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

AGENT SPOTLIGHT: Florida’s Title Insurance Company

When you add “white glove” customer service with a heavy dose of fun, what results is an award winning title company. Attorney Bryce Gilbert, President and CEO, and Jessica Gutierrez,  Vice President, run the daily operations of  Florida’s Title Insurance Co. (FTIC).  In addition to its unparalleled customer service, FTIC proudly stands behind its “No Junk Fee Guarantee.” With one look at their website ( FTIC.net) you immediately see that FTIC found the winning combination that makes them a success in the competitive Florida market.     

FTIC is the only title company to have a dedicated “Chief Happiness Officer – CHO.”  Randy Gilbert, CHO, attended the ALTA National Convention where FTIC was honored as ALTA’S winner in the Best Website-Title Agents category. Randy explains the key to the company’s  website: “We designed a completely unique approach using original content, cheeky humor poking fun at our industry, simple analogies to help the average person understand title insurance, interactive documents typically seen at a closing, easy-to-navigate buttons for ADA accessibility and over 80 high-definition ‘playful family’ images of multicultural demographics, races and handicaps that real people can relate to so they go in to the closing expecting an experience – not just a paper title policy. Hopefully, our website comes as a wake-up call to the industry to refocus on who our end users really are.” The homepage is interactive: the cursor causes the main water photo to “ripple” as you navigate the page. The links, including “Title Insurance for Dummies,” “Who Pays for What,” “70+ Ways to Lose Your Property,” and “Mission Kreplach,” which details the company’s values, provide useful consumer information in an entertaining way.   

FTIC is published monthly in Lifestyle Magazine’s Expert Column on Real Estate and Title. Bryce, Jessica, and Randy give back to the community by teaching first-time-homebuyers at the Urban Housing League. Through their efforts, many have qualified for grants, making home ownership a reality. FTIC also heavily sponsors events with each of their local Real Estate Associations. 

FTIC appreciates that First National Title Insurance Company focuses on and supports independent agents in the Florida market. We, at First National Title Insurance Company, are delighted to have FTIC as an agent and enjoy the fresh and entertaining approach that FTIC intentionally brings to title insurance.         

Training & Education | What is a title defect?

Recently, I was asked by a consumer what exactly a title defect was and what kind of things a policy won’t cover.

It’s important for everyone in our industry to understand all aspects of title and not just how to cure title.

Below will explain exactly what a title defect is along with some examples of lien issues.

You will also see what a title policy doesn’t cover.

You can also find this information and more in the following link:

https://www.tdi.texas.gov/title/titlemm6.html

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me @ april.roberts@fnti.com.

What is a title defect?

A title defect is anything that can cause a title to be considered invalid or defective in some way. Some examples are:

  • Invalid documents due to forgery, fraud, undue influence, duress, incompetency, incapacity, or impersonation.
  • Failure of any person or entity to have authorized a transfer or conveyance.
  • A document affecting title that is not properly executed, signed, witnessed, notarized, or delivered.
  • Undisclosed or unrecorded easements not otherwise apparent on your land.
  • No right of access to and from the land.
  • A document executed under a falsified, expired, or otherwise invalid power of attorney.
  • A document not properly filed, recorded, or indexed in the public records.
  • Ownership claims by undisclosed or missing heirs.
  • Defect arising from an improper prior foreclosure.
  • Undisclosed restrictive covenants affecting your property.

Lien issues can also cause title defects. Some examples of lien issues are:

  • Any statutory or constitutional contractor’s, mechanic’s, or materialman’s lien for labor or materials that began on or before the policy date. Talk to an attorney about your rights.
  • Lien for labor or materials furnished by a contractor without your consent.
  • A previous owner failed to pay
    • a mortgage or deed of trust
    • a judgment, tax, or special assessment
    • a charge by a homeowners or condominium association.
  • Other liens or claims that may exist against your title that are not listed in the policy.

Notify your title company immediately if someone files a lien or claims an interest in your property. Failure to do so could jeopardize your claim. Contact the underwriter listed on the policy and follow their claim-filing procedures.

What doesn’t a title policy cover?

A title policy generally won’t cover mistakes or defects, financial issues, or rights issues.

  • Defects that are created after the policy is issued.
  • Defects that you create, or of which you had knowledge.
  • Problems that arise because of your failure to pay your mortgage, or to obey applicable laws or restrictive covenants that were disclosed to you.
  • Certain taxes and assessments.
  • Losses resulting from rights claimed by someone else occupying the land. The title company may need to inspect the property. There may be a charge for the inspection.
  • Homestead, community property, or survivorship rights of a policyholder’s spouse. Texas homestead laws address the rights of a spouse or survivors of a property owner.
  • Claims from other people who may have certain rights if your property is near a body of water or has a river or stream flowing through it.
  • Condemned land, unless a condemnation notice appeared in the public record on the policy date or the condemnation occurred before the policy date.
  • Violations of building and zoning ordinances and other laws and regulations related to land use, land improvements, land division, and environmental protection.
  • Disclosed restrictive covenants limiting how you may use the property. Request copies of restrictions and have your attorney explain them.

Message from the CEO | First National Title Insurance Company Now Ranked No. 9 in National Market Share

First National Title Insurance Company (FNTI) is proud to announce that our national market share ranking has moved up to the ninth spot based on the June 30, 2019, Form 9 data.  Gross premiums half way through 2019 reached a record $61,141,499 and moved the company up a couple spots from the previous position at the end of 2018.  As I have stated many times over the past eight years, the milestones and rankings we achieve are directly attributable to the incredible network of independent agents that represent FNTI.  The milestones we reach are because you have allowed us to earn a portion of your business and given us the opportunity to demonstrate the value of an independent agent-focused underwriter. 

Every facet of our business is growing.  We continue to strategically add new team members where and when they are needed.  Our title production center is experiencing record order counts, so we’ve added two new examiners.  Earlier in the year, our legal team was expanded to six full-time counsels to support your underwriting needs.  Our policy support team accepts your monthly remittances, processes them, and returns invoices and statements to you within a week.  I don’t have an accurate way to measure our efficiency other than to suggest that FNTI has the quickest remittance turnaround time in the industry.   If you get your remittances processed by your other underwriters quicker than FNTI, I would like to know. 

We have a similar efficiency with Over Limits Authorization (OLA) process.  Once you submit your high-liability transactions for approval, and assuming you have provided all the information required for our legal team to properly analyze the request, you should receive a response from our legal team within hours and in most cases in less than 24 to 48 hours.  Each OLA is internally tracked by file number and liability amount so that files requiring reinsurance can be properly documented and submitted to our reinsurers in London. 

Our Education Department has coordinated the presentation of 70 courses so far this year and had the highest number of escrow officers and real estate agents attend these courses than any time in the history of our company.  We value the education process and the educational benefits we are able to provide to our independent agents.   We have a full-time education director whose sole responsibility is to establish the curriculum and coordinate the classes our agents need to attract more customers and become better agents.    

It may be a bit of a challenge, but our next goal is to reach No. 8 nationally.  And to reach that goal, we are developing a strategic plan to expand into additional states.  We believe a regulated title industry is a healthy title industry and have explored states that understand the benefits of regulations.  We are also exploring states that have strong independent agents that aggressively compete against the big four underwriters.  In each of these expansion states, we will explore opportunities that ultimately allow us to take business away from the top four underwriters that, in my opinion, control too much of the title insurance market.  

We have set our goals and standards high for a reason.  We want to compete on a bigger stage and demonstrate the capabilities of an entrepreneurial company dedicated to the success of the independent agent.  Watch future blogs for an update on our progress.

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.  Thank you for your business and helping us achieve the national market share ranking of No. 9.

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.