Mechanic’s Liens

property lienThe Mechanics’ Lien law provides special protection to contractors, subcontractors, laborers and suppliers who furnish labor or materials to repair, remodel or build your home.

If any of these people are not paid for the services or materials they have provided, your home may be subject to a mechanics’ lien and eventual sale in a legal proceeding to enforce the lien. This result can occur even when the homeowner has made full payment for the work of improvement.

The mechanics’ lien is a right that a state gives to workers and suppliers to record a lien and ensure payment. This lien may be recorded where the property owner has paid the contractor in full and the contractor then fails to pay the subcontractors, suppliers, or laborers. Thus, in the worst case, a homeowner may actually end up paying twice for the same work.

The theory is that the value of the property upon which the labor or materials have been bestowed has been increased by virtue of these efforts and the homeowner who has reaped this benefit is required in return to act as the ultimate guarantor of full payment to the persons responsible for this increase in value. In practice, a homeowner faced with a valid mechanics’ lien may be compelled to pay the lien claimant and then pursue conventional legal remedies against the contractor or subcontractor who initially failed to pay the lien claimant but who himself was paid by the homeowner. Another justification for this result relates to the relative financial strengths of the parties to a work of improvement. The law views the property owner as being in a better situation to absorb the financial setback occasioned by having to pay the amount of a valid mechanics’ lien, as opposed to a laborer or material man who is viewed as being less able to absorb the financial burdens occasioned by not being paid for services or materials provided in connection with a work of improvement.

The best protection against these claims is for the homeowner to employ reputable firms with sufficient experience and capital and/or require completion and payment bonding of the construction work. The issuance of checks payable jointly to the contractor, material men and suppliers is another protective measure, as is the careful disbursement of funds in phases based upon the percentage of completion of the project at a given point in the construction process. The protection offered by mechanics’ lien releases can also be helpful.

Even if a mechanics’ lien is recorded against your property you may be able to resolve the problem without further payment to the lien claimant. This possibility exists where the proper procedure for establishing the lien was not followed. While it is true that persons who have provided labor, services, or materials to a job site may record mechanics’ liens, each is required to strictly adhere to a well-established procedure in order to create a valid mechanics’ lien.

Needless to say, this is one area of the law that is very complex, thus it may be worthwhile to consult an attorney if you become aware that a mechanics’ lien has been recorded against your property. In the event you discover that a lien has been recorded but no effort has been made to enforce the lien, a title company may decide to ignore the lien. However, be prepared to be presented with a positive plan to eliminate the title problems created by this type of lien. This may be accomplished by means of a recorded mechanics’ lien release from the person who created the lien, or other measures acceptable to the title company.

As in all areas of the real estate field, the best advice is to investigate the quality, integrity, and business reputation of the firm with whom you are dealing. Once you are satisfied you are dealing with a reputable company and before you begin your construction project, discuss your concerns about possible mechanics’ lien problems and work out, in advance, a method of ensuring that they will not occur.

The Mechanics’ Lien law provides special protection to contractors, subcontractors, laborers and suppliers who furnish labor or materials to repair, remodel or build your home.

If any of these people are not paid for the services or materials they have provided, your home may be subject to a mechanics’ lien and eventual sale in a legal proceeding to enforce the lien. This result can occur even when the homeowner has made full payment for the work of improvement.

The mechanics’ lien is a right that a state gives to workers and suppliers to record a lien and ensure payment. This lien may be recorded where the property owner has paid the contractor in full and the contractor then fails to pay the subcontractors, suppliers, or laborers. Thus, in the worst case, a homeowner may actually end up paying twice for the same work.

The theory is that the value of the property upon which the labor or materials have been bestowed has been increased by virtue of these efforts and the homeowner who has reaped this benefit is required in return to act as the ultimate guarantor of full payment to the persons responsible for this increase in value. In practice, a homeowner faced with a valid mechanics’ lien may be compelled to pay the lien claimant and then pursue conventional legal remedies against the contractor or subcontractor who initially failed to pay the lien claimant but who himself was paid by the homeowner. Another justification for this result relates to the relative financial strengths of the parties to a work of improvement. The law views the property owner as being in a better situation to absorb the financial setback occasioned by having to pay the amount of a valid mechanics’ lien, as opposed to a laborer or material man who is viewed as being less able to absorb the financial burdens occasioned by not being paid for services or materials provided in connection with a work of improvement.

The best protection against these claims is for the homeowner to employ reputable firms with sufficient experience and capital and/or require completion and payment bonding of the construction work. The issuance of checks payable jointly to the contractor, material men and suppliers is another protective measure, as is the careful disbursement of funds in phases based upon the percentage of completion of the project at a given point in the construction process. The protection offered by mechanics’ lien releases can also be helpful.

Even if a mechanics’ lien is recorded against your property you may be able to resolve the problem without further payment to the lien claimant. This possibility exists where the proper procedure for establishing the lien was not followed. While it is true that persons who have provided labor, services, or materials to a job site may record mechanics’ liens, each is required to strictly adhere to a well-established procedure in order to create a valid mechanics’ lien.

Needless to say, this is one area of the law that is very complex, thus it may be worthwhile to consult an attorney if you become aware that a mechanics’ lien has been recorded against your property. In the event you discover that a lien has been recorded but no effort has been made to enforce the lien, a title company may decide to ignore the lien. However, be prepared to be presented with a positive plan to eliminate the title problems created by this type of lien. This may be accomplished by means of a recorded mechanics’ lien release from the person who created the lien, or other measures acceptable to the title company.

As in all areas of the real estate field, the best advice is to investigate the quality, integrity, and business reputation of the firm with whom you are dealing. Once you are satisfied you are dealing with a reputable company and before you begin your construction project, discuss your concerns about possible mechanics’ lien problems and work out, in advance, a method of ensuring that they will not occur.

Understanding Foreclosures

It is an unfortunate commentary, but when economic activity declines and housing activity decreases, more real property enters the foreclosure process. High interest rates and creative financing arrangements are also contributing factors.

When prices are rapidly accelerating during a real estate “bonanza”, many people go to any lengths available to get into the market through investments in vacation homes, rental housing and trading up to more expensive properties. In some cases, this results in the taking on of high interest rate payments and second, third and even fourth deeds of trust. Many buyers anticipate that interest rates will drop and home prices will continue to escalate. It is possible that neither will occur and borrowers may be faced with large balloon payments becoming due. When payments cannot be met, the foreclosure process looms on the horizon.

In the foreclosure process, one thing should be kept in mind: as a general rule, a lender would rather receive payments than receive a home due to a foreclosure. Lenders are not in the business of selling real estate and will often try to accommodate property owners who are having payment problems. The best plan is to contact the lender before payment problems arise. If monthly payments are too hefty, it may be that a lender will be able to make some alternative payment arrangements until the owner’s financial situation improves.

Let’s say, however, that a property owner has missed payments and has not made any alternate arrangements with the lender. In this case, the lender may decide to begin the foreclosure process. Under such circumstances, the lender, whether a bank, savings and loan or private party, will request that the trustee, often a title company, file a notice of default with the county recorder’s office. A copy of the notice is mailed to the property owner.

If the default is due to a balloon payment not being made when due, the lender can require full payment on the entire outstanding loan as the only way to cure the default. If the default is not cured, the lender may direct the trustee to sell the property at a public sale.

In cases of a public sale, a notice of sale must be published in a local newspaper and posted in a public place, usually the courthouse, for three consecutive weeks. Once the notice of sale has been recorded, the property owner has until 5 days prior to the published sale date to bring the loan current. If the owner cures the default by making up the payments, the deed of trust will be reinstated and regular monthly payments will continue as before.

After this time, it may still be possible for the property owner to work out a postponement on the sale with the lender. However, if no postponement is reached, the property goes on the block. At the sale, buyers must pay the amount of their bid in cash, cashier’s check or other instrument acceptable to the trustee. A lender may “credit bid” up to the amount of the obligation being foreclosed upon.

With the recent attention given to foreclosure, there also has been corresponding interest in buying foreclosed properties. However, caveat emptor: buyer beware. Foreclosed properties are very likely to be burdened with overdue taxes, liens and clouded titles. A buyer should do his homework and ask a local title company for information concerning these outstanding liens and encumbrances. Title insurance may or may not be available following a foreclosure sale and various exceptions may be included in any title insurance policy issued to a buyer of a foreclosed property.

Your local title company will be happy to provide additional information.

Closing and Title Costs

It’s the big day.

The day you go to the title or escrow company, sign your name on the dotted line, hand over a check and prepare to take ownership of your new home.

It’s also the day that you and the seller will pay “closing” or settlement costs, an accumulation of separate charges paid to different entities for the professional services associated with the buying and selling of real property.

It’s too often a day filled with uncertainty and stress.

To help you better understand this confusing subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about title, closing and closing costs.

What services will I be paying for when I pay closing costs?

You will usually be paying for such things as real estate commissions, appraisal fees, loan fees, escrow charges, advance payments such as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, title insurance premiums, pest inspections and the like.

How much should I expect to pay in closing costs?

The amount you pay for closing costs will vary; however, when buying your home and obtaining a new loan, an estimate of your closing costs will be provided to you pursuant to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act after you submit your loan application. This disclosure provides you with a good faith estimate of what your closing costs will be in the real estate process. An itemized list of charges will be prepared when you close your transaction and take title to your new property.

Can I pay for my closing costs in installments?

No, and it is easy to understand why. Many different parties will have fulfilled their responsibilities and be awaiting payment upon closing. The title or escrow company will disburse money to those parties, pursuant to the escrow instructions, when funds are available.

Will I be allowed to write a personal check to cover my closing cost?

Your closing funds should be in the form of a cashier’s check, issued by an institution from the state of your purchase, made payable to the title company or escrow office in the amount requested. A personal check may delay the closing or may be unacceptable to the title or escrow company. An out-of-state check could also cause a delay in your closing due to possible delays in clearing the check.

How much can I expect to pay for Title Insurance?

This point is often misunderstood. Although the title company or escrow office usually serves as a meeting ground for closing the sale, only a small percentage of total closing fees are actually for title insurance protection.

Your title insurance premium may actually amount to less than one percent of the purchase price of your home, and less than ten percent of your total closing costs. The title policy is good for as long as you and your heirs own the property with the payment of only one premium.

Why are separate owner’s and lender’s title insurance policies issued?

Both you and your lender will want the security offered by title insurance.

Your home is an important purchase, and you will want to be certain your home is yours, all yours. Title insurance companies insure your rights and interests in order to protect you against claims.

Your lender is looking to insure the enforceability of their lien on your property and marketability. What is meant by “marketability”? Local lenders will originate a loan here, and, often, sell it to an out-of-state investor. This investor, who may never see the property, needs to know that he has a valid and enforceable lien. Title insurance is the way of making certain. Without a current title policy, the loan is essentially unmarketable.

What does my Title dollar pay for?

Title insurers, unlike property or casualty insurance companies, operate under the theory of risk elimination.

Risk elimination can only be accomplished after an intensive period of risk identification.

Title companies spend a high percentage of their operating revenue each year collecting, storing, maintaining and analyzing official records for information that affects title to real property. The issuance of a title insurance policy is highly labor-intensive. It is based upon the maintenance of a title “plant” or library of title records, in many cases dating back over a hundred years. Each day, recorded documents affecting real property are posted to these plants so that when a title search on a particular parcel is requested, the information is already organized for rapid and accurate retrieval.

Trained title experts are able, with the aid of their extensive title plants, to identify the rights others may have in your property, such as recorded liens, legal actions, disputed interests, rights of way or other encumbrances on your title. Before closing your transaction, you can seek to clear those encumbrances which you do not wish to assume.

The goal of title companies is to conduct such a thorough search and evaluation of public records that no claims will ever arise. Of course, this is impossible–we live in an imperfect world, where human error and changing legal interpretations make 100 percent risk elimination impossible. When claims do arise, title insurance companies have professional claims personnel to make sure that your property rights are protected pursuant to the terms of your policy.

To conclude, when you pay for your title insurance policy, you are paying for a team of professionals who have worked together to deliver you a title insurance policy which represents protection for your ownership of real property.

Who can I look for straight answers on Title, Closing, and closing costs?

Title or escrow company personnel are available to review and explain your title policy and your closing statement.

Article by CLTA

Creative Financing

Creative financing: You’ve heard of it, and, as a seller, the idea sounds pretty attractive. But, do you know everything you need to know about carrying back a second; essentially, about becoming a lender? You better know the same things that financial institutions know – you better know about lender’s title insurance.

It’s time to sell your $150,000 home, a home that you have owned for fifteen years, a home in which you have substantial equity. The loan terms call for a $20,000 down payment from your buyer, a new $100,000 loan from a local savings and loan, and for you, the seller, to carry back a note for the remaining $30,000.

Will you, the seller, need title insurance?

Yes, you will. Everyone who retains an interest in the property needs title insurance. When you took on the role of lender, you retained a record title interest which you will want to protect for the term of the loan.

But, why would you need lender’s title insurance when the repayment of your loan is assured by a lien in the form of a recorded deed of trust against the property? What could possibly go wrong?

You must insure yourself for the same reason that financial institutions obtain title insurance – for the protection of your investment. You must be assured that your lien on the property cannot be defeated by a prior lien or other interest in the property, which, if exercised, would wipe out your security.

Anything that involves the new buyer’s ownership rights to the property is of direct interest to you because you are holding the second mortgage. If such ownership rights are in question or defective, you may have trouble collecting your monthly mortgage payments. But, you say, there is nothing in your property’s history that could cause problems: no problems with easements, no problems with boundaries, no problems with rights-of-way.

Contrary to what may be popular belief, these matters are not the only source of title problems; a large proportion of title problems arise out of man’s interaction with man. The fact of a marriage, a divorce, a death, a forgery, a judgment for money damages, a failure to pay state or federal taxes – these occurrences can and usually will affect your rights as a mortgage lender.

As an example of what can befall the lender, did you know that a federal tax lien recorded against your buyer before the loan transaction is concluded may result in the loss of security in your home? Sophisticated mortgage lenders are aware of this possibility as well as many others which could jeopardize their loan security and seek the protection afforded by a lender’s title insurance policy.

If you are considering carrying back a second, be sure to get all the facts regarding the benefits of lender’s title insurance. Your local title insurance company should be happy to provide the information you need.

Article by CLTA

Required Reporting to the I.R.S.

Sellers of real property will have certain information regarding the sale reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

This required reporting is a consequence of the Tax Reform Act of 1986; it is intended to encourage taxpayer compliance and aid in audit and enforcement efforts by the I.R.S.

To help you better understand this subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about Required Reporting to the I.R.S.

Who is required to report to the I.R.S.?

Sellers of real property, under guidelines established by the I.R.S., are required to have their gross proceeds from the sale reported on a Form 1099S. When a settlement agent is used, the I.R.S. makes this agent responsible for the delivery of the information on the Form 1099S.

The settlement agent generally will be the escrow agent or title company; however, it may be an attorney, real estate broker or other person providing settlement services.

What is an I.R.S. Form 1099S, and what will be reported?

The Form 1099S is the reporting form adopted by the I.R.S. for submitting the information required by law.

The information will be transferred onto magnetic media by the settlement agent who will store the information and make the required report to the I.R.S. The settlement agent is also responsible for keeping a master copy of all transactions reported.

In general, information required by the I.R.S. falls into the following categories:

  1. The name, address and taxpayer ID number (social security or tax identification number) of the seller(s)
  2. A general description of the property (in most cases an address)
  3. The closing date of the transaction
  4. The gross proceeds of the transaction (even though gross proceeds do not correspond to taxable income)
  5. Any property involved as part of the transaction other than cash or cash equivalent
  6. The name, address and taxpayer identification number of the settlement agent.
  7. Real estate tax paid in advance that is allocable to the buyer.

On what type of transactions is a Form 1099S required?

Currently, typical homeowner transactions covered include sales and exchanges of 1-4 family residential properties such as houses, townhouses, and condominiums. Also reportable are sales or exchanges of improved or unimproved land, commercial or industrial buildings, condominiums, stock in a cooperative housing corporation and mobile homes (manufactured homes) affixed to real property.

Specifically excluded from reporting are foreclosures and abandonment of real property and financing or refinancing of properties.

What happens if the seller(s) refuses to provide the taxpayer identification number for the Form 1099S?

The settlement agent is required to request the transferor’s taxpayer identification number(s) (TIN(s)) before the time of closing. You may request a TIN on Form W-9 or use an alternative written request. The IRS has included sample wording of an alternative written request in the instructions for preparation of Form 1099S.

Should the seller fail to provide the identification number and certify its correctness, the settlement agent may choose to:

  1. Delay the closing of the transactions until the information is furnished, or
  2. Complete the transaction and report to the I.R.S. that an attempt was made to obtain the information from the seller.

How is the sale reported when there is more than one seller involved or when multiple sellers do not own equal interests in the property?

Multiple sellers may allocate the gross proceeds among themselves for purposes of reporting. If there is no allocation, an incomplete allocation or conflicting allocations, then the entire gross proceeds will be reported for each seller.

Where can I go for further information on taxation of real property?

The I.R.S. provides free publications that explain the tax aspects of real estate transactions. You may wish to order:

  • Publication #523 “Tax Information on Selling Your Home”
  • Publication #530 “Tax Information for Home Owners”
  • Publication #544 “Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets”
  • Publication #551 “Basis of Assets”

To place your order, phone toll-free (800) 829-3676.

Article by CLTA

Sellers of real property will have certain information regarding the sale reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

This required reporting is a consequence of the Tax Reform Act of 1986; it is intended to encourage taxpayer compliance and aid in audit and enforcement efforts by the I.R.S.

To help you better understand this subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about Required Reporting to the I.R.S.

Who is required to report to the I.R.S.?

Sellers of real property, under guidelines established by the I.R.S., are required to have their gross proceeds from the sale reported on a Form 1099S. When a settlement agent is used, the I.R.S. makes this agent responsible for the delivery of the information on the Form 1099S.

The settlement agent generally will be the escrow agent or title company; however, it may be an attorney, real estate broker or other person providing settlement services.

What is an I.R.S. Form 1099S, and what will be reported?

The Form 1099S is the reporting form adopted by the I.R.S. for submitting the information required by law.

The information will be transferred onto magnetic media by the settlement agent who will store the information and make the required report to the I.R.S. The settlement agent is also responsible for keeping a master copy of all transactions reported.

In general, information required by the I.R.S. falls into the following categories:

  1. The name, address and taxpayer ID number (social security or tax identification number) of the seller(s)
  2. A general description of the property (in most cases an address)
  3. The closing date of the transaction
  4. The gross proceeds of the transaction (even though gross proceeds do not correspond to taxable income)
  5. Any property involved as part of the transaction other than cash or cash equivalent
  6. The name, address and taxpayer identification number of the settlement agent.
  7. Real estate tax paid in advance that is allocable to the buyer.

On what type of transactions is a Form 1099S required?

Currently, typical homeowner transactions covered include sales and exchanges of 1-4 family residential properties such as houses, townhouses, and condominiums. Also reportable are sales or exchanges of improved or unimproved land, commercial or industrial buildings, condominiums, stock in a cooperative housing corporation and mobile homes (manufactured homes) affixed to real property.

Specifically excluded from reporting are foreclosures and abandonment of real property and financing or refinancing of properties.

What happens if the seller(s) refuses to provide the taxpayer identification number for the Form 1099S?

The settlement agent is required to request the transferor’s taxpayer identification number(s) (TIN(s)) before the time of closing. You may request a TIN on Form W-9 or use an alternative written request. The IRS has included sample wording of an alternative written request in the instructions for preparation of Form 1099S.

Should the seller fail to provide the identification number and certify its correctness, the settlement agent may choose to:

  1. Delay the closing of the transactions until the information is furnished, or
  2. Complete the transaction and report to the I.R.S. that an attempt was made to obtain the information from the seller.

How is the sale reported when there is more than one seller involved or when multiple sellers do not own equal interests in the property?

Multiple sellers may allocate the gross proceeds among themselves for purposes of reporting. If there is no allocation, an incomplete allocation or conflicting allocations, then the entire gross proceeds will be reported for each seller.

Where can I go for further information on taxation of real property?

The I.R.S. provides free publications that explain the tax aspects of real estate transactions. You may wish to order:

  • Publication #523 “Tax Information on Selling Your Home”
  • Publication #530 “Tax Information for Home Owners”
  • Publication #544 “Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets”
  • Publication #551 “Basis of Assets”

To place your order, phone toll-free (800) 829-3676.

Article by CLTA

Sellers of real property will have certain information regarding the sale reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

This required reporting is a consequence of the Tax Reform Act of 1986; it is intended to encourage taxpayer compliance and aid in audit and enforcement efforts by the I.R.S.

To help you better understand this subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about Required Reporting to the I.R.S.

Who is required to report to the I.R.S.?

Sellers of real property, under guidelines established by the I.R.S., are required to have their gross proceeds from the sale reported on a Form 1099S. When a settlement agent is used, the I.R.S. makes this agent responsible for the delivery of the information on the Form 1099S.

The settlement agent generally will be the escrow agent or title company; however, it may be an attorney, real estate broker or other person providing settlement services.

What is an I.R.S. Form 1099S, and what will be reported?

The Form 1099S is the reporting form adopted by the I.R.S. for submitting the information required by law.

The information will be transferred onto magnetic media by the settlement agent who will store the information and make the required report to the I.R.S. The settlement agent is also responsible for keeping a master copy of all transactions reported.

In general, information required by the I.R.S. falls into the following categories:

  1. The name, address and taxpayer ID number (social security or tax identification number) of the seller(s)
  2. A general description of the property (in most cases an address)
  3. The closing date of the transaction
  4. The gross proceeds of the transaction (even though gross proceeds do not correspond to taxable income)
  5. Any property involved as part of the transaction other than cash or cash equivalent
  6. The name, address and taxpayer identification number of the settlement agent.
  7. Real estate tax paid in advance that is allocable to the buyer.

On what type of transactions is a Form 1099S required?

Currently, typical homeowner transactions covered include sales and exchanges of 1-4 family residential properties such as houses, townhouses, and condominiums. Also reportable are sales or exchanges of improved or unimproved land, commercial or industrial buildings, condominiums, stock in a cooperative housing corporation and mobile homes (manufactured homes) affixed to real property.

Specifically excluded from reporting are foreclosures and abandonment of real property and financing or refinancing of properties.

What happens if the seller(s) refuses to provide the taxpayer identification number for the Form 1099S?

The settlement agent is required to request the transferor’s taxpayer identification number(s) (TIN(s)) before the time of closing. You may request a TIN on Form W-9 or use an alternative written request. The IRS has included sample wording of an alternative written request in the instructions for preparation of Form 1099S.

Should the seller fail to provide the identification number and certify its correctness, the settlement agent may choose to:

  1. Delay the closing of the transactions until the information is furnished, or
  2. Complete the transaction and report to the I.R.S. that an attempt was made to obtain the information from the seller.

How is the sale reported when there is more than one seller involved or when multiple sellers do not own equal interests in the property?

Multiple sellers may allocate the gross proceeds among themselves for purposes of reporting. If there is no allocation, an incomplete allocation or conflicting allocations, then the entire gross proceeds will be reported for each seller.

Where can I go for further information on taxation of real property?

The I.R.S. provides free publications that explain the tax aspects of real estate transactions. You may wish to order:

  • Publication #523 “Tax Information on Selling Your Home”
  • Publication #530 “Tax Information for Home Owners”
  • Publication #544 “Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets”
  • Publication #551 “Basis of Assets”

To place your order, phone toll-free (800) 829-3676.

Article by CLTA

Statements of Information

What’s in a name?

When a title company seeks to uncover matters affecting title to real property, the answer is, “Quite a bit.”

Statements of Information provide title companies with the information they need to distinguish the buyers and sellers of real property from others with similar names. After identifying the true buyers and sellers, title companies may disregard the judgments, liens or other matters on the public records under similar names.

To help you better understand this sensitive subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about Statements of Information.

What is a Statement of Information?

A Statement of Information is a form routinely requested from the buyer, seller and borrower in a transaction where title insurance is sought. The completed form provides the title company with information needed to adequately examine documents so as to disregard matters which do not affect the property to be insured, matters which actually apply to some other person.

What does a Statement of Information do?

Every day documents affecting real property–liens, court decrees, bankruptcies–are recorded.

Whenever a title company uncovers a recorded document in which the name is the same or similar to that of the buyer, seller or borrower in a title transaction, the title company must ask, “Does this document affect the parties we are insuring?” Because, if it does, it affects title to the property and would, therefore, be listed as an exception from coverage under the title policy.

A properly completed Statement of Information will allow the title company to differentiate between parties with the same or similar names when searching documents recorded by name. This protects all parties involved and allows the title company to competently carry out its duties without unnecessary delay.

What types of information are requested in a Statement of Information?

The information requested is personal in nature, but not unnecessarily so. The information requested is essential to avoid delays in closing the transaction.

You, and your spouse if you are married, will be asked to provide full name, social security number, year of birth, birthplace, and information or citizenship. If you are married, you will be asked the date and place of your marriage or registered domestic partnership.

Residence and employment information will be requested, as will information regarding previous marriages or registered domestic partnerships.

Will the information I supply be kept confidential?

The information you supply is completely confidential and only for title company use in completing the search of records necessary before a policy of title insurance can be issued.

What happens if a buyer, seller or borrower fails to provide the requested Statement of Information?

At best, failure to provide the requested Statement of Information will hinder the search and examination capabilities of the title company, causing delay in the production of your title policy.

At worst, failure to provide the information requested could prohibit the close of your escrow. Without a Statement of Information, it would be necessary for the title company to list as exceptions from coverage judgments, liens or other matters which may affect the property to be insured. Such exceptions would be unacceptable to most lenders, whose interest must also be insured.

Conclusion

Title companies make every attempt in issuing a policy of title insurance to identify known risks affecting your property and to efficiently and correctly transfer title so as to protect your interests as a homebuyer.

By properly completing a Statement of Information, you allow the title company to provide the service you need with the assurance of confidentiality.

Article by CLTA

The Functions of an Escrow

Buying or selling a home (or other piece of real property) usually involves the transfer of large sums of money. It is imperative that the transfer of these funds and related documents from one party to another be handled in a neutral, secure and knowledgeable manner. For the protection of buyer, seller and lender, the escrow process was developed.

As a buyer or seller, you want to be certain all conditions of sale have been met before property and money change hands. The technical definition of an escrow is a transaction where one party engaged in the sale, transfer or lease of real or personal property with another person delivers a written instrument, money or other items of value to a neutral third person, called an escrow agent or escrow holder. This third person holds the money or items for disbursement upon the happening of a specified event or the performance of a specified condition.

Simply stated, the escrow holder impartially carries out the written instructions given by the principals. This includes receiving funds and documents necessary to comply with those instructions, completing or obtaining required forms and handling final delivery of all items to the proper parties upon the successful completion of the escrow.

The escrow must be provided with the necessary information to close the transaction. This may include loan documents, tax statements, fire and other insurance policies, title insurance policies, terms of sale and any seller-assisted financing, and requests for payment for various services to be paid out of escrow funds.

If the transaction is dependent on arranging new financing, it is the buyer’s or the buyer’s agent’s responsibility to make the necessary arrangements. Documentation of the new loan agreement must be in the hands of the escrow holder before the transfer of property can take place. A real estate agent can help identify appropriate lending institutions.

When all the instructions in the escrow have been carried out, the closing can take place. At this time, all outstanding funds are collected and fees- such as title insurance premiums, real estate commissions, termite inspection charges- are paid. Title to the property is then transferred under the terms of the escrow instructions and appropriate title insurance is issued.

Payment of funds at the close of escrow should be in the form acceptable to the escrow, since out-of-town and personal checks can cause days of delay in processing the transaction.

The following items represent a typical list of what an escrow holder does and does not do:

THE ESCROW HOLDER:

  • serves as the neutral “stakeholder” and the communications link to all parties in the transaction;
  • prepares escrow instructions;
  • requests a preliminary title search to determine the present condition of title to the property;
  • requests a beneficiary’s statement if debt or obligation is to be taken over by the buyer;
  • complies with lender’s requirements, specified in the escrow agreement;
  • receives purchase funds from the buyer;
  • prepares or secures the deed or other documents related to escrow;
  • prorates taxes, interest, insurance and rents according to instructions;
  • secures releases of all contingencies or other conditions as imposed on any particular escrow;
  • records deeds and any other documents as instructed;
  • requests issuance of the title insurance policy;
  • closes escrow when all the instructions of buyer and seller have been carried out;
  • disburses funds as authorized by instructions, including charges for title insurance, recording fees, real estate commissions and loan payoffs;
  • prepares final statements for the parties accounting for the disposition of all funds deposited in escrow (these are useful in the preparation of tax returns).

THE ESCROW HOLDER DOES NOT:

  • offer legal advice;
  • negotiate the transaction;
  • offer investment advice.

Your local title company should be happy to provide additional information.

Article by CLTA

Title Insurance – Where Does Your Dollar Go?

Title Insurance: As a homebuyer, the term is probably familiar – but is it understood? What is your dollar actually paying for when you purchase a title policy?

Title Insurers, unlike property or casualty insurance companies, operate under the theory of risk elimination. Title companies spend a high percentage of their operating income each year collecting, storing, maintaining and analyzing official records for information that affects title to real property. Their technical experts are trained to identify the rights others may have in your property, such as recorded liens, legal actions, disputed interests, rights of way or other encumbrances on your title. Before closing your transaction, the title company will proceed to clear those encumbrances which you do not wish to assume.

This theory is different from that of most other insurance where, for example, rates and anticipated losses are based on actuarial studies and premiums are pooled on the assumption that a certain number of claims will be made. The distinction is important: title insurance premiums are paid to identify and eliminate potential risks and claims before they happen. Medical and casualty insurance premiums, for example, are paid to insure against an unpredictable future event, knowing that risks exist and claims will occur. Furthermore, title insurance involves a one-time premium, paid when you close the real estate transaction, while property, casualty and medical insurance require regular renewal premiums.

The goal of title companies is to conduct such a thorough search and evaluation of public records that no claims will ever arise. Of course, this is impossible — we live in an imperfect world, where human error and changing legal interpretations make 100% risk elimination impossible. When claims arise, professional claims personnel are assigned to handle them according to the terms of the title insurance policy.

As in all competitive business environments, rates vary from company to company, so you should make comparisons before deciding on a particular title company. Your real estate professional can help you do this. In addition, there are many helpful customer services provided by title companies which you and your real estate professional may find helpful to your transaction.

The issuance of a title insurance policy is highly labor-intensive. It is based upon the maintenance of a title plant, or library of title records, in many cases dating back over a hundred years. Each day, recorded documents affecting real property and property owners are posted to these title plants so that when a title search on a particular parcel is requested, the information is already organized for rapid and accurate retrieval. This investment in skilled personnel and advanced data processing represents a major part of the title insurance premium dollar.

Article by CLTA

Title Insurance Requirements for Insuring Trusts

In today’s world of busy probate courts and exorbitant death taxes, the living trust has become a common manner of holding title to real property. The following may help you understand a few of the requirements of the title insurance industry if title to property is conveyed to the trustee of a living trust.

What is a trust?

An agreement between a trustor and trustee for the trustee to hold title to and administer designated assets of the trustor for the use and benefit of one or more beneficiaries.

Can a trust itself acquire and convey interests in real property?

No. The trust is an arrangement between a trustee and the trustor. Only the trustee, on behalf of the trust, may own and convey any interest in real property. The trustee may only exercise the powers granted in the trust.

What will the title company require if a trustee holds the title to the property which is part of the trust?

A certification of trust containing the following information:

  1. Date of execution of the trust instrument,
  2. Identity of the trustor and trustee,
  3. Powers of the trustee,
  4. Identity of person with power to revoke trust, if any,
  5. Signature authority of the trustees,
  6. Manner in which title to the trust assets should be taken,
  7. Legal description of any interest in the property held by the trust, and
  8. A statement that the trust has not been revoked, modified, or amended in any manner which would cause the certification to be incorrect and that the certification is being signed by all currently acting trustees of the trust

My trust contains certain amounts of money to be given to various charities which is none of your business. Can I omit these pages?

Because many different provisions may be on the same page, the answer must be no — but if the title company requires a copy of the trust, it may accept a copy with those amounts blacked out.

If there is more than one trustee, can just one sign?

Maybe. The trust must specifically provide for less than all to sign.

Can the trustee give someone a power-of-attorney?

Only if the trust specifically provides for the appointment of an attorney-in-fact.

What will the title company require if all the trustees have died or are unwilling to act?

If the trustor is not able to do so, or the trust provisions prohibit the trustor from appointing a new trustee, the court may do so.

How does a notary acknowledge the signature of the trustee?

Title is vested in the trustee. Hence, if the trustee is an individual or a corporation, then the new general form of acknowledgment will be prepared to reflect the intrinsic nature of the trustee.

How would the deed to the trustee ordinarily be worded to transfer title to the trustee?

“John Doe and Mary Doe, as trustees of the Doe family trust, under declaration of trust dated January 1,1992.”

Are there any limitations on what a trustee may do?

Yes, the trustee is limited principally and most importantly by the provisions of the trust and, thus, may only act within the terms of the trust. The probate code contains general powers which, unless limited by the trust agreement, are sufficient for title insurers to rely on for sale, conveyance, and refinance purposes.

Article by CLTA

Title Insurance When Refinancing Your Loan

Lower interest rates have motivated you to refinance your home loan. The lower rate may save you a tremendous amount of money over the life of the loan, but you should also expect to pay the lender the typical closing costs associated with any new loan, including service fees, points, title insurance protection and other expenses.

Why do I need to purchase a new title insurance policy on a refinanced loan?

To the lender, a refinance loan is no different than any other home loan. So, your lender will want to insure that their new loan is protected by title insurance, just as the original lender required. Therefore, when you refinance you are buying a title policy to protect your lender.

Why does a Lender need title insurance?

Most lenders generate loans and then immediately sell those loans to secondary market investors, such as FannieMae.

FannieMae, in order to protect its security interest in the loan, requires title insurance coverage. Even those lenders who keep original loans in their portfolio are wise to get a lenders policy to protect their investment against title related defects.

When I purchased my home, didn’t I also buy a lender’s policy?

Perhaps. Who pays for the lender’s policy on a purchase loan varies regionally and by the terms of individual contracts.

However, even if you did buy a lender’s policy when you purchased your home, the lender’s policy remains in force only during the life of the loan that was insured. If you refinance, the old loan is paid off (the “life” of the loan expires) and a new loan is issued for which the lender will require a new title insurance policy.

What about my original title insurance policy?

When you bought your home, you purchased a Homeowners title policy. The Homeowners’ policy stays in force as long as you or your heirs own the home. When you refinance, your lender will often require that you purchase a new lender’s policy to protect their new security interest in the property. Thus, you are buying a policy to protect your lender, not a new Homeowner’s policy.

What could possibly have happened since I purchased my home which warrants a new lender’s policy?

Since the time that the original loan was made, you may have taken out a second trust deed on the house or had mechanic’s liens, child support liens or legal judgments recorded against you – events that could result in serious financial losses to an unprotected lender. Regardless if it has been only 6 months or less since you purchased or refinanced your home, a myriad of title defects could have occurred. While you may not have any title defects, many Homeowners do. The only way for a lender to adequately protect itself is to get a new lender’s policy each time you purchase or refinance your home.

Are there any discounts available for title insurance on a refinance transaction?

Yes. Title companies offer a refinance transaction discount or a short-term rate. Discounts may also be available if you use the same lender for your refinance loan and your original loan. Be sure to ask your title company how they can save you money.

Article by CLTA