The FAQs of Title Insurance for Homebuyers

For most of us, a home is the largest investment we’ll make in our lives. To buy with confidence, get owner’s title insurance. It’s the smart way to protect your property from legal claims. To help you understand how owner’s title insurance works, here are answers to common questions.

What is title?

Title is your right to own or use your property. Title also establishes any limitations on those rights.

What is a title search?

A title search is an early step in the home buying process to uncover issues that could limit your rights to the property. If a title issue is discovered, most often your title professional at Alliance Title will take care of it without you even knowing. After the title search is complete, Alliance Title can provide a title insurance policy.

What is title insurance?

If you’re buying a home, title insurance is a policy that protects your investment and property rights.

There are two different types of title insurance: an owner’s policy and a lender’s policy.

  1. An owner’s policy is the best way to protect your property rights. Either the buyer or seller may pay for this policy. Ask your title professional how it’s handled in your area.
  2. A lender’s policy is usually required by the lender and only protects the lender’s financial interests. The buyer typically pays for this policy, but that varies depending on geography. Ask your title professional how it’s handled in your area.

Why should I purchase owner’s title insurance?

Owner’s title insurance protects your investment in your property from certain future legal claims regarding ownership of your property. For a one-time fee, you and your heirs* receive coverage for as long as you own your home. The owner’s policy also covers potential legal fees and court costs for settling claims covered by your policy.

What does owner’s title insurance cover?

Sometimes undiscoverable defects can come up after the title search. Under an owner’s title insurance policy, you are protected against certain undiscovered errors in the title.

Title issues include unknown:

  • Outstanding mortgages and judgments, or a lien against the property because the seller has not paid their taxes
  • Pending legal action against the property that could affect you
  • Unknown heir of a previous owner who is claiming ownership of the property

Unforeseeable title claims include:

  • Forgery: making a false document
    • For example, the seller misrepresents the identity of the person who sold the property.
  • Fraud: deception to achieve unfair gain
    • For example, someone steals your identity and either sells your house without your knowledge or consent, or takes out a second mortgage on the property and walks away with the money.
  • Clerical error: inconsistent paperwork and historical records
    • For example, an unforeseeable discrepancy in the property or fence line can cause confusion in ownership rights.

What does owner’s title insurance cost?

The one-time payment for owner’s title insurance is low relative to the value of your home. A typical title insurance policy costs around 0.5% of the home’s purchase price.

How long am I covered?

Your owner’s insurance policy lasts for as long as you or your heirs* own your property. Your life will change over time, but your peace of mind never will.

What happens at closing?

Closing is the final step in executing the home buying transaction. It is the process that allows the transfer of ownership to occur. Upon completion of the closing process, you get the keys to your home!

Where can I get more information?

The American Land Title Association helps educate homebuyers like you about title insurance so you can protect your property rights. Check out www.homeclosing101.org to learn more about title insurance and the home closing process.

*This blog offers a brief description of insurance coverages, products and services and is meant for informational purposes only. Actual coverages may vary by state, company or locality. You may not be eligible for all of the insurance products, coverages or services described in this blog. For exact terms, conditions, exclusions, and limitations, please contact your local Alliance Title branch.

All publications of the American Land Title Association (ALTA) are copyrighted and are reference herein by specific permission from the American Land Title Association. http://www.alta.org/

Tips for a Smooth Transaction

At Alliance Title, we take pride in providing the best overall closing experience for our agents, lenders and their customers. To help make your next transaction as smooth as possible, review these useful tips.

Provide the following to your escrow team:

  • The completed and signed Earnest Money Agreement (EMA). (Be sure the EMA is legible.)
  • All addendums to the EMA.
  • A commission verification form.
  • Phone numbers, email addresses and/or fax numbers for your clients and/or the lender they are using.
  • Any additional insight or information regarding your client(s) that may help make the process go smoothly the day of closing, such as your client(s) need for a translator; they are visually, audibly, or physically impaired; require separate signings due to an unamicable divorce scenario, etc.
  • Homeowners’ association contact information.

Other suggestions:

  • Carefully review the title commitment. Should you have questions or concerns regarding the document, contact your escrow team right away.
  • Encourage the seller to:
    • Provide payoff authorizations promptly.
    • Review their state withholding requirements with their accountant (if applicable).
  • Encourage the buyer to:
    • Shop for the best homeowner’s insurance rates and options promptly.
    • Notify your escrow team immediately should an issue or problem arise before the closing date.

Always remember that while we do everything we can to ensure that your clients have the best overall closing experience with Alliance Title, your escrow team is a neutral third party and cannot represent the buyer or seller or negotiate on their behalf.

Meet Our Driggs, Idaho Branch

There are few places more breathtaking than Driggs, Idaho. With the Teton Mountain Range as a backdrop, Driggs is home to over 1,600 residents and teems with small town charm, culture and outdoor recreational opportunities. Similar to the down to earth hospitality in the area, Alliance Title’s Driggs team consists of friendly, helpful and open-minded individuals that are ready to help at a moment’s notice.

Pictured left to right: Brian Gibson, Jeanne Fagg, Cheryl Hyrne and Jan Clemons

 

With 34 years of combined industry experience, this team goes the extra mile every day to provide an outstanding customer experience. They actively listen to understand their clients’ needs and they provide practical options and solutions to ease the real estate transaction process.

The devotion this team has for their clients is evident in the way they strive to make their office a comfortable place where people can feel confident and welcome. Vice President and General Manager Brian Gibson stated, “We want everyone that comes to our office to feel like family.”

This team is deeply engrained in their community. Over the years they have served on various community boards. Currently, they play a large role in supporting the Teton Valley Food Pantry. They also support the Teton Valley Rotary Club, the Seniors West of Tetons, and the Tin Cup Challenge.

Outside of the office, each member of the Driggs team has a special interest or hobby unique to them, such as fly fishing, cooking, entertainment, hair and pets.

The Driggs team welcomes the opportunity to provide title and escrow services for your next real estate transaction!

Phone: 208-354-2285

Fax: 208-354-2811

Email: driggs@alliancetitle.com

Address: 78 N Main St., Driggs, ID 83422

Did you know that 98%* of our customers rated our branch facilities as good or excellent?

Here is what else our customers are saying…

Everything went smoothly. Staff was friendly. – Pati B.

Your staff did a wonderful job of accommodating my crazy schedule in relation to my distance from your location. Thank you so much for all you did!! – Nancy J.

I have used Alliance Title & Escrow twice now. Both times have been a pleasure. Last time we had forgot one signature. I had already left the building and was at Les Schwab nearby. They came over to Les Schwab for me to sign. Thank you. – Steven A.

Thank you for such a positive experience! – Richard S. & Fuk C.

They worked very fast when we were in a time sensitive situation. – Devon & Sadie H.

I closed remotely and never visited your Soda Springs office. All documents were provided to me and everything went perfectly smooth. Sally Hill and Christina Mabey were very professional in answering all of my questions and making this closing come off without any problems. I have known Sally for years and would not have expected less! – Robert & Tamra G.

You have a beautiful facility and super-friendly people. – Darin & Tera L.

*Based on customer satisfaction survey responses.

Closing Time: 6 Steps Every Homebuyer Should Expect

Get owner’s title insurance and buy your home with confidence.

Your long home-buying journey is almost over. You found the home you love, the seller agreed to your offer and now it’s time for closing. Of course, there’s a lot to think about right now, and the last thing you want is something to go wrong. So make sure you work with an experienced closing agent to help ensure the details come together and everything runs smoothly.

As soon as the seller accepts your offer, the behind-the-scenes work begins. You can expect closing to happen within 30 to 90 days.

1. Select a Closing Agent  

Most homebuyers rely on their real estate agent to select a closing agent – someone they work with regularly and know to be professional, reliable and efficient. However, you can choose your own closing agent if you wish. The closing agent will oversee the closing process and make sure everything happens in the right order and on time, without unnecessary delays or glitches.

If you are working with a real estate agent, with your permission, he or she may place an order with a closing agent as soon as your sales contract is accepted. The closing agent can be a title company, an escrow company or a settlement company like Alliance Title & Escrow Corp.

2. Draw up an Escrow Agreement

First, a contract or escrow agreement is drafted, which the closing agent reviews for completeness and accuracy. The agent will also put your deposit into an escrow account, where the funds will remain until closing.

3. Title Search is Conducted

Once the title order is placed, the title company conducts a search of the public records. This should identify any issues with the title such as liens against the property, utility easements, and so on. If a problem is discovered, most often the title professional will take care of it without you even knowing about it. After the title search is complete, the title company can provide a title insurance policy.

4. Shop for Title Insurance

It is always recommended that you obtain an Owner’s policy to protect your investment. The party that pays for the Owner’s policy varies from state to state, so ask your settlement agent for guidance before closing.

There are two kinds of title insurance coverage: a Lender’s policy, which covers the lender for the amount of the mortgage loan; and an Owner’s policy, which covers the homebuyer for the amount of the purchase price. If you are obtaining a loan, the bank or lender will typically require that you purchase a Lender’s policy. However, it only protects the lender.

5. Obtain a Closing Disclosure

If you or your lender makes certain significant changes between the time the Closing Disclosure form is given to you and the closing, you must be provided with a new form and an additional three-business-day waiting period after receipt of the new form. This applies if the creditor:

Your lender must provide a Closing Disclosure to you at least three days prior to closing. Your lender may also have a closing agent provide the Closing Disclosure to you three days before you close your transaction.

  • Makes changes to the APR above 1/8 of a percent for most loans (and ¼ of a percent for loans with irregular payments or periods)
  • Changes the loan products
  • Adds a prepayment penalty to the loan

If the changes are less significant, they can be disclosed on a revised Closing Disclosure form provided to you at or before closing, without delaying the closing.

6. The Finish Line: Prepare for Closing

On closing day, all of the behind-the-scenes work is complete. While you’ve been busy packing, ordering utilities and coordinating the movers, your closing agent has been managing the closing process so that you can rest assured, knowing all the paperwork is in order.

As closing day approaches, the closing agent orders any updated information that may be required. Once the closing agent confirms with the lender and the seller, he or she will set a final date, time and location of the closing.

More Homebuyer Tips & Information

The American Land Title Association helps educate homebuyers like you about title insurance so you can protect your property rights. Check out www.homeclosing101.org to learn more about title insurance and the home closing process.

All publications of the American Land Title Association are copyrighted and are reference herein by specific permission from the American Land Title Association (ALTA). http://www.alta.org/

Tips for Purchasing a Home as a Senior

As a senior, making the decision to purchase a home can be a frightening thing. Your family may believe taking out a mortgage at such a late stage in life is too risky. If you have a history of renting, you may be torn about being tied down to a mortgage as opposed to moving freely. However, something about owning your own home is appealing, and there are plenty of options to assist you in making this transition. Here are a few tips to consider when looking to purchase a new home.

Know Your Options

According to the National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report young baby boomers age 52 to 61 made up 16 percent of home purchases in 2016. Older boomers age 62-70 consisted of 14 percent of recent buyers. As you can see, purchasing a home at this phase in life is completely doable, and there are plenty of options available for you. The ideal way to purchase a new home is to sell your previous place of residence, and use the cash to buy a new house. If you do not own your current residence, then you will have to examine your financing options. A common misconception is that lenders do not loan money to seniors because of the risk factors associated with their age. In 2016, 68 percent of young baby boomers financed their home and 58 percent of older boomers did the same so do not be discouraged. When applying for a mortgage loan, lenders look at the last two years of your credit history and your projected income for the next three years. Consult with a trusted advisor to determine what type of mortgage will work best for you.

Be Cautious

Unfortunately in today’s fast-paced society, there are many real estate predators looking to take advantage of seniors. To avoid being caught in their traps, make sure your knowledge of the market is up to par. Hire a trusted attorney or financial advisor and always consult with them before making any decisions. Also make sure you acknowledge and properly understand any fine print. Be leery of real estate agents who try to rush you into making decisions and signing documents because they may be trying pull a fast one. If you feel like you are being told something that is too good to be true, you are probably right. Just to be sure, get a second opinion. To familiarize yourself with the value of the home you are looking to purchase or sell, get a market analysis. You may also find it beneficial to ask neighbors about the houses that have sold in the area.

Enlist Help

Moving into a home is a stressful and physically taxing chore. As a senior you may find that you don’t have the energy to pack up your entire living quarters, relocate, and unpack. Fortunately there are several moving services that specialize in helping seniors pack up their belongings and move safely and efficiently into their new home. Even a housekeeper can potentially help with the sorting and packing. After sorting and organizing your items, your home will be move-in ready, hassle-free! A quick online search will point you in the direction of which moving services are available in your area.

Some people assume that with age, comes the desire to simplify. While there are seniors who are comfortable with living in assisted living facilities, there are others who are not. Fortunately in these times, people are leading healthier lifestyles and are living longer. Investing in a home provides a great financial asset and can be very empowering for you. The quest to homeownership can be overwhelming, but try to enjoy the process as you find the home that is right for you!

Guest blogger submission courtesy of Jim Vogel of ElderAction.org

Employee Spotlight – Tammy Long

Tammy Long, Escrow Officer OSS – Idaho Falls, ID

Tammy Long is based out of Alliance Title’s Idaho Falls, Idaho branch, and she fulfils the role of Escrow Officer Operations Support Specialist (OSS). When she started with the company in 2004, Tammy was hired as an OSS. She then worked as an escrow assistant until last year when she returned to the OSS role. What she loves the most about the OSS position is traveling to our various branches and getting to know her fellow colleagues.

Teamwork has become a favorite Alliance Title core value for Tammy. She explained, “Being able to see how each of the different branches work together and being a part of it – even if it is a very small part – has been very satisfying.”

Eager to help wherever she is needed, Tammy is always looking for ways to lend a hand and stay busy. From clearing title, facilitating a closing, working up documents, training others, learning from others, typing a commitment, or scanning files, Tammy feels that every task is a little part in the big picture of providing excellent customer service.

Another aspect of her work that she enjoys is helping to make buyers and sellers feel comfortable at the closing table. Tammy loves to laugh, and to see a buyer or seller laugh during a closing and their stress level go down makes her day.

Outside of the office, Tammy loves spending time with the people she considers her family, whether they are blood relatives or family by love and faith. For 18 years, she has been involved with the deaf community in her area, and she has been able to use American Sign Language to help interpret during closings. Her other interests include reading, traveling, crafts (such as beading and making lotion), and spending time with her two pups whom she refers to as her babies.

“Thank you” is one of Tammy’s favorite sayings. She said, “I believe those words cannot be said enough, and no one will get tired of hearing them.”

Do You Need a New Prospecting Strategy?

In today’s market conditions, low inventory and lukewarm buyer confidence can make lead generation a challenge. Alliance Title’s prospecting tools can help you pinpoint prospective clients.

Seller prospecting ideas:

  • Solicit listings by searching for properties in the most needed inventory areas
  • Target neighborhoods, subdivisions or custom search areas
  • Request radius searches for just listed, just sold, or open house invites
  • Consider length of ownership and/or square footage searches for potential move-up or downsizing sellers
  • Identify niche properties such as vintage, high end, or waterfront homes and farms

Buyer prospecting ideas:

  • Seek out renters by searching for absentee owners
  • Prospect for 55+ communities, first-time homebuyers, etc.
  • Look for zoning, land use and acreage for agricultural land
  • Find property for a prospective buyer and inquire if the property owner wants to sell

Contact your local Alliance Title representative to learn how prospecting tools can help you grow your business.

Note: Charges apply for prospecting and farming lists pursuant to regulations. Visit with your local branch for details.

Understanding Property Tax Prorations for Washington

Through the process of a closing, your escrow officer will prorate property taxes to the date of the closing. The seller is responsible for the property taxes from January 1st to the closing date. The buyer is responsible for the taxes from the closing date through December 31st. If the buyer is including taxes in their mortgage payment, the lender may collect reserves to pay the taxes on the buyer’s behalf when they come due.

In the State of Washington, the property tax year is January 1st through December 31st. Property tax installments become due on April 30th and October 31st each year.

Here is an example of how taxes would be prorated for a closing date of March 15th:

Annual tax bill is $1,200 (January 1st through December 31st)

$1,200 divided by 365 days = $3.2877 per day

January 1st through March 15th = 74 days

74 x $3.2877 = $243.29, which is charged to the seller

As can be seen from the above example, the seller pays the property taxes for each day they own the home during the tax year. The buyer will then pay the property taxes for each day they own the home for the remainder of the tax year. Your escrow officer will make sure these tax prorations are properly calculated.

Cyber Security Quick Reference Guide

Password Management Password Management

A key method to protect your accounts is by practicing best practice password management.

These best practices include:

  • Use unique passwords on all your various accounts (email, banking, social media, shopping, etc.).
  • Use complex and lengthy passwords or phrases to increase your password strength.
  • Use a password manager to remember and control your passwords for you.

Some recommended Password Managers include:

Most Password Managers have free versions and a subscription-based version. Review each website and see what best works for you. Password Managers also usually have a method of storing payment information on your device instead of on multiple websites. This is a nice advantage of controlling your sensitive credit card information.

Two-Step Authentication Two-Step Authentication

It is easier than you think for someone to steal your personal login credentials. Two-Step Authentication (also called Two-Factor Authentication) can help keep the criminals out of your email account, even if your login and password have been compromised. Two-Step Authentication requires that your configured accounts will require a second form of identification, typically a SMS text to a defined phone or an app on your smartphone.

This second form of identification is something that the criminals would not be able to acquire easily.

Some accounts to consider adding Two-Step Authentication include:

Many social media and other sites that contain personal information will also have Two-Step Authentication available to you. Take advantage to protect your and your customers’ sensitive information.

Has my account ever been compromised in a known breach? Compromised Account?

Go to https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and enter your email address. A database of known breaches will be reviewed to see if your account has been involved in any known security breaches.

Social Engineering Social Engineering

What is Social Engineering?

Social Engineering is the art of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information and it is typically done through email or by phone.

Why is Social Engineering the method of choice for attackers?

It is easier for attackers to trick someone into giving them access to anything they want as opposed to developing and planning a technical attack.

Security Awareness Training Security Awareness Training

Employee training can be your best and last line of defense. Easily understood video and example training can substantially increase the awareness and correct action against the threats you face. Alliance Title uses KnowBe4.com as our end-user training and testing partner.

More information can be found at: https://www.knowbe4.com/

Source: http://www.smbc-comics.com

Social Engineering Red Flags Social Engineering Red Flags

This graphic from KnowBe4.com shows 22 Red Flags to help you identify potential threats directed at you.

Source: http://www.KnowBe4.com

 

Blog submitted by Vice President and Chief Information Officer Jason Jacobson