George’s Update | A Love Letter

“Writer’s block—a  phrase that creates literary paralysis to all authors, and one I had until the last three days I spent in one of my two favorite towns—El Paso, Texas.  (My hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona is the other.)

Following the shootings on August 3, 2019, the citizens of El Paso had a huge part of their geographic and familial identity ripped from them based on circumstances outside their control in a way that most of us will never understand.  Despite this, they continue to have an unwavering trust in the decency of humans.

El Paso is a community:

  • Where the hugs are more heartfelt than anywhere else.
  • Where the laughs are deeper and ring from their souls.
  • Where the real estate dollar is one of the hardest to earn, but El Pasoans work as hard for it as anywhere I’ve been.
  • Where the smiles are 24/7 even when they don’t think anyone is watching.
  • Where there are more mamas’ boys and daddies’ girls than anywhere I can fathom.
  • Where no one is an outsider and everyone is a part of the family.

Personally, it’s the place I signed up my first agent.   I helped get his business started, and that mutual faith in each other is an example of this community’s spirit.

El Paso–We love you and are there for whatever you need.

Jorge

Out & About | Pioneer Title Raises $19,100 for Alamogordo Habitat for Humanity

From left to right:  Kuia Taiaroa – Executive Director Rehab Manager of the Alamogordo, NM Habitat for Humanity, DJ Horn – FNTI, Tiffany Thompson, Tina Deer, and Jimmy Deer – Pioneer Abstract & Title at the 45th home dedication for Alamogordo Habitat for Humanity.

Pioneer Abstract has helped raise $19,100 for this home project by sponsoring golf tournaments over the last two years. Giving is not only a gift to the recipient but also to the people who give. Congratulation Pioneer Abstract for all your hard work to your community. 

Underwriting Q&A: If the subject property is the seller’s homestead, can I remove the abstract of judgment against the seller (debtor) from the Commitment?

Q: If the subject property is the seller’s homestead, can I remove the abstract of judgment against the seller (debtor) from the Commitment?

A: Texas– No. The Texas Constitution exempts a homestead from forced sale by creditors, except those constitutionally permitted liens enumerated in the constitution. However, if a judgment lien is recorded, it can still cast a cloud on the title and steps will need to be taken to effectuate a release as to any homestead property, removing the cloud on title. There are two ways to proceed with releasing the judgment as to the debtor’s homestead, depending on the recording date of the judgment lien. For those judgment liens recorded on or after September 1, 2007, the parties will need to comply with Texas Property Code Section 52.0012 (the effective date of the law is September 1, 2007). The statute requires the debtor to send a demand letter to the creditor and its attorney enclosing a copy of the “Homestead Affidavit as Release of Judgment Lien” (“Affidavit”) that is intended to be filed 30 days later. If the debtor does not receive a response, the statute provides that the filing of the Affidavit serves as a release of the judgment lien. If this option is to be utilized, guidance from underwriting counsel should be sought, as we will require strict compliance with the statute. For those judgment liens recorded prior to September 1, 2007, the law that was in effect prior to the statute governs (Tarrant Bank v. Miller). This method would include the debtor sending a demand letter to the creditor for a partial release of the judgment as to the debtor’s homestead. If there is no response, the debtor must initiate a lawsuit. (Note, a similar procedure is available for child support liens against the obligor’s homestead).

Florida– Yes, as long as certain procedures are followed. As provided in Florida Statute Section 222.01, the Seller (debtor) must record a Notice of Homestead with the Clerk of Court in the county where the Judgment is recorded.  The Clerk of Court will mail a copy of the Notice of Homestead to the Judgment Creditor.  The Judgment Creditor has forty-five days to contest the Homestead designation.  If the Creditor does not contest, the Judgment may then be avoided and the sale can take place without exception for the Judgment.  When the closing must take place prior to the expiration of the forty-five day contest period, the Agent may close and escrow the principal and any interest. Once the contest period expires, the escrowed funds may be released back to the Seller.    It is important to note, certain Judgments cannot be avoided by the Notice of Homestead procedures. Judgment for property taxes and judgments related to the real property itself such as Contractor’s Judgments cannot be avoided and must be paid regardless of Homestead designation.   Prior to relying on the Notice of Homestead provisions, please contact underwriting counsel for additional information.  

Arizona– Yes, in general, if it can be definitively established that the property was at all relevant times the homestead of the judgment debtor, then a requirement in the commitment to satisfy the judgment and/or obtain a release of the judgment lien may be removed. Arizona law provides that a recorded judgment “shall not become a lien upon any homestead property.” Since a 1994 amendment, there is no requirement to designate a protected property, unless demanded by a creditor. The exemption is available without reference to “equitable factors,” except where the judgment sought to be collected was based on damages incurred by the creditor in connection with a conveyance or wrongdoing involving the homestead property itself. Also, a person may claim homestead protection even when they hold property in a trust, if the trust is revocable. At a minimum, there should be a requirement to obtain and record a declaration designating the property as a homestead, and backup documentation, e.g. utility bills, should be requested and reviewed. For substantial judgments, guidance from underwriting counsel should be sought.

New Mexico– No. New Mexico allows for only a partial homestead exemption in the amount of $60,000.00 ($120,000.00 for married/joint owners). This exemption must be affirmatively claimed and may be challenged by the judgment creditor. Also, although bankruptcy may wipe out all or a portion of the debt, the lien still remains. Technically, a judgment creditor can still try to foreclose the lien which places a cloud on title. For those reasons, the custom is to require a release of the judgment lien in the title commitment.

AGENT SPOTLIGHT: CentraLand Title Company

Jerry Secrest and Thomas Baird founded CentraLand Title Company in the 1980s and have worked hard to turn a process often perceived as impersonal and frustrating into a positive experience. Charlene Burk is a native Central Texas resident. She became president of CentraLand Title Company in 2017 after being with them for over 20 years. She strives to bring surprise-free closings to all of CentraLand’s closings. Gaining respect in a region like theirs requires integrity and dependability, and CentraLand has been in this business long enough to have it down to a science.

CentraLand has two offices located in Temple and Belton. Each year CentraLand puts together an Economic summit and this year was their 13th annual summit bringing in over 300 plus local real estate industry professionals.

“CentraLand is honored to have been a part of First National since the beginning. Chris Phillip’s leadership and vision inspired us to partner with First National and we have been thrilled to see the success.  For an independent agent, there is incredible value in a close working relationship with your underwriter and FNTI makes us here at Centraland feel like part of the family. Family that works together, plays together and supports one another. FNTI’s underwriting support and educational opportunities are stellar and truly a cut above. We at Centraland can’t wait to be part of the next chapter at FNTI.”

We are proud to call CentraLand one of our agents.

For more information about CentraLand Title Company go to
www.centralandtitle.com

Education & Training | Texas Endorsement Chart Provides Valuable Information

Ever get confused on which endorsement is used with what policy and the rules in which they are associated?

Well, we have a new chart that explains this and more!!  Attached HERE is the Texas Endorsement Chart showing the endorsement type, procedural rule, rate and rate rule, policy type, and a description of coverage. Both the procedural rules and rate rules are hyperlinked within the pdf to the Texas Title Insurance Basic Manual located on the Texas Department of Insurance website.

We hope you find this chart and information useful in your day-to-day practices.

Message from the CEO | First National Title Insurance Company Attends NS3

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in a panel discussion at the National Settlement Services Summit (NS3) conference in Phoenix, AZ. NS3 has been sponsoring this annual three-day conference for the past 15 years, and this was the largest and most successful to date.  With over 700 attendees, vendors, and sponsors, title insurance and related conversations were bountiful. The information presented was relevant, timely, and extremely important. I would recommend this conference for any agents looking to increase their knowledge of the latest technologies and techniques in our industry.

I was fortunate to be on the “Independent Underwriter Panel” with David Townsend, president of Agents National Title Insurance Company and Mary O’Donnell, CEO of Westcor Land Title Insurance Company. Our wide-ranging conversation included our thoughts on innovative trends, customer service training, knowing your customer, reinsurance, the value proposition of the independent underwriter, and the qualities we look for in our independent agents. While we had similar ideas as it related to the independent agents, we each had different approaches based on our own company philosophies. 

One of the areas in which I spoke out about was reinsurance. The reinsurance programs that the independent underwriters now have access to have dramatically changed the playing field. I emphasized that independent agents no longer have to rely on one of the big four underwriters to handle their large commercial transactions. As a matter of fact, First National Title Insurance Company (FNTI) can now insure transactions up to $200 million.  Over the past two years, we have worked with our reinsurance broker in Chicago to connect with a London-based Facultative Reinsurer called Fidelis. Fidelis is an A.M. Best rated (A- excellent) reinsurer with capital and surplus of $1.3 billion.  And its stated mission is to disrupt the domestic title insurance reinsurance market by providing options to regional title insurers like FNTI. This is an exciting development in FNTI’s growth strategy and will allow our independent agents an option to write more commercial business on us. I recognize that there will be a challenge every time an independent agent places FNTI on that $100 million commercial contract. And that challenge will be to convince the lender, lender’s attorney, buyer and buyer’s attorney that there are alternatives. We need to convince these clients that it is no longer necessary to simply check the Fidelity, First American, Old Republic, and Stewart Title “box.” It is my job and the FNTI staff’s job to change that habit.  We have the marketing materials, the supporting documentation, and the desire to be market disrupters. Let us talk to your commercial clients and convince them that our reinsurance program is as safe and secure as any of the large underwriters. If we can disrupt this market, we can begin to loosen the strangle hold the national underwriters have on our industry.  The independent agents and underwriters can chip away at the 85 percent national market share controlled by just four (maybe three) underwriters. 

Our panel did reach a consensus on the value proposition of the independent underwriter. We all agreed that service levels, personal touch, and willingness to help close transactions were our greatest assets. The only way we can out-perform the behemoth national corporate giants is to out-service them as well and be the underwriters the independents look to for answers, solutions, and a willingness to partner with them. The future of a competitive title industry depends upon the success of the independent, entrepreneurial agent. And whether the nationals like it or not, we are here to knock them off their pedestals. 

FNTI plans to disrupt the commercial underwriting market, and we need your help to accomplish this mission. Please consider the options when you get your next commercial contract, and let FNTI insure your transaction. As always, our company motto that we “…do business with those we know, like, and trust” still rings true. It is a motto we live by. We want you to know us, like us, and especially trust us. And thank you for your business.

DJ’s Motivational Mondays | Fireworks and Gratefulness

As we celebrate this month the foundation of our country with fireworks, Barbecue, and festivities, I like to focus on the pride I feel in how great our country has become and how grateful I am to live in the United States of America. 

John Adams, one of our founding fathers and second President, was adamant we celebrate our Independence from one end of the continent to the other with “guns, bonfires, and illuminations” as a morale booster.  As I drove around my hometown on Thursday evening, I saw so many people lining the streets setting up to watch the fireworks.  There were cars and trucks everywhere, in medians of highways and on the sides of roads with barbeque grills, corn hole games, music playing waiting for the 9:15pm start of the show.  It is such a great feeling to see people, young and old share in the gratefulness of what we have in America.

To be grateful is a feeling of appreciation, kindness and thankfulness.  When we feel a sense of indebtedness or appreciation for anything, we should let those who we feel that towards know it.  This is a learned behavior and must be taught to generation after generation since our human nature is to focus on our individual needs and wants.  When people have helped us meet personal or corporate goals and needs, we must show them how grateful we are to them for their help or sacrifice.  As Americans, we benefit from so many sacrifices made by our ancestors, military service men, first responders, and people who have passed on the spirit of hope and dreams so many other countries do not have bestowed to them.  I think John Adams was referring to a type of celebration including a showing of pride and gratefulness on Independence Day; that we all stand together to watch the parades and fireworks that symbolize how grateful we are to have the life we have here in America. 

We all play our own part in how this country progresses, and all our efforts team up to create the greatness or the lack there of at times, but this is the United States of America, the land of the free, which we should all be grateful.  Here is to the Red, White and Blue!

David Hays Throws Out the First Pitch

FNTI Underwriting Counsel, David Hays, took to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cleburne Railroaders’ game on behalf of our agent, Trinity Abstract and Title Company in Cleburne, Texas.  Hays avoided the blooper reel and threw the ball smoothly right over home plate.  Suzanne Tinsley attended the fun event, which was an entertaining night for at the stadium the title company’s customers including a behind-the-scenes tour and food and beverages on the pavilion overlooking the evening game.