Posts Tagged ‘real estate title insurance


Stuff Real Estate Agents Say


You say ‘cramped,’ agent says ‘cozy

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a home, but beware of the misleading or downright dishonest things real estate agents sometimes say to make a sale.

In the competitive world of residential real estate, facts often are spun to generate buyer interest. Insiders call it “puffing.” Although agents may be held responsible for telling outright lies, there is plenty of leeway to stretch the truth.

Why say a house is small or cramped when you can describe it as cozy? If it has worn carpet and a leaking roof, a creative agent may describe it as “rustic” or even “quaint.”

Rhonda Duffy, an agent with Duffy Realty in Atlanta who advocates high industry standards, says using “fluffy language” to describe a home is common. “No seller wants us to say, ‘This is the ugliest house you’ve ever seen, but I am sure it will suit somebody.'”

What follows are examples of stuff real estate agents say that can be described as “puffery.”

‘It’s in great shape,’ except for the leaks

When an agent tells you a home is in excellent condition, be cautious. Perhaps it’s true, but the term is used so often that it has become an industry cliche with little real meaning.

Agents have plenty of horror stories about competitors who lured them and their clients to undesirable homes with grandiose descriptions. Kristie Weiss, a real estate agent in State College, Pa., recently visited a perfect-looking home only to find that a plumbing problem was sending water from the kitchen sink flowing into the basement.

“It may look pristine,” Weiss says. “The floors are gorgeous, and there are brand-new countertops and cabinets, but it needs a new heating system (or) it needs a new roof. There could be brand-new shingles, but what if they didn’t do the sheathing underneath?”

She recommends having a professional inspection before making an offer on any home, regardless of the appearance or an agent’s glowing description.

Peekaboo! ‘Enjoy the ocean view!’

For some homebuyers, the ultimate dream is a house within sight of the ocean. In coastal cities, agents are quick to mention ocean views, even if they are obscured by trees or buildings. In San Diego, longtime real estate agent Gary Kent, with Keller Williams Realty, says it’s not unusual for house hunters to visit such homes, only to wind up asking sellers to point out where the ocean is. Kent says the answers often go something like this: “See that tree? Look a little bit to the left. That blue stuff is water.”

Hawaii real estate agent Randy L. Prothero recalls taking a client to see such a home. “I took him to this property, and if you stood on the roof with a 30-foot ladder, you might see the ocean through the trees,” he recalls. “We call it a ‘peekaboo view.'”

That kind of exaggeration may bring people out to view homes, but it won’t close the deal, he adds. “I find that really annoying. It wastes everybody’s time.”

‘Remodeled kitchen’ — with old counters

Kitchen upgrades can raise the value of older homes. Owners install modern appliances and granite countertops to spruce things up. The problem is that the term “remodeled” can be loosely interpreted. Prothero says he has visited remodeled kitchens only to find worn-out, 40-year-old cabinets still in place. Weiss has had similar experiences.

“I tell the truth in my listings,” Weiss says. “I will not say ‘completely remodeled kitchen’ if it is only new appliances, but there are a lot of agents out there who do. You just have to be very careful. There may be new countertops, but what kind? You never know until you get into the house.”

One phrase to watch out for is “a kitchen with everything within reach,” she adds. That’s agent-speak for really, really small.

‘2-car garage’ that fits 1 SUV

You’d think something as easy to define as a two-car garage would be difficult to exaggerate. Unfortunately, it’s common for agents to attempt to pass off a large one-car garage as adequate for two vehicles.

Weiss says the widespread use of large SUVs makes it important to make sure the home you’re buying truly has enough space for your cars. “A good buyer’s agent should say, ‘Pull your cars in the garage, let’s make sure they fit.'”

Another thing to watch out for is two-car garages that have been modified to hold washers and dryers or storage areas. They may look standard size, but might not provide enough room for two cars.

A ‘fixer-upper’ that requires a rebuild

Fixer-uppers can provide wonderful opportunities for buying homes at bargain prices. If you’re handy with a hammer and don’t mind making multiple trips to the hardware store, this may be the house for you. It also could turn out to be a money pit.

Generally, a fixer-upper is considered to be a home that requires more elbow grease than money and construction expertise. The problem is the term often is used to describe homes that are badly in need of major repairs that are beyond the skills of your average homeowner.

Buyers don’t always realize what they are getting into, says Kent. When he hears “fixer-upper,” he goes into detective mode to find out just how much needs to be done to make the home habitable. “Basically, it says the house needs work,” he says. “So you are put on notice.”

The ‘I’ll get a better price’ empty promise

Real estate is competitive, and everyone looks for an edge. Unfortunately, some agents make promises they can’t keep in order to get your business. A common ploy is to tell you they can sell your home for much more than other agents say it’s worth.

“We call it buying the listing,” says Prothero. “Usually the Realtors who do that fall into two categories: They are weak agents and probably don’t understand the true value of the property, or they don’t have any active listings, and they will do whatever it takes to get one. Some will take the listing knowing they can’t sell it at that price.”

Promises to sell homes for unrealistic amounts should be disregarded, Weiss says. Not all agents are equally skilled at marketing, but it’s not likely that one can get you far more than your home is worth. “That is just plain supply and demand, simple economics.”

Thank you to Emmet Pierce of for this article

Social Media and our Title Company

social media

Social Media…”living in the now”…these are all familiar terms to those embracing the newest trends among the internet and broadband alike. But certain terms like impersonal and generational also tag along with it. This is our opinion on Social Media and how it relates to our business.

Let’s get into the Pros and Cons if you will. If you ask me, it has almost become a necessary evil for business owners to dedicate some amount of time to Social Media. An evil in that Social Media, to be successful, is time consuming and if not done right can deter business, but necessary in that without social media, your business could be missing a wide range of clientele and a vast need for the “now”.

At Title Junction we have embraced, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ and ActiveRain as our main focus among the Social Media sites. First let’s take on the uber-sites, Facebook and Twitter. The pros of each different, but equally effective. Facebook, the un-doubtably the more social of the two is a great way to show a more personal side of our team at Title Junction…posting networking pictures and fun status updates allows a more relaxed environment for connections to occur. Opposite the spectrum is Twitter, directed more towards the informational junkie, it is a great way to prove ourselves valuable by posting interesting and useful topics and thus increasing followers. With both of these proving successful for our business, we have also observed the downside or “cons” to each site among other users. One being the slippery slope of becoming too “social”. When picture updates become too risky and twitter updates show to be invaluable, it often repels business, and defeats the purpose. This leads us to Linkedin and Active Rain, both completely different, but respectively worth while. We would define Linkedin’s purpose to be completely business…it is a great hit on Google for hopeful clients to get in touch with us, with email and all of our contact information listed directly on our profile. But it is equally ineffective when it comes to relationship building; we find a minimum of contact interaction and a lack of user interest. Finally there is Active Rain, most beneficial is the ability for us to target a specific crowd and relate to each blog and user for our common interest, Real Estate. It is fantastic to see Active Rain now adding links to Twitter and outside blogs, truly embracing the power of connectivity. As I conclude, my final opinion is optimistic; I look forward to the future of business and Social Media.


Are you addicted to any APPS?

appNow a days there is literally an APP for everything! From making grocery lists, to tracking your weight, food, and exercise, games, budgeting, finding off the map places to eat and even all the social media sites!!

Of course the tagline “There’s an app for that” has been heard everywhere! And even jokes and commercials have been made.

So with April Fool’s Day right around the corner…here are some FUN APPS for that day!




6 Legitimate Reasons to Think Twice Before You Buy That House

think twiceBuyer’s remorse is no joke. It has killed many a home buying deal. But buying a home is serious, life-changing business, so some level of deliberation, concern and even rethinking the whole thing, before signing on the dotted line, is actually sensible and smart.

So it can be tough to know the difference between (a) the normal, unwarranted buyer’s remorse every home buyer should expect, think through and move past, and (b) the mental alarm bells that should be heeded because there is truly good reason to revisit whether this purchase is the right thing to do.

Home buyers, we’re here to help. If you’re suffering from a case of buyer’s remorse at any stage before your contingencies are removed, list out the things that come to mind when you fantasize about backing out of the deal.  If your list contains any of the following items, express your concerns to your spouse or co-buyer and your agent. Then, consult with your mind and your heart about whether you’re ready to move forward – or not.

    1.    It’s too expensive.  If you’re buying a house in 2013, it’s completely understandable to have a moment of panic at the sound of the price you’re paying or the sight of all those zeros. It’s a big purchase you’re making, possibly the biggest one you ever will, and those who enter into it with not even the slightest twinge of being nervous might not be taking it as seriously as they should.

That said, fears that a home are too expensive vis-a-vis the other recently sold homes in the neighborhood or the town’s market and future appreciation prospects in general are worth exploring and evaluating before you decide on your offer price or sign a final counter-offer. Your agent can help you understand the complex interacting factors you should consider, including the likelihood of the home to appraise at a given price point and the historical data on sales and home value trends in your area.

    2.    It’s too expensive for you.  For years, I’ve heard buyers express concerns about being ‘house poor,’ meaning that they spend so much on their monthly mortgage payments that they are too broke to do much else. Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in one of those parts of the country in which it is less expensive to own than to rent a home, it’s almost inevitable that there will be some sort of lifestyle revision you’ll need to make post-homeownership.

Most people who have been renting for a long time will find themselves having to make some sacrifices after they buy, in terms of eating out less, going out less, splurging on vacations, clothes and other discretionary spending – this is just par for the course, sensible, and not a good reason not to buy.

On the other hand, there are occasions in which buyers are approved for mortgages beyond what they can truly afford and maintain financial integrity, in terms of still having enough money left over post-mortgage payment for saving, investing and other monthly budget line items that the mortgage banks don’t consider (e.g., children’s school tuition, medical expenses, etc.). If you have set yourself a home buying budget lower than your lender has set for you, get and stay clear on what the wiggle room is – if any. If you feel like you’re exceeding it or getting in a red zone with a particular property, heed those internal read flags.

  3.    The location is not quite right.  I’d probably rank location choice right up there in the top 3 home selection regrets I hear after the fact from home owners.  Clearly, the location you can live in is limited by your budget – you can’t expect to live in Beverly Hills on $100K.  But I’m talking more about the various location choices and judgments every buyer has to make within their price range:

  • between a home in the city, near work, or a home in the quiet suburbs where you get much more space – and a much longer commute,
  • near shops and conveniences, or off the beaten path
  • next door to a school or at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac
  • in a row of townhomes with shared walls and an HOA or in an older neighborhood with lots of land between homes –

    you get the gist.

Location compromises should be made carefully and consciously. If that electrical pole in the front yard really bothers you and you talk yourself out of that concern, ask yourself: are you going to end up hating to drive up to your house every night?  The neighbors who seem to take a lot less care with their yards now might become a real thorn in your side over time.  That extra 20 minutes of commute time might not be as minor a lifestyle change as you can talk yourself into believing – in fact, researchers have found that the longer commutes lower overall happiness, so don’t lengthen yours without serious consideration.

In particular, don’t dismiss noise and traffic concerns without giving it real thought – a friend of mine quickly moved his young family out of the home they’d bought in a new town when they realized that the street was so busy that it was nearly impossible to even pull in or out of their own driveway – much less to let the kids play outside.

To finish reading 3 – 6, CLICK HERE  


More Home Owners Have Equity Again

equityWith home prices inching up, more Americans are emerging from being underwater — owing more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth.

Several reports have tried to estimate how many home owners came out from being underwater last year. CoreLogic reported that for the first nine months of 2012, about 1.4 million borrowers moved above water. Zillow recently estimated that 2 million home owners last year emerged from being underwater. And J.P. Morgan Securities reported that the number of underwater home owners fell from 11 million to 7 million last year.

“Estimates can vary for a number of reasons,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Underwater borrowers can move back to positive equity by paying down their loan principal or by seeing prices rise. Properties can also ‘exit’ negative equity when they go through foreclosure or when the bank approves a short sale. In those cases, borrowers aren’t being returned to positive equity — instead, they simply cease to be borrowers.”

Many of the largest home gains across the country came in areas that had a high number of underwater borrowers. “If this correlation persists in the coming years, the underwater problem could fade much faster than implied by the speed of national house prices appreciation,” Goldman Sachs researchers told The Wall Street Journal.



LIEN ON ME: Federal Tax Liens

Any lien showing up on your title search is a cause for concern, but the concern is always heightened when it is a federal tax lien. Because federal law trumps state law, different rules apply to these liens which can create confusion for title agents. This article will review the characteristics of federal tax liens and set out Old Republic’s requirements from a title insurance perspective.

Section 6321 of the Internal Revenue Code imposes a lien on “all property and rights to property, whether real or personal, “ belonging to any person who has failed to pay any tax due to the United States for the amount due, including interest, assessable penalties and costs.

The initial term of the lien is 10 years from the date of assessment and can be re-filed for an additional 10 year period. Re-filing must be within 10 years and 30 days from the date of assessment. The lien is created upon assessment, but section 6323(a) of the Internal Revenue Code provides that the federal tax lien will not be valid as against “any purchaser, holder of a security interest, mechanic’s lienor, or judgment lien creditor until notice thereof has been filed.” Accordingly, the priority of the lien is established upon recording of a notice of the lien in the official records.

A federal tax lien is controlled by federal law so the IRS does not have to adhere to Florida’s constitutional protections against forced sale of homestead property. The IRS can and does enforce its federal tax liens against the homestead property of the taxpayer. Another potential trap for the unwary title agent is that a federal tax lien

against one spouse can be enforced against property held by husband and wife as tenants by the entirety. On April 17, 2002, the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Craft changed our longstanding thinking on entireties property and ruled that federal tax liens can attach to property held by a taxpayer as a tenant by the entirety. The Supreme Court reasoned that under section 6321, a federal tax lien attaches to “all property and rights to property” of the delinquent taxpayer and noted that federal courts are not bound by state law when interpreting federal legislation.

You will be relieved to know that some of Florida’s lien laws are similar to the Federal law. For example, the IRS will treat a “true” purchase money mortgage as superior to its federal tax lien against the borrower/buyer, even if the mortgage is recorded after the lien. To be a true purchase money mortgage, all of the loan proceeds must be used to purchase the real property and not be used for other payments (i.e., paying off credit cards, etc.). Remember, this only applies to purchase money mortgages and cannot be relied on for refinance situations.

Additionally, federal tax liens that are subordinate to the foreclosing mortgage and recorded prior to the foreclosure lis pendens, can be wiped out in a proper mortgage foreclosure. The United States must be named as a defendant and properly served, and retains a 120 day right of redemption. The redemption period generally commences with the entry of the Certificate of Title (the “CT”). If you are asked to insure a sale or mortgage of the property prior to the expiration of the 120 day right of redemption, you will either need to include an exception for the redemption period in the policy or obtain a release from the United States.

If the federal tax lien is junior to the mortgage being foreclosed but is recorded AFTER the foreclosing lis pendens, the federal tax lien may be foreclosed out without having to name the United States as a defendant in the action. It is up to the United States to intervene in the case within 30 days after the recording of the LP. If the United States does not intervene and the foreclosure proceeds to the issuance of a CT, its lien is foreclosed out and it has no right of redemption.

By: Jeanne Mott, Esq., Old Republic Nat’l Title Ins. Co. ~ In The Title Corner ~ 4th Qtr 2012, Vol 15, Issue 4 


Notable Issues for Florida Notaries

Questions involving Florida notary public (“notary”) issues are some of the most common questions we receive and reveal some confusion by our agents who also function as Florida notaries. This article will address some of the most commonly misunderstood issues with a special focus on what a Florida notary is not permitted to do under Florida law.

Chapter 117 of the Florida Statutes sets out the duties and obligations of a notary in performing the important functions of administering oaths and taking acknowledgements (other functions performed by notaries, such as attesting to the authenticity of a photocopy, are not addressed in this article). The duties and obligations—and potential liability—of a notary are separate and distinct from those of a title or closing agent.

A commonly misunderstood scenario is one in which the notary acts as both a witness and a notary. While this is perfectly acceptable under Florida law, in order for the notary to properly serve and sign as a “subscribing witness,” the notary must, just like any other witness, actually see the party sign his or her name. In order to take a proper acknowledgement, however, it is not necessary that the signatory sign his or her name in front of the notary—it is only necessary that the signatory appear in front of the notary and “acknowledge” to the notary that the signature on the document is, in fact, his or hers.

Another commonly misunderstood scenario is when a jurat is used instead of an acknowledgement or an acknowledgment is used instead of a jurat. These two notarial certificates are used for two different purposes and are not interchangeable. A jurat is the “sworn to and subscribed before me” language used on affidavits, while a proper acknowledgment, required on all deeds conveying Florida real property, specifically provides that the signatory has acknowledged to the notary that the signature on the document is his or hers. Acceptable forms of jurats and acknowledgements are set out in Florida Statutes, §117. 05. While there may be situations where a “hybrid” jurat/acknowledgement might be acceptable, such as where a jurat on a deed also includes acknowledgement language, such situations should be reviewed by an underwriter.

As a notary, you want to be very careful not do something prohibited under Chapter 117 that could result in the loss of your commission or possibly expose you to civil and/or criminal liability. Florida Statutes, §117.07 specifically sets out the many acts prohibited by a notary. Among those listed in the statute, you are prohibited from notarizing a document if:

• The signer is not in your presence, or is your spouse, son, daughter, mother or father;

• You do not have satisfactory identification for the signer, unless you personally know that person;

• You have a financial interest in or are a party to the underlying transaction;

• It appears that the signer is mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the document, or does not understand or speak English (unless the document is translated into a language the signer does understand);

• The document is incomplete or blank; or

• Your commission has expired.

Properly performing your duties and obligations as a Florida notary can sometimes be difficult and confusing. The Underwriting Department understands and is ready to assist you when you have questions or concerns.

By: Brenda J. Cannon, Esq., Old Republic Nat’l Ins. Co., In The Title Corner, 4th Qtr 2012, Vol 15, Issue 4

Jennifer Ferri, Owner

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