Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Looking for Home Buyer Programs in Frederick, MD and other parts of the State?

Homebuyer Programs in the Frederick Area and Beyond

Looking to buy a home in the Frederick, Maryland area? There are a number of programs available to prospective buyers to help with various aspects of home ownership. Below is a brief description of each and the link to each website.

Frederick Community Action Agency (FCAA)
The Frederick Community Action Agency provides multiple programs to owners and buyers. These include the HUD-Approved Housing Counseling Agency, Homebuyer Education classes, Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Housing Rehabilitation Program. The two programs require applications in order to obtain funds or small grants from each program, and are based on income eligibility. Homebuyer Education classes are open to any interested first-time homebuyers. The Counseling Agency provides information and assistance in understanding the buying process as well as housing counseling for renters, owners, and buyers on a number of subjects.

Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit Program
Currently, there are no new moderately-priced dwelling units being developed in Frederick. However, if you are interested in finding out more about the program or would like to discuss options, the Frederick Community Action Agency is taking consumer questions and concerns.

Community Partners Incentive Program (CPIP)
The Community Partners Incentive Program gives income-eligible first-time home buyers up to $5,000 toward the purchase of a home in the city of Frederick. The maximum loan is broken down to equal a max of $2,500 from the City of Frederick and a max of $2,500 from the Maryland DHCD. The CPIP is part of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and is administered by the Frederick Community Action Agency.

House Keys for Employees Program (HK4E)
As part of the Maryland House Keys for Employees program, the City of Frederick offers eligible full-time and part-time employees of the City up to $8,500 to buy a home within city limits. The program is administered through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Frederick program is administered by the Frederick Community Action Agency in conjunction with the City Department of Human Resources. Interested employees should contact the FCAA or the human resources department for more information.

The US Department of Agriculture Rural Development
If you live on a farm or a rural area, you may be eligible for loans or grants from the Department of Agriculture Rural Development. Some of their programs include the Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, the Single Family Housing Direct Home Loan program, the Single Family Housing Repair Loan/Grant program, and the Multi-Family Housing Loan program. Many of their program include income eligibility restrictions, so be sure to read their website and program requirements thoroughly.

Keep Your Identity Safe in a Real Estate Transaction

Keep Your Identity Safe in a Real Estate Transaction

Don't Let This Person Find Your Private Information
Identity theft is one of the most prevalent crimes in the United States today, with 17.6 million victims in 2014 alone1. The vast majority of the identity incidents reported have been credit card fraud or theft, with the perpetrators attempting to use existing credit or debit accounts. Real estate transactions are especially attractive to thieves because of the nature of the transactions; real estate documents typically involve transmission of personal data, such as a Social Security number, as well as large sums of money.

The majority of real estate agents, brokers, and title insurance agencies are extremely aware of sensitive data passing through their hands and are vigilant in taking measures to ensure the safety of their data. However, hackers and scams are becoming more sophisticated, and there may be holes in data security systems that consumers and agents aren’t even aware of yet. So what steps are available to you to stay safe when buying or selling property in Maryland or anywhere else for that matter?

Secure Online Transfers
Does your agent or your broker use secure file transfer processes? When they are sending documents which may contain your information, are they using a secure system to encrypt data sent over the Internet?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions, it would be a good idea to ask your agent or your broker. As email hacking and phishing becomes more sophisticated, brokers and companies not using secure methods to send and receive sensitive documents could be leaving themselves and their clients at risk to being hacked or having their identity stolen.

Secured Internet Access
Personal information should never be accessed or sent over a public wireless network2. Such networks have been proven to be insecure and place consumers at risk of hacking and even identity theft. Agents, lenders, and brokers should all have passwords placed on their internet networks to maintain security of their network, and the passwords should be changed periodically. Maintaining a secure Internet system that is not open to the public and has at least moderate security is crucial to keeping online transfers secure. It may not matter if a secure file transfer system is used if the Internet network is open to all and vulnerable to being hacked.

Wire Transfer Scams
A very common scam in the last few years has been wire scams. These typically work by thieves successfully hacking a real estate agent or lender’s email account. Then they send wire transfer information for the down payment as if they were the lender/agent/broker. The customer, believing the information to be correct, send the money as instructed. But the transfer instructions were fraudulent and did not go to the lender; instead the money went to the scammers, who get away with the fraud and the money.

There are multiple ways in which to be vigilant against this scam. Lenders, brokers, and agents typically call the other party to confirm the instructions right before any money is sent. This ensures that the money is going to the correct place and is not going to the wrong account. If a customer is the target and receives an email requesting money be wired to a specific place, the best course of action is to call the agent or broker before sending anything. It is better to be vigilant and confirm information than to lose thousands of dollars by sending money to the wrong person.

Shred or Securely File Physical Copies
After the transaction is completed and your property is bought or sold, what becomes of the physical copies? Certainly you have a set of paperwork for yourself, but what happens with the documents kept by your agent or lender?

A common practice is for agents, brokers, and lenders to keep any physical paperwork in a secure storage area. Some offices have gone entirely paperless or nearly paperless, but many others still utilize print copies. Documents that are no longer needed should be shredded using a cross-cut shredder and not left lying around an office or kept in insecure storage areas.

As the consumer, you have the right to inquire how your information is being handled and to ask for an explanation of the process regarding online and physical data security.

1Bureau of Justice Statistics. September 15, 2015.
2Chodorov, Jill. “How to Protect Your Personal Data in a Real Estate Transaction.” April 1, 2014. Washington Post.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Maryland Title Insurance Company - A Consumer Information Guide

Maryland buyers should shop and compare title insurance agencies.

If you are buying real estate property in Maryland you can potentially save big money by shopping around for real estate settlement and title insurance related services.  Fees for services may vary from provider to provider more significantly than many realize.  Take the time to educate yourself on what a title agent/agency does, what your options are regarding insurance coverages, fees and other add on charges.  
Learn about your right to choose and compare title insurance and services costs.

Excalibur is one agency in Maryland focused on providing services at lower cost to consumers.  There is no problem contacting an agency like Excalibur to obtain a free quote for title fees and insurance costs.  There are many agencies offering affordable fees for real estate settlements in Maryland but likewise there are also some who are priced much higher for similar services including but not limited to these examples: title insurance, commitment, recording, title exam, closing, settlement, deeds and title search. Excalibur Title and Escrow provides residential and commercial services throughout the entire state of Maryland and will conduct mobile settlements at the convenient location of your choice. They have offices in Hagerstown, Frederick and Gaithersburg and are happy to audition for the opportunity to serve you by providing free written quotes and cost estimates.  Please take the time to shop and compare.  It's in your best interest to do some due diligence and not just follow blindly the advice of your lender, realtor or other industry professional.  Some lenders and real estate professionals have affiliations or ownership interest in title companies so there may be a presumed conflict of interest.  Ask your realtor or lender if they have any affiliation with the title agency they recommend you to use.  We are advocating for consumer choice, selection and freedom.  Take control of your next real estate settlement by selecting an experienced, affordable, professional title agency.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Importance of Title Search for Your Real Estate Transaction

What is a title search?

How does it impact your transaction? 

It is helpful to understand what a title search is and why you need it done.  The information obtained can be accessed remotely in MD via online public records and by physically going to the court house to search the public record books.  The first and probably most important aspect of their search is to make sure that there is no breaks in chain of title, in other words that the ownership has been transferred correctly through the life of the property and no one else could potential claim ownership in the property.  Abstractors also look for any liens or encumbrances that are on the property. 

So how far back does the search go?  

For a purchase it is customary for a 60 year search to be completed, as for a refinance typically most title underwriters only require a one owner search, while some companies will go for a two owner search to make reasonable efforts to determine the property is free and clear of encumbrances to title for your protection and the protection of your lender.  Usually, at title search is done by an independent abstractor. The abstractor’s job is to run a search on your property or the property that you are looking to purchase.  But what exactly are they looking for and where?  An abstractor or searcher will access public record for the particular county that the property is located. The abstractor creates the report for the title company to complete a title exam.  It is the title company’s responsibility to clear any defects in the chain in title or to clear any unreleased deeds of trusts among other things.  The title exam for the title insurance company contains the information or data that the title company uses to determine the insurable risk of the title insurance policies for both the lender and the purchaser they intend to bind for coverage.

The world is becoming more digital for real estate title search information gathering.

Access to the information an abstractor will use for title search data is becoming more readily available online.  We expect and hope soon there will not be a need to send people to the court house in person to review any public records.  The digital age is making this task easier and easier every year for anyone to access public records but the system is not perfect yet.  So the importance of a complete title search is essential to providing the protection of the biggest investment that most people will ever make in their life.  Since most people do not realize that prior owner judgments and liens can attach to the property that you have just purchased.  This is brief description of what a title search is and why you need one to obtain a title insurance binder and policy but it is not a complete explanation and doesn’t cover every detail of the process.  If you have any questions consult a properly licensed title agent or real estate attorney.  In Maryland Excalibur Title and Escrow is happy to answer your title search and abstract questions and looks forward to it.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Common Real Estate Fraud Schemes Found In Maryland And Throughout The USA.

Real estate fraud and schemes for financial gain are found everywhere in Maryland and the rest of the country for that matter.

Understanding and educating ourselves is one of the best ways to avoid fraud or identify it before falling victim to a scheme that could cost you everything. There are many moving parts in our real estate transactions and a large group of people and entities involved. The fact we have so many moving parts and so many people involved create opportunities for deception and fraudulent schemers. Appraisers, Banks, Lenders, Loan Officers, Underwriters, Processors, Abstractors, Surveyors, Inspectors, Auctioneers, Attorneys, Title Agents, Insurance Agents, Buyers, Sellers, Builders, Developers, Contractors, Brokers, Real Estate Agents, Investors and Court Recorders represent many of the individuals who can play a role in real estate transactions and processes. It is easy imagine with this many moving parts and hands in the cookie jar, the opportunities for fraud exist and occur. Let's all take some responsibility for education and awareness as one of the best methods to avoiding fraud or damaging schemes. Recognizing the danger signals and common ways these fraudulent methods are played out will help you avoid and detect fraud before it happens. There is no guarantee we can avoid every possible situation but if we can learn together protect ourselves from the common schemes we will all be better off.

Here are some more common methods of real estate fraud in Maryland:

Escrow Defalcation: 

This is a simple form of fraud in which the title insurance agent or the attorney managing the escrow funds directs the money in escrow elsewhere to his/her benefit and leaves town with the funds. This is always a surprise to everyone involved yet it still happens in the industry. Lender's send monies to the escrow agent, attorney or title agency for settlement funding, payoffs and other purposes prior to settlement. Once settlement occurs they assume the monies have been moved to all the appropriate places when in fact a fraudulent person simply directs what should have been delivered to one place to another for their personal gain or benefit. The amount of monies involved in real estate transactions make it easy for a fraudster to obtain significant monies before being detected or found out. One way to deter this difficult scheme is to make sure you are using a title agency or settlement company that is conforming to industry best practices by performing background checks on employees, is bonded, holds a current license, has E&O insurance, daily reconciliation and other best practices requirements to minimize the chance of defalcation fraud. One of the best things the title industry has going for it now is national best practice standards. From a financial perspective without going into detail title agents in Maryland who conform to best practices have more than one person keeping track of and authorizing escrow money movement so while it's not impossible is much harder for an individual to commit fraud and go undetected for any long period of time. Nothing is perfect but we are heading in the right direction. For this reason we recommend you find a local title agent in Maryland and that you get some references and do your due diligence before making a final decision about who is handling your escrow monies for your next real estate transaction in Maryland.

Property Flipping:

From a fraud perspective “flipping” occurs when several people work together to form a team of deception. Most commonly this involves a buyer, closer, appraiser and possibly a potential secondary buyer. At the heart of the scam is the inflation of property value to obtain financing monies from a lender. The first stage is the buyer takes out mortgage for the homes actual value or cost to acquire. Then some fake or falsified improvements are supposedly done creating the opportunity to demonstrate a new higher value on an appraisal. The increase is justified by the improvements or additions to the initial property. The problem is the improvements are not real and the value is falsely represented on the appraisal. The bank gets an application for a second mortgage or home equity loan for the increase and with the false appraisal lends the money largely unsecured. Subsequently the property is then sold quickly “hence the word flipping” to a new buyer who may or may not be in on on the scam. Then the fraudsters abscond with the money and the new buyer often defaults on the loan. Lenders and Banks are the ones bearing the majority of the losses in this situation.

Aggressive Selling:

Occurs mainly when the elderly, mentally vulnerable and those financially at risk of foreclosure are targeted by those criminals who intend to manipulate them into signing paperwork and legal documents that are a detriment to their best interests.

Predatory Lending:

Commonly done door to door with a high pressure sales pitch offering a deal to good to be true for a new loan. Bait like no money down and no credit check are offered to lure the borrower to sign paperwork for a new loan where interest rates and terms are not favorable or what the borrower could have possibly qualified for by going through normal underwriting for a loan. This method can also me initiated by phone solicitation followed by and appointment with and aggressive sales person.

False Foreclosure Rescue:

When individuals are faced with foreclosure others may see them as vulnerable and desperate. Scamming persons will use aggressive ads and telemarketers to promise relief from debt and perhaps a reduction or release from the entire burden. All of this in exchange for a fee. The fee is collected and the fraudster leaves and doesn't perform any of the promised services. Often the kind of information a person needs when facing foreclosure is available on government websites or working with an attorney specializing in this area of legal practice.

Equity Fraud:

A traditional form of fraud and theft where the personal private information of the victim is obtained by the criminal. The information is used to forge false loan applications and documents. The forgery can continue to the deed for the purpose of steal the equity in the property of the victim.

What to do about it?

We can all be on the lookout for the warning signs and be aware of the common sense rule of “if it sounds to good to be true – it probably is!”

For our friends and family members we can be aware of those who are elderly, lack financial sophistication and keep and eye on them. Communicate regularly and educate them on the warning signs. Encourage open lines of communication before making any major financial decisions. Don't trust the stranger day one. Help each other by creating awareness and methods for simple due diligence before entering into legal agreements or signing documents. Continue to do business with your local trusted adviser who is well established and recommended to you by your local Chamber of Commerce, Bar Association etc. Look for experienced professionals recommended by trade associations, industry peers and ask them for references you know. Excalibur Title and Escrow, LLC is proud to be celebrating our10 year anniversary and to be able to provide you with information. We are happy to provide numerous references in the industry to bankers, lenders, realtors and past customers whom we have done business with for years should you need a title agency for your next real estate settlement in Maryland. Ask the hard questions and don't be afraid to get the information you need to make and informed decision. We hope this post is helpful and please pass the word along.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Understanding The Importance of Tenancies When Holding Title To Real Estate Property in Maryland:

Tenancy is the relationship of the owners of a property and how the ownership is divided. There are 5 ways to hold title each with its own benefits:

Tenancy Agreement

  1. “Sole Owner” -- This is self-explanatory – it is when an individual owes the property by oneself.

  2. “Tenants by the Entireties” -- This exclusively for married couples. When one of the spouses dies the interest of the deceased spouse transfers automatically to the surviving spouse without the use of an estate. If divorce occurs then the “Tenants by the Entireties” converts to tenants in common.

  3. “Joint Tenants” -- when two or more people own a single property together; but want to have the same rights of survivorship as “Tenants by the entirety”. But to create Joint Tenants four aspects of title must be present:

    1. Possession – all owners must own the entire estate there must be an undivided possession of the property, where all owners have the right to enjoy the entire property.
    2. Interest – all tenants must have the same amount of interest in the property, if there is an unequal amount of owned interest the property will have to be held as tenants in common.
    3. Time – Each tenant must take possession of the property at the same time.
    4. Title – Each tenant must receive the title from the same source or grantor and from the same instrument which would be the deed. The deeds must have one of two things in it “Joint Tenants” or “Joint Tenancy with the Rights of Survivorship”; if one of these two is not written in deed it will be assumed to be tenants in common with no rights of survivorship. When a tenant dies the property automatically goes to the surviving joint tenants with no need of for an estate. The thing to remember is that the deceased cannot pass their interest in the property to their heirs.
      1. Joint tenancies will be severed if one of the joint tenant’s files for chapter 7 bankruptcy signs a contract or deed without the other joint tenants, which will convert to tenants in common.
  4. “Tenants in Common” - when there is unequal percentages of ownership between the owners/tenants, which has no rights of survivorship. When one of the tenants in common dies the interest in the property of the tenant passes to his/her estate, it is important to remember that an estate must be set up in order to convey or sell the property.

  5. “Life Estate Tenant with Powers Vs. Bare Life Estate”

    1. Life Estate Tenant with powers – An life estate tenant would create Life estate with powers in which after his death the property would transfer to the remainderman, and have full right to convey the property but not until the death of the life tenant. The Life Tenant will have the ability to encumber and convey the property during his life time which will sever the life estate.
    2. Bare Life Estate – is the same as a Life estate tenant with powers except the Life Estate Tenant cannot encumber or sell the property without the consent of the remainderman. After the death of the Life Estate Tenant the property would convey to the remainderman without a deed.  
   Understanding your options in tenancy is an important consideration with ownership of property and holding title.  Consult an attorney about tenancy and title to determine what is in your best interest.  If you are looking for answers to questions in Maryland you may contact attorney owned Excalibur Title and Escrow, LLC and ask to speak to our attorney about tenancy questions or concerns.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Will;Testament;Title Insurance; maryland; deed; easement;liens;illegal

Ordinary Title Issues and Problems That Could Cost You:

Have you considered reasons why you need a title insurance policy? 

Your home could be new to you, although just about every house carries a prior heritage. A good title abstract search will help discover almost any title flaws linked with your property. In addition to, based on terms and conditions in the policy, your current title insurance policy delivers safeguards to suit your needs by title defects that may become recognized when you finally close your current financial transaction. Some of these title problems regularly found or needing to be resolved are:

Ø  Unidentified  Liens: Previous property owners may have unresolved debt or former debts that is not your personal obligation but lending institutions, financial companies and banks can place liens on your property for unsatisfied debt after you close on the purchase of your new property.  For properties under current financial distress like foreclosure, short sale or REO this is an area of special concern and value provided by title insurance.
Ø  Unlawful Deed:  It’s possible the chain of title on a property looks fine the possibility exists for a prior deed to have been made by a minor, immigrant with undocumented status, a person of unsound legal mind, or a person reported as single when in reality they were married.  These are examples of situations that could adversely affect the enforcement or ownership of prior deeds.
Ø  Public Record Mistakes, Errors or Omissions:  People working in clerical or filing services can make honest mistakes.  When they do the errors can be frustrating or difficult to resolve without financial stress and considerable time when you try to solve them. 
Ø  Omitting Heirs:  When an owner passes away, the ownership of the property may fall to their heirs or someone named in a will.  If the heirs are missing or unknown at the time of the owner’s death the possibility exists for heirs or family to contest the will or handling of the estate.  These circumstances can occur subsequent to your property purchase and could affect your rights to the property.
Ø   Survey and Boundary Issues:  You may have ordered a survey of the property you purchase or viewed an existing one but other prior surveys may still be out there or previously recorded showing changes or differences in boundary designations.  It is possible bordering property owners or some other party could claim rights to a certain portion of your property purchase at a date in the future.
Ø  Newly Discovered Will:  When the owner of a property passes away with the appearance of no valid will or heirs the state could sell the assets of the deceased including the property.  When you buy a home or property you as the buyer assume the rights as owner.  In the future a will could be discovered and surface potentially endangering the rights to your property.
Ø  Undisclosed Easements:  Even if you own your land, home or improvements on it the possibility exists for unknown easements at the time of your purchase to prohibit or deny you the rights to use the property the way you prefer.  It could even allow other parties access to some or all of your property.  Easements usually pose non-monetary issues, they can still adversely affect the way you intend to use or enjoy the land or home on it.
Ø  Forgery and False Documents:  The world we live in is not completely honest.  A false or fabricated legal document filed with public records could make difficult circumstances for you and your legal rights to the property once they are discovered and need to be resolved.
Ø  Unknown Encumbrances:  When you buy a property or home it is possible a third party may hold claim to some portion or the entire property.   Examples of this include but are not limited to unknown liens, prior mortgage, and covenants restricting the usage of the property you own.
Ø  Falsely Impersonating An Owner:  Having ordinary, familiar or common names make it easier for someone to pretend to be the owner.  If the property you bought was sold previously by an impersonator there is risk of losing your rights to legally claim it.

Be thorough and consider the benefits of having an owner’s title insurance policy at the time you purchase a home, land or property.  Owner’s title insurance often provides coverage and protection for risks associated with your legal rights and title to the property you buy.  Be sure to get a quote and full proposal for title insurance including owner’s title insurance prior to settlement.  Consider the cost benefit and peace of mind the many covered risks a title insurance policy can offer you.  Ask questions and consult a properly licensed title insurance agent or attorney for more information specific to your transaction.  For a quote or information on an owners title insurance policy in Maryland contact Excalibur Title and Escrow, LLC or other licensed title insurance agency.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Deeds and Transfer Of Title - Basics

Deeds in Maryland:

There are three normal types of deeds.

Quitcliam Deeds, General Warranty and Special Warranty

In a general warranty deed, the grantor covenants he or she will warrant forever the property to the grantee against lawful claims and demand.  What this means is that for the time period previous to and including the time while possession was excercised, the grantor is responsible to the grantee, for claims defects of the grantor and all his or her predecessors in title.  This form of deed is not commonly used in Maryland.

The special warranty deed is the most widely used deed type in Maryland.  The grantor covenants that he or she warrant forever the property to the grantee against any and all lawful claims or demand while he or she was in title.  This is more limited exposure than general warranty deed because of the reduced risk of liability to claims and demands prior being in title.  

Quitclaim deeds is also rarely used and often involves the transfer of less than full title or perhaps in situations where the grantor has little or no knowledge of the property's history.  Conveyances by foreclosure trustees, estate representatives and attempts to clear issues with title when circumstances exist where questions without answers exist.  What a grantor is indicating there may be some rights of ownership interest they are quitting their rights to make claim to it by the quitclaim deed instrument.

A deed requires several components to effectuate what it is meant to accomplish.   A Deed usually contains the following components but not all of which are required for it to be effective.

  • The date of the instrument
  • A statement of what the instrument is...
  • The grantors and marital status 
  • The grantees and marital status
  • The consideration for the transfer or "cost"
  • The transfer of the estate
  • The quality of the estate
  • The legal description
  • The warranty
  • The addendum
  • The quality of tenancy of grantees
  • The witness
  • Signatures of the parties
  • Acknowledgement
  • Certificate of Preparation
  • Affidavit of residency by seller's
Once a deed is executed and acknowledged by all parties needed then it must be recorded in the local jurisdiction where the property is located which constitutes notice and then presented to the Clerk of the Court for recordation.  Once the appropriate fees have been paid the recordation will show in the index of land records for that jurisdiction.  Other instruments like easements and deeds of trust are recorded among the land records as well.

Title companies in state of Maryland have the ability to understand and help you by and sell real property utilizing the correct instruments recognized by the state to effectuate the sale or transfer of interest.  Excalibur Title and Escrow, LLC is one of many title insurance agents and real estate settlement providers eager to assist you in your efforts with real estate transactions like the sale or refinance of your home, vacation property, land or commercial building.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When is your real estate settlement really finished?

Don't get caught in this trap!  

So you have just left the settlement table and finished signing all the paperwork looking forward to being finished with the process of buying your new home.  You are all done and ready to focus on owning your new property.  Thoughts of moving in, finding a renter, things you want to improve or work on could be in the forefront of your mind after settlement occurs.  Most people never give it a second thought after closing but in today's day and age you need to remember a few major details still need to be memorialized and followed through with the finalize the purchase of your new home.

Your title company still needs to do the following:

  • Send monetary disbursements to all parties due money not paid at the table.  This includes the payoff for any existing mortgages being paid off and released, homeowners association dues, water bills, inspection invoices, etc...
  • Recording your new deed and deed of trust reflecting the new ownership and title interests in the property, including payment of recordation fees, transfer taxes and property tax.
  • Paying for the title insurance to the Title Insurance Company issuing your title insurance polices.
  • Sending you copies of your executed documents from settlement if they didn't provide that to you at the settlement table.
  • Confirming the receipt of payment by original lender, obtaining or ensuring release of payoffs are recorded in the appropriate county land records.
  • Following up with the recording office to confirm your ownership interest is properly reflected with the county.
You need to realize all of this work is done after settlement and you should follow up with your settlement company to make sure the transaction is complete after a reasonable period of time.  Ask your title insurance   agent/settlement company to provide you with the following documents for your records after your settlement is concluded to be sure they finished the job and your interests in the property are protected.

  • Deed - Deed with recording stamp by the county in which the property is located
  • Release - A copy of the release of any previous/existing mortgages that were paid off at closing
  • Closing Package - A copy of the documents that you signed at closing for you records

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Location Drawing vs Boundary Survey

Every wonder the difference between a Location Drawing and a Boundary Survey?

Fundamentally the two types of surveys are the same they give the purchaser and lender a drawing of where property lines, improvements, building violations in relation to its neighbors and property boarders.  But, the two surveys are very different when it comes to obtaining a mortgage and title insurance.

A Location Drawing - Shows the property lines and locates any and all improvements on the lot, using the legal description and any recorded easements, right of ways, etc.  A location drawing is accurate up to one foot in each direction.  A location drawing is not based on markers at the property.

Boundary Survey - Is done  by a crew of surveyors "in the field", new markers are located at the property, and lines are determined where they actually are, not by the recorded plat but checked against it.  There is little to no margin of error on a boundary survey.

The other main difference is the cost of the two surveys.  Most location drawings will vary between $250 - $400 (up to 1 acre) depending on the surveying company being used.  For properties over 1 acre the title company will get quotes for the location drawings.  A boundary survey is quite a bit more expensive because of the amount of time, man power and how accurate the boundary survey must be.  All boundary surveys will quoted but the range for 1 acre or under could be anywhere between $700 - $1500.

When it comes to obtaining a mortgage and title insurance when purchasing a new home, a location drawing is primarily the only requirement unless an encroachment or easement has come into question and the title company can not remove the survey exception from the lender's policy.  A location drawing is usually not required on a refinance.

When a new purchaser decides to purchase a new property and wants to put improvements on the property things like a shed, fence or a deck it is important to know where you property lines are and where the building set back lines are so that you do not encroach on your neighbors property, or violate a building code which could be costly for the new purchaser if they have to move the shed, fence or take down the newly constructed deck.  This is where the benefit of the boundary survey would come into play and where the added expense can really save the homeowner in the long run.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Different Kinds of Title Insurance?

What are the different kinds of title insurance in Maryland?

There are two basic kinds of title insurance that can be obtained for a real estate transaction:

Maryland Title Insurance Comparison

Lenders Policy - When you obtain a loan on a property the mortgage lender will require a Lenders Policy for the transaction.  The lenders policy provides protection for the lender in the event a title claim is made against the insured property.  This protects the lender's interest and investment in the property.  If a covered claim is made against the property the lenders title insurance will cover the investment of the lender and not the borrower or owner beyond the amount of the original mortgage or loan.  Typically these policies are issued for the amount of the loan or mortgage and not the value of the property.  Often times the value exceeds the mortgage amount leaving a gap in coverage for the owners interests.  Because of this a second type of title insurance is offered to owners.  See Below:

Owner Policy - The owners policy is an optional title insurance policy issued on behalf of the owner of a property.  The purpose of the owner's policy is to protect the owner for any monies at risk put toward the property.  In the event of an insured claim the owner is protected for any covered risk transferred to the insurance company for the insured property.  Often times an enhanced owners policy is available for purchase that provides coverage for more risks not covered in a basic owners policy.  Consult your title insurance agent for a price quote and comparison for both prior to making a decision on which policy best serves your needs and budget if you choose to obtain the optional owners coverage.

A list of common coverage risk categories for a basic policy are listed below:

A third party claims interest in title
Improperly executed document
Pre-policy forgery, fraud or duress
Defective recording of documents
Undisclosed restrictive covenants

A lien on your title because:
a. a security deed
b. judgment, tax, special assessment or
c. a charge by a home owner's association
Unmarketable title

Examples of covered risks in a typical enhanced owners policy may include the following:

Mechanics' liens

Forced removal of structure because:
a. it encroaches onto another property or an
b. it violates an existing zoning law*
c. of violations of a restriction in Schedule B

Land cannot be used for a Single Family Dwelling
(SFD) because use violates a restriction in
Schedule B
or a zoning ordinance.
Unrecorded easements
Pays rent for substitute land or facilities
Rights under unrecorded leases
Plain language

Compliance with Subdivision Map Act, if any*
Restrictive covenant violations
Discriminatory covenants
Covenant violation resulting in reversion
Violations of building setbacks
Enhanced marketability
Access - Enhanced vehicular and pedestrian
Map, if any, not consistent with legal description
Post-policy forgery
Post-policy encroachment
Post-policy damage from minerals or water
Post-policy living Trust Coverage for Trustee
Post-policy living Trust Coverage for Beneficiary
Post-policy automatic increase in value up to
Post-policy adverse possession
Post-policy cloud on title
Post-policy prescriptive easement
Boundary walls and fence encroachment*
Insurance coverage forever

* Subject to a deductible and maximum indemnity liability, which may be less than the
policy amount. Note: You may change your type of coverage anytime prior to closing.

As you can see there is a long list of available risks that you may get coverage for with an enhanced or expanded owners policy.  It is recommended to everyone you compare costs, coverage, and policy types before making a decision to buy an Owners title insurance policy in Maryland.  Often times the additional coverage can be purchased for a small additional premium relative to the entire transaction costs and may be a worthwhile purchase for protection in a property you are buying.  An example of an instant online rating calculator for a Maryland Lenders and Owners policy can be found on Excalibur Title and Escrow's website.
This is an anonymous quoting engine and does not require you to provide contact information or email registration to obtain.  Many title companies offer quoting engines like this on their website but if not when you can call them to discuss the pricing and coverage options.  Of course the idea is to get you to call so they can sell you their services while on the phone but keep in mind in Maryland you have the right to choose a title company.  Compare and choose wisely.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Free Consumer Guide to Maryland Title Insurance

A free unbiased Consumer's Guide to Title Insurance is available to anyone.  The guide is published by the Maryland Insurance Administration.  Anyone can download or view the guide in .pdf at the Maryland Insurance Administration website.  

Contents of the guide include:
What is Title Insurance?
Who's protected by Title Insurance?
How Title Insurance is different than other forms of insurance.
How to purchase Title Insurance.
Information about the settlement process you need to know.
The process and contact information for filing a complaint.
A sample HUD-1 Form

This is a great source of information for those looking to get a basic understanding of what title insurance is all about in Maryland in a quick easy to read online brochure.  Everyone should have at the minimum a basic understanding of title insurance before they shop for title insurance in Maryland.  The website also provides a list of Title insurance companies who underwrite title insurance policies in Maryland.  This list of Title companies a link to the companies main web pages where you can get more information about title insurance and specifics about the various companies for which you can compare and contrast.

Hopefully this little document is helpful to anyone needing a quick read to gain a basic understanding.  The good thing about this guide is the fact the Maryland Insurance Administration produced it for the consumer and it is very unbiased and generic in format and contains no sales pitch content.  Kudos to the administration for creating this handy learning tool.

Hope this was helpful!  We encourage consumers to learn more about title insurance and to shop around.  Hoping of course one stop along your way while shopping to compare price and service is with Excalibur Title and Escrow, LLC a Maryland title insurance agency and real estate settlement provider.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Grassroots ALTA Effort to Weigh In on Final HUD-1 Changes

A final draft of the new HUD-1 has been made available for review by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The real estate title industry and other related fields have one final chance to weigh in on the new forms before they become final and are published in July 2012.  If you have any opinion of the new form it is imperative that you let the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau know your opinions, suggestions and comments soon.  One way to take action is via the ALTA Network Action Center:
The ALTA Network Action Center communicates industry concerns to the Congress and various government agencies before new laws are written and go into  effect.  They are and advocate and voice for the Title Insurance Industry.

An example of a few concerns with the new HUD-1 form:

1.  Making sure all seller costs are actually shown in the seller column not the borrower column.
2.  Costs associated with software and automation to comply with the new changes.
3.  Understanding the actual costs by combining them may actually be more confusing then keeping them listed apart for explanation and comprehension.
4.  Not having reference numbers on line items would be disastrous to some.

There are many other concerns floating around the industry.  Do your part and visit the ALTA Network Action Center and give your opinion.  Collectively we can make a difference and it only takes a little time to provide much needed information and insight.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reduced FHA Refi Fees

It looks like the White House is trying to help more homeowners refinance again. The new initiative will allow FHA Borrowers to refinance at lower costs if you received your FHA insured mortgage prior to June 1, 2009. The White House is estimating between 2 and 3 million borrowers would benefit from the reduction of fees.

These loans will have the same benefits as a traditional FHA streamline refinance:
  • no verification of income
  • no verification of employment
  • or credit
  • and most importantly they do not require a new appraisal on the property, which mean the underwater borrowers still have the opportunity to Refinance to historical low rates.

Reductions for the new rule:

Upfront Mortgage insurance premium: from 1% of the loan amount to .01%
  • eg. $200,000 loan amount
  • Upfront 1% - $2000 Upfront .01% $20.00
Annual mortgage insurance premium: from 1.15% of the loan amount to .55%
  • eg. $200,000
  • Annual MIP 1.15% - $2300.00 yearly/$191.67 monthly
  • Annual MIP .55% - $1100.00 yearly/$91.67 monthly

Friday, March 9, 2012

Online Quoting Available in Maryland for Title Insurance and More..

 Maryland title insurance companies are now offering online quoting tools in increasing numbers. These quoting platforms offer real estate agents, lenders and consumers more convenience and transparency. Another benefit is the 24hr access to information. This could prove to be helpful to many realtors and weekend warriors trying to get information at a time most title companies are closed for business. Convenience is a key ingredient to providing service in the modern world. People want things faster, more access and easier user friendly tools.

Online title insurance quotes seem to come in multiple formats offering varying degrees of information and come from a variety of sources. It is important to know what you are looking for in a quoting engine tool and what the differences are before you embark on a quest to gather information or do some valuable comparison shopping online.

Some websites are not title insurance agents or companies at all. The simply ask you to give them contact information and your email address phone number and more. Then they push that information along to any number of title insurance providers who they sell the information to as leads. In other words your information has now been given out to multiple sources that are going to contact you, try to sell you, put you on their email lists and call you or more. All of whom are companies you know nothing about. Sometime after you enter all your information they will get in touch with you offering the information you requested in various forms. Some use over the phone sales conversation, while others simply email you an estimate of costs. On the surface this sounds like a way to get title insurance providers to compete for your business and competition is good for everyone.

In reality you have no way of knowing or qualifying the companies buying your leads. Are they attorney owned? Are they established? Bonded? Will they settle in your home? Is the location convenient for you? Will a notary be conducting your settlement or an experienced agent attorney? These and many more questions are unknown at the time you submit your contact information because it seems anyone can buy the leads. We recommend comparing and shopping around for sure but do so directly with companies after you have selected several you are comfortable are going be a able to provide you with the kind of settlement experience you are looking for and any other factors you deem appropriate.

Another form of online quoting is the estimator of title insurance costs. This is the website you may or may not have to enter contact information but where you get a scant limited estimate of what costs might be for title insurance with no guarantee and no assurance the information is accurate. These sites often direct you to call for an accurate quote. Can you think of any reason why they want you to call? Of course you can. Try to avoid sites that offer very limited quoting ability or those that don’t stand behind the numbers. This of course is assuming you are providing accurate information on the front end. No one can provide accurate title insurance quotes if the info provided is false or inaccurate. Garbage in and garbage out as they say.

Look for a website offering more than just the cost of title insurance. Find one where you can get instant online anonymous quotes. Pricing for title insurance costs including title search, closing fees, transfer tax and recording fees are the costs you need to be aware of and the items lender need to prepare your disclosure documents like a good faith estimate. The better sites offer free easy access to the information. They don’t make you input your personal email, phone number or more to get an accurate quote.

Some may claim to be exclusive quote providers but don’t buy into that story. Many title insurance providers offer accurate quotes online and are happy to help you in any way possible.

Consumers keep in mind you have the right to shop for and choose a title company you want to use. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We encourage shopping around and competition so go ahead. Get on some websites, get a few quotes and or make a few phone calls. It doesn’t take long to get your hands on some great pricing information that can be helpful to everyone. Knowing how much your title insurance and related settlements costs are going to be and getting a fair market price are good things.