Mechanics Liens and Title Insurance Owner’s Policies

Did you know that it’s no longer standard practice for the Additional Protection Endorsement to be included on an Owners Policy?  This endorsement protects buyers from mechanics liens.  A mechanics lien can pop up for a certain period after closing when labor has been performed or materials delivered. 

I actually received several mechanics liens on one of my new construction homes in Federal Way when the builder did not pay all of his subcontractors.  Because I had this endorsement (which at that time was, for the most part, issued automatically) the title company protected me from the liens; determining which ones were valid and paying them.  I believe they bought my shower doors! 

This video is full of important information about mechanics liens and what home buyers in Washington need to be aware of, especically if they’re buying acerage or waterfront property.  The Talon Group’s Chief Title Officer Tim Daniels, provides some excellent advice for consumers and industry professionals…it’s simply too good not to share!

Friday Funny: The Life of a Title Rep

Since I was a “title rep” in my former career, I found this video sadly amusing.

Seattle Area Rent vs Buy Ratio

Chris Lodge, Property Information Manager at The Talon Group double checks some stats that the NY Times have came up with regarding home ownership in the Seattle area which is being picked up by the media.   From Chris: 

I've long championed the idea that local news and data is more valuable than what the national news gives us.  So when a client of mine sent this New York Times article over to me, it definitely piqued my interest.  The headline , "In Sour Home Market, Buying Often Beats Renting", is a great attention grabber for sure. 

Do they believe that Seattle is a good place to buy?

Chris has done some research on his own which provides different stats, read his article and data on Talon Blog by clicking here

If you would like a free rate quote, to compare to what you're paying in rent, for a home in Washington, click here.

Senior Property Tax Exemption or Deferral? One places a lien on property!

I read this post this morning from The Talon Group and even though my background includes 14 years in the title and escrow industry, I had no idea about the different options for Seniors with property taxes…this is a must read!

Washington State provides two very different programs for our “well-aged” homeowners to help pay property taxes. The most popular program, Senior Property Tax Exemption allows seniors making less than $35,001 to “freeze” the tax value of their home (in the eyes of the assessor) at the current rate. As the assessed value rises or falls, the taxable value will be billed upon the lesser of the frozen or market value. Other than the Emergency Medical Services Levy, this program exempts all excess or special levies that are in addition to the regular levies. Seniors can even exempt themselves from paying for regular levies if their income is $30,000 or below. To qualify, you must be at least 61 years of age by December 31st of the application date. Renewals are sent out out at least every four years.

Click here to read the entire article.

Kudo’s to The Talon Group for dishing up great information for consumers!

Hold Everything! What is Your Title Company’s Recording Protocol?

Satchmortgageporter If you’re a long time reader of The Mortgage Porter, you know that my pre-mortgage career was in the title and escrow industry.  One of my early jobs was preparing documents to be recorded at King County.  Later in my career, as a sales rep, I would sometimes have the opportunity to “be a hero” by driving “rush recordings” directly to the court house in Seattle and either meeting the title company’s recorder or actually having to “walk on” the documents myself. Recordings are the deeds and deeds of trust that will be recorded at the county to become public record to give the world notice that you now own the land or have debt attached to the property.  (It also gives scammers notice to hound you with loan and other offers).

On a recent transaction, I learned that all title companies are not the same when it comes to how the manage their recordings.  When a title company receives documents from the escrow company, they are typically “on hold” meaning–do not record yet; or they’re a “walk on” which means, record as soon as possible.  It’s my understanding that most title companies keep holds at King County UNLESS they have verified with the escrow company that the documents are not scheduled to close for some time.  

This transaction involved a title company who apparently keeps recordings for King County at their Lynnwood office until they know they are released for recording and then they are sent with their recording courier.   Problems can arise when recordings are released later by escrow or if the courier faces high volumes of traffic with her commute to Seattle (what are the odds of that?).  I have been informed by their Senior Title Officer that they are changing their policy on keeping holds at their office.

It could be worth asking your preferred King County title provider:

Where do they keep recordings that are on hold? 

Will they do a special courier to the court house if needed? (a title rep can do this) 

Hopefully the recordings are kept at King County (or the appropriate county) so that in the event of a later release, the documents are prepared and ready to go to avoid delays with closings. 

Related Post: 

What Takes Place Between Signing and Closing

Is Your Agent in Bed with a Title Company?

Who’s Who with Local Title Companies

Reminder: No Closings this Friday for King and Snohomish Counties

Due to budget restraints in King and Snohomish Counties, the recorders office will be closed this Friday and will not reopen until Tuesday (due to Memorial Day).  This means that if you are buying, selling or refinancing a home; the Deed or new mortgage (Deed of Trust) cannot be recorded on these dates.  Pierce County's recorders office will remain open Friday, May 22, 2009.

The Talon Group has calendars available with recording schedules for King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties–click here.   Each county is doing their own thing to their respective budgets.   Just last month, Snohomish County announced that they are closing early on Friday's (if they are not on furlough).

If you have a transaction scheduled to close on property located in King or Snohomish Counties this Friday, May 22, you may want to check with your real estate and mortgage professionals.

2009 County Recorders Schedule

Here is the holiday schedule for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties recorder's office.  If the recorder's office is closed, your transaction will not be recording on that date. 

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A tip of the hat to The Talon Group, your title and escrow partners.   You can click on the links above to have a pdf of the specific closures by county.

Who’s Who with the Local Title Companies

With the recent developments, including Chapter 11 bankruptcy, surrounding LandAmerica; I thought it would be important to share with you "who's who" locally.   Due to the bankruptcy, some lenders are not accepting title policies backed by LandAmerica.  If you are buying or selling a home right now, please check with your lender or real estate agent to make sure your title company is acceptable.

Our market has many different "brand names" of title insurance companies and actually just a few actual title underwriters.   Here's a quick run down of how the local companies currently stand (note: this will be changing as Fidelity National Financial is in the process of buying LandAmerica if the transaction is successful):

The LandAmerica Title Insurance (currently going through bankruptcy and being acquired by Fidelity National Financial).  Note: percentage of ownership is based on this report effective December 31, 2007.  Hat tip to Matt Carter.

Commonwealth of Puget Sound = LandAmerica's underwriter named Commonwealth with 50% stake in Commonwealth of Puget Sound.  Windermere, along with independent broker/owners have financial interests.

Rainier Title, LLC = LandAmerica's underwriter named Lawyers with a 25% stake in Rainier Title LLC.  John L. Scott and Coldwell Banker Bain have financial interests. (See Update 12/9/2008 below for changes).

Northpoint Title and Escrow = LandAmerica is the underwriter through Lawyers and reported a 40% stake in Northpoint.

Fidelity National Financial (in the process of merging LandAmerica's title division).

Fidelity Title and Escrow = Fidelity.

Chicago Title and Escrow = Fidelity.

Ticor Title and Escrow = Fidelity.

First American Title Insurance Company

First American Title and Escrow = First American.

The Talon Group Title and Escrow = First American.

Pacific Northwest Title = First American.

Stewart Title and Escrow = Stewart Title

Old Republic Title and Escrow = Old Republic

As I mentioned, this list is scheduled to change.  Fidelity National Title hopes to have the LandAmerica merger complete by the end of this year…Fidelity called the merger off in the ninth hour in a previous attempt.  Currently some major lenders, including Countrywide, Bank of America, Flagstar US Bank and Chase, have LandAmerica companies on their "non-approved vendors" list which may cause a hiccup with transactions that are in process.

I will keep you posted a this story develops.

Update 12/3/2008: Countrywide will accept LandAm policies stating that Fidelity Reinsurance Treaties are acceptable when your title commitment shows Commonwealth or Lawyers as the insurer.

Update 12/5/2008:  Provident Funding issues memo stating they "will not accept title policies underwritten or escrow services provided by a LandAmerica subsidiary…"

Update 12/8/2008: Flagstar Bank has issued a memo stating they will "require all title commitments, title policies and closing protections to be in the name of the new entities" for loans registered after December 1, 2008.   Flagstar's memo also states that Land America affiliated settlement agents (escrow) "who have not been associated with a closing disbursement with Flagstar since September 8, 2008 will "expired" from their closing agent database.

Update 12/9/2008:  Rainier Title, LLC has announced "we have become an authorized policy issueing agent for Stewart Guaranty Company".   (No mention in the email of Fidelity or their proposed merger).