Friday, February 27, 2015

Title Topics: What is a Survey?

A property survey will provide you with a bird's eye view of your property. It shows the boundary lines of your lot, and details any encroachments between you and your neighbor’s property.  This map will also indicate any physical features of the property, such as: rivers, creeks, roadways, elevation, and even soil density. Surveys are performed during the original construction of the home and usually given to the buyer of a home at the time of purchase. If the survey is not provided, it might be found at the city planning department.

Why do you need a property survey?

The survey is an official record that can be used to determine ownership history and property lines. If you are interested in adding a fence, pool, or deck to your property, the survey will advise the boundaries in which you can make improvements to your property. If you do not abide by the boundaries of the survey when building an addition, and the structure is built partially on your neighbor’s property, it is called an encroachment. Surveys also indicate easements. Easements indicate the right of others to access certain areas of the property. For example, you may grant your neighbor the right to use a road that is on your private property and therefore, your neighbor has a non-possessive interest in the land.

How is a survey different from a property description?

The legal property description will be located on the deed to your property, on the title policy, and on your mortgage. It’s merely a description of the property, versus a detailed map that the survey provides. 
Any questions or comments?  Please let us know!

Friday, February 6, 2015

3 Real Estate Industry Tech Trends for 2015

The real estate industry isn’t always known for its tech savvy. Technology has become more prevalent in the industry in recent years, though. More agents are listing homes online, complete with virtual tours, and various aspects of the real estate closing process are being completed electronically.

As we move into 2015, you can expect to see technology used more in the real estate industry. Here are three real estate industry tech trends likely to gain ground in the coming year:
1. Mobile Devices Become More Prevalent in House Hunting

 Listings have been online for years. However, as the demographic for house hunters begins skewing younger, mobile devices are likely to become a major part of shopping for a home. Millennials might not quite be ready to buy homes, but there are some indications that some in the younger generation could start thinking about home ownership in 2015.

Last year, a report from Millennial Media and comScore indicated that only 44 percent of online content is consumed on desktops. Mobile-only users are growing at a pace nine times faster than new Internet users, and desktop users continue to decrease. This trend is making its appearance in online real estate searches as well.

A joint study by the National Association of REALTORS and Google indicates that 89 percent of new home shoppers use a mobile search engine. Not only that, but about 45 percent of homebuyers use their mobile devices to ask for more information about listings. A partnership between Uber and Trulia only further emphasizes the integration between mobile apps and real estate apps.

All of this means that your real estate website should be more accessible to mobile users. Mobile is the wave of the future, and it’s already the platform of choice for today’s homebuyers.

2. eRecording Continues to Expand, Along with Title Production and Closing Integration

As of November 1, 2014, the Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) reports that more than 1,200 recording jurisdictions use eRecording in real estate transactions. This only represents about one-third of the recording jurisdictions in the United States, but eRecording is growing at a rapid pace, increasing by more than 20 percent between August 2013 and November 2014, according to PRIA information.

Not only is eRecording becoming more prevalent, but the process is becoming increasingly integrated with title production and closing integration. Companies like reQuire and SnapClose offer technology solutions that integrate every aspect of a real estate transaction. Title companies can use these technology offerings to perform searches as well as complete all of the paperwork associated with title production.

Programs designed to streamline the process from start to finish offer title companies and closing agents an easy way to communicate with lenders, buyers, and sellers, connecting all the parties, all while managing the process. When combined with eRecording, the process is even easier to manage, including for those buyers and sellers whomight be separated by thousands of miles. With new closing compliance disclosures and regulations going into effect, look for more proprietary programs and retail platforms designed to streamline the process and help those in the real estate industry better manage their transactions.

 3. Drones for Real Estate Photography

The world seems obsessed with drones. A number of videos are available showing images captured using drones. This technology is something that is likely to be adopted by the real estate industry. According to Zillow, drones might be very useful in real estate photography for the following reasons:
     The ability to get high-quality, elevated images inexpensively, without the need for helicopters and planes.
     Showing homebuyers what the entire property looks like, as well as the neighborhood and surrounding area.
     Allowing homebuyers to visualize the walk to school or the drive home.
There is still a debate over the use of drones, and there are privacy concerns, but by and large Zillow points out that there are plenty of people eager to use them more, and they could take real estate photography to the next level.

It’s already becoming popular to show 3D walkthroughs of homes and include video tours of homes on listings. As more homebuyers want the “real” experience of a home without actually going to the home to check it out, these technologies are likely to grow in popularity and use during the coming year.

Bonus: 3D Printed Homes

It looks as though the 3D printing industry is picking up steam. It’s true that 3D printers have been around for years, but they are just becoming popular. Now, it appears that it’s even possible to use 3D printing to create homes. According to reports, a Chinese company called WinSun has been printing homes, including a five-story apartment building and a luxury villa (complete with decorative elements).

While this technology for homes isn’t likely to take off in 2015, it’s not inconceivable that 3D printing could provide inexpensive real estate options for more buyers in the coming years.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Title Topics: What's a Tax Sale?

Property taxes, or real estate taxes, help pay for services that we deem important as a society, like public schools, but it only works if everyone pays their fair share. So what happens to a property owner who does not pay their property or real estate taxes? Quite frankly, the consequences are big. Once property taxes come due and are not paid, the governing municipality will begin to charge interest on the delinquent payment, and the balance owed will begin to rise. After a state law specified amount of time, it could be a few months to a few years, the property may go up for auction. The winning bidder, after paying the delinquent taxes, may receive a lien against that property in the form of a tax sale certificate, or in some jurisdictions, may receive free and clear title to the property. In some states there is no auction; the taxing authority will take ownership of the property

If the consumer has given a mortgage on the property, and the real estate taxes are escrowed, the taxes should be paid out of the consumer's mortgage payment. As long as the consumer makes their mortgage payments, the taxes should not go delinquent. If the consumer defaults and no longer makes their regularly scheduled payments, the lender or holder of the mortgage generally ensures the real estate taxes are paid to protect their interest.

If you ever find yourself with delinquent property taxes, you should pay them if you can, or contact the taxing authority for clarity regarding what other options you may have.

Any questions or comments? Please let us know!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Title Source in the Community 2014 Recap

Though we may have said goodbye to 2014, the exciting efforts our team members contributed to within our communities last year are far from over (and they say all good things come to an end, psh)! In 2014, team members set the bar high with a goal to complete 12,000 volunteer hours. Not only did we reach our goal, we crushed it by almost 52 percent! Let’s look back at some of the remarkable ways Title Source team members have made a difference in the communities across the nation throughout 2014.

In the beginning of June, 70 team members, family and friends participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Detroit. Our very own Title Source team was presented the “Rookie of the Year” award. This award is presented by the Detroit Tigers Wives Association, and is given to the largest new team to register for the event. To read a full recap of the event, click here.

On June 14th, over 50 team members in Pennsylvania joined the two-mile-long Walk Now for Autism Speaks event that started and finished at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Not only did they raise an amazing $4,000, but they also helped spread awareness about this increasingly common disorder.

At the end of September, 34 team members in Texas volunteered at the Serve Denton Charity Golf Classic. This event raises money for numerous nonprofits in the Denton community to provide food, clothing, shelter and medical care to those who are in desperate need.

In California, 10 team members joined 16,600 other participants in the Children’s Hospital of Orange County Walk in the Park on October 12th. This three-mile walk, which takes place throughout the Disneyland Resort, raises funds for a variety of patient and family programs at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Together our Title Source team members raised over $1,000!

During the holiday giving season team members from all offices and remote locations rallied together to support a variety of charity drives. Their generosity resulted in an amazing show of compassion and support for charitable organizations in need. Altogether, Title Source donated over 1,300 toys to Toys for Tots; 1,500 pieces of clothing to Coalition of Temporary Shelter (COTS), Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul; and a whopping $14,000 to the American Red Cross.

To finish up the year, our very own CEO Jeff Eisenshtadt dressed up as the friendly snowman Olaf from the Disney animated film “Frozen” to support the Salvation Army’s Metal in the Kettle Campaign. Braving the cold and windy weather on a mid-December afternoon, Title Source and Quicken Loans leaders donned costumes and stood next to their red kettles while ringing bells to collect donations. Altogether, over $75,000 was raised to help those in need in the surrounding community.

We could not be any more ecstatic about all of time, dedication, contributions and smiles that our team members have brought to their communities in 2014. The fun’s not over though! Our new goal for 2015 is to reach 18,000 community involvement hours.

We can’t wait to see all the great ways our team members are donating their time and supporting the communities where we work, live, and play in 2015!

For more information about the charities that Title Source supported in 2014, click the links below:

Click here to find details about the 2015 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Detroit.
To find a walk near you, go to the Walk Now for Autism Speaks website.
Want to learn more about Serve Denton? Click here for more information.
To read about the CHOC Walk in the Park, click here.
Click here to learn about Toys for Tots.

To find more details about COTS, click here.

To see how the American Red Cross serves in your community, click here.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mortgage Market Forecast for 2015

Since the housing market bust of 2007-2009, the recovery for the mortgage market has been slow. Even with record low mortgage rates and low housing prices, home purchases haven’t returned to their pre-2007 level. Recently, an economic letter from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco noted that “The housing sector has been one of the weakest links in the economic recovery, and the latest data trends continue to show only modest improvement.”
“Personally, I’m bullish on the mortgage market for next year,” says Whitney Fite, the Managing Director of Angel Oak Home Loans. While he acknowledges that there are still challenges to be overcome, Fite is nonetheless optimistic that the housing market’s recovery should pick up some steam next year.

Economic recovery to drive home purchases
“If you look at recent employment reports, there are strong indicators that the economy is continuing to rebound,” says Fite. “Looking at the consistency of job creation month over month, and the fact that we are coming out of the most consecutive months of growth since the late 1990s, are indications that job growth seems to be fairly sustainable.”

The unemployment rate has been consistently falling over the last year, which Fite expects to continue. The Federal Reserve feels that the economy is so sufficiently stable that it ended its asset purchase buying program. This leads to expectations that the Fed Funds Rate will be hiked by the middle of 2015. While policymakers speak words of caution and patience, they too seem relatively optimistic about the sustainability of the economic recovery.

Consumers who feel confident about the economy and their own finances might be inclined to commit to a home purchase. “First-time homebuyers are at a historic low right now, accounting for 28 percent of buyers, versus 40 percent before the crisis,” Fite says. “When you think about recovery and improvement, you should expect the first-time buyer to come back in a robust way.”

Fite also points out that it’s not just first-time homebuyers that might feel more confident about buying as the economy improves. “A great motivator in the market for the next year will be move-up buyers looking to buy bigger, more expensive homes,” he says.

Will millennials be ready to take the plunge?
So far, millennials have been reluctant to purchase homes. He recognizes that many millennials, saddled with student loan debt and stuck in an uncertain job market, have put off homeownership, deciding to rent instead of purchase. Even those who can afford to make home purchases have become reluctant. “They’ve been scared due to the recent carnage in the marketplace,” Fite explains.

However, in spite of recent fears, Fite thinks that many millennials, especially those who graduated college in the last five to seven years, might be ready to take the plunge. Many millennials are older now, and starting families. They might also be looking around, realizing that home prices are still very reasonable, and that mortgage rates are near historic lows. Next year offers them a big opportunity to get in the market while it’s very affordable, Fite said. “If this age group becomes more comfortable, we could see a decent surge,” he says. “Student loan debt might be a deterrent, but there is still plenty of potential.”
Easier credit terms should provide some support
Part of the problem with the sluggish mortgage market recovery has been tighter lending standards. “The pendulum swung heavily to one side after the financial crisis,” Fite says. “Now it’s starting to swing back to the other, and there are more opportunities.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two companies that provide financing for a large number of mortgages originated in the United States, recently announced that they are easing lending guidelines. Looser guidelines mean that more people can qualify for mortgages, and that should help the market. “The credit box is opening up more,” says Fite. “There are potential buyers who couldn’t qualify for mortgages last year, or the year before, but will be able to qualify in 2015.”

Fite thinks that raising rates would change things. “If and when rates start going up, it could create urgency in consumers,” he points out. “Consumers will look at affordability and see that rates are rising, and may want to hurry to get a mortgage before rates go too much higher.”

He also points to programs that allow homebuyers to put down less than 20 percent for a down payment, and other measures that are designed to help buyers understand that mortgages are possible for them. With all of these factors, Fite expects to see some positive growth in 2015. He thinks that the growth in the mortgage market will remain relatively modest, but he sees the potential for a return to an interest in home buying.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What you should know about being a landlord

Rental real estate ownership is considered one of the best ways to cultivate passive income. If you can get together the capital needed to purchase a property, and then rent out, you have the potential to make a significant amount of money passively. On top of that, there is the chance that real estate appreciation will lead to the ability to sell the property later at an increase, further improving your return on investment.

Being a landlord isn't for everyone, though. Larry Ludwig owns a hosting business, runs the site InvestorJunkie, and has owned rental property for several years. While he, in general, has been satisfied with his experience, he also acknowledges that it can be a lot of work, expense, and inconvenience, depending on your situation.

Before you decide to take the plunge, here are a few things you should know about being a landlord:

It’s essential to screen your potential tenants

“The key to a good experience is a good tenant,” says Ludwig. “The key to getting a good tenant is the screening process.”

This is especially important if you are renting out a single property. It’s true that there are real estate moguls and development companies that own large, multi-family buildings, and that don’t worry too much about screening. However, if you only have one or two properties, it’s especially important to screen tenants so that you reduce the chances for difficulties in terms of payment, as well as how the property is cared for.

“Don’t rent to the first person that comes to your door,” says Ludwig. He suggests that you set up systems for credit checks and background checks. If you are interested in tenants you don’t have to worry about, those with good credit, and who have good references, are more likely to fit your needs. A good tenant, with whom you can build a good landlord-tenant relationship, can provide you with years of passive income.

Keep your property maintained

One of the best things you can do is keep your property maintained. If you maintain your property, you can reduce the chance for large repairs down the road. When issues do come up, have them repaired in a timely manner. Keeping your property maintained can help ensure that your repair retains its value (or appreciates over time), and it is much easier to spread maintenance and repair costs out over the years, rather than to try and take care of it when it becomes absolutely necessary.

Plus, keeping your property maintained will also help you increase the chances that you can keep your property rented out. High quality tenants (who are likely to pass rigorous screening) want high quality rentals. If you maintain your property, you will be able to command top rates from reliable tenants.

A landlord also has to be responsive to requests from tenants. If a tenant is locked out, or there is a leak under the sink, it’s up to you to take care of it. Unless you hire a property manager to handle these items, you need to be prepared to be on call, even when you are on vacation or in the middle of the night.

Be ready for disaster

Ludwig’s rental property was located in an area devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. While Ludwig had insurance for his property, he didn't have flood insurance, so a large portion of the damage to the property didn't qualify for coverage. “I don’t want to experience that again,” he says. “I’m getting flood insurance now, even though that was a 100-year storm.”

He also points out that rental property owners might not qualify for FEMA assistance, since it’s an investment property. While Ludwig’s displaced tenant qualified for assistance, he, as a business owner, did not. He was directed to the Small Business Administration, which provided him with access to a short-term loan with a below-market interest rate. However, the loan was for less than $10,000, and the total work he needed to fix up his rental amounted to about $25,000. In the end, he spent close to $40,000 to upgrade the rental, since he had to redo everything anyway.

If Ludwig had flood insurance, he would have received greater assistance in paying to remodel the rental. Other types of insurance should be considered as well. As a landlord, it makes sense to be ready for a disaster, whether it’s in the form of a destructive tenant, or whether Mother Nature goes to work.

Make sure you have the liability and property insurance coverages you need to ensure that your assets are protected in the event of a disaster. Losing your rental can be a big blow to your finances.

Know the restrictions on your rental

Finally, understand what’s allowed in your area. You might not be able to rent a home to more than one family if your city doesn't zone for multi-family residences. Another consideration is what’s available if you have a condo, like Ludwig has.

“With a condo, you have by-laws,” he says. “Sometimes, depending on the building and the rules, you have to get approval to get a tenant, and the condo board might need to approve the tenant.”

Understanding the restrictions on rentals ahead of time is vital so you don’t run into penalties and other difficulties later.

As long as you are prepared to be a landlord, and acknowledge some of the work involved, it’s possible to make a good income from a rental property. Just be careful about how you go about it, and make it a point to understand the drawbacks before you commit your capital.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Title Source Team Members in our Pennsylvania Community

Title Source is proud to partner with Moon Parks & Recreation Department in Pennsylvania, whose mission is to advance the quality of life for their residents. This is done through the advancement of parks, recreation and environmental conservation efforts in Moon Township. Title Source team members volunteered time with Moon Parks at Robin Hill Park on October 24, 2014, which was the first of many opportunities. We hope to sustain a monthly volunteering commitment with the Department, and volunteer additional time on an as-needed basis.

Thanks to Moon Parks & Recreation Department, we can leave the communities around us a little safer and cleaner for area residents.
For more information about Moon Parks & Recreation, Click Here.