The circumstances of real estate transactions aren’t always cut and clean.  Where there’s room for doubt, there’s room for a lawsuit.  Do you know how much lawyers cost?  Do you want to find out?

Idiots abound, but you don’t have to be one.  You can do everything right—do the title search and get the survey—but that doesn’t stop some idiot from challenging your legitimate ownership of that property.  And as the owner, it’s your responsibility to defend your legal rights to the property.  Title insurance not only takes the burden of the legal defense, they also pay the bill.

Did you get that?  For a low, one-time premium, title insurance provides AND pays for the legal defense of your ownership rights. 

You can’t always stop stupid, but you can financially protect your property with title insurance.

* Please understand all title insurance policies have exceptions in their coverage.  Be sure to have an attorney review those exceptions with you.

Land Title of AmericaTITLE INSURANCE IS YOUR FINANCIAL SEAT BELT
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