The Southern Title Column
Get the latest real estate, title insurance, and construction industry news in a format that's easy to understand.
Hereâs some pros and cons to help you decide whether to rent or buy.
For many, homeownership is the American dream, and it is one of the most important steps many people will take in their lifetime.
If you are not sure whether to buy or rent, consider the pros and cons listed below to help you make your decision. Interest rates continue to remain very low, so it is a good idea to contact a mortgage lender to get an idea of the loan amount you would qualify for, and the interest rate you would pay. In addition, consult with a tax professional to determine financial implications to buying or renting.
No Interest payment deductions
Excellent deductions for mortgage interest paid.
Rental amount may increase at any time
Mortgage payments could be fixed
Landlord approval needed for any changes
Decorate and make changes, without prior approval
No capitalization; your money disappears forever
The value of your property will probably increase in time
Rental is temporary and often subject to 30 dayâs notice
Your house will become a home, not a temporary living situation; you are not at the mercy of a landlord
If you decide to purchase a home, Southern Title would love to help you with your transaction. Our knowledgeable professionals are ready to meet your specific needs today, and we do it with a level of service and friendliness that is hart to beat in the industry.
Southern Title Holding Company, LLC, makes no express or implied warranty respecting the information presented and assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions.Continue reading
Buying a home for the first time can be overwhelming. Itâs important to have knowledgeable professionals by your side to guide you through the process. Be sure to contact a REALTORÂŽ, mortgage lender, and an experienced title company early in the process.
As you decide whether you want to purchase, hereâs a few questions â and answers â that might help.
Should I buy instead of rent?
Although real estate has gone through a value adjustment, in most markets values are on the rise and a home is still a good investment. When you rent, you write your monthly check and that money is gone forever. When you own your home, you can deduct the cost of your mortgage loan interest from your federal incomes taxes. You can also deduct the property taxes you pay as a homeowner. In addition, the value of your home may go up over the years, building equity for you. Consider how long you might be staying in your home and consult with a tax professional if you have additional questions.
How do you know when you are ready to buy a home?
Do you have a steady source of income? Have you been employed on a regular basis for the last 2-3 years? Is your current income reliable?
Do you have a good record of paying your bills? Do you have few outstanding long-term debts, like car payments? Do you have money saved for a down payment? Do you have the ability to pay the mortgage every month, plus additional costs.
Do you need title insurance?
A title insurance policy from Southern Title protects the policy holder from disputes over ownership and places the financial strength of one of the nationâs leading title insurance companies behind the policy. An Ownerâs Policy of title insurance protects the buyer against loss for title threats undiscovered at the time of closing and provides a defense in the event of claims against the title pursuant to the terms of the policy.
How much money do you need to buy a home?
In general, you need to come up with enough money to cover three expenses: the earnest money deposit (variable), the down payment (depending on the property between 3% and 20%), and the closing costs (usually between 3% and 10%).
What other costs?
Monthly utilities, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and maintenance costs are a few of the expenses to be considered. There may dues from homeowner or condo associations.
Are pre-qualifying and pre-approval different?
Pre-qualification is an informal way to see how much you may be able to borrow. A pre-approval is the lenderâs commitment to lend to you.
Buying a home for the first time is a huge responsibility that offers tremendous rewards. The more knowledgeable you are about the process, the better prepared you will be to make an informed decision. Once you have found the home of your dreams, contact our office at 866-297-5535 so we can provide the protection you need and the service you deserve.
Southern Title Holding Company, LLC, makes no express or implied warranty respecting the information presented and assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions.Continue reading
Finally find the house of your dreams . . . and your offer was accepted? Here are a few things to avoid during the contract to closing process. As always, if you have legal questions, please contact your attorney.
- Donât change your marital status.
- How you hold title is affected by your marital status. Be sure to make both your lender and your title company aware of any changes in your marital status so that documents can be prepared correctly.
- Donât change jobs.
- A job change may result in your loan being denied, particularly if you are taking a lower-paying position or moving into a different field. Donât think youâre safe because youâve received approval earlier in the process, as the lender may call your employer to re-verify your employment just prior to the funding the loan.
- Donât switch banks or move your money to another institution.
- After the lender has verified your funds at one or more institutions, the money should remain there until needed for the purchase.
- Donât pay off existing accounts unless your lender requests it.
- If your Loan Officer advises you to pay off certain bills in order to qualify for the loan, follow that advice. Otherwise, leave your accounts as they are until your escrow closes.
- Donât make any large purchases.
- A major purchase that requires a withdrawal from your verified funds or increases your debt can impact qualifying for the loan. A lender may check your credit or re-verify funds at the last minute, so avoid purchases that could impact your loan approval.
At Southern Title, we understand that by keeping you informed and helping you prepare for the closing day, you are more likely to have a stress-free closing experience. Our courteous and professional staff is proactive in their communication and works diligently to ensure the orderly and efficient transfer of real estate . . . and we do it with a level of service and friendliness that is hard to beat in the industry.
For more information, please contact us at (866) 297-5535.
Southern Title Holding Company, LLC, makes no express or implied warranty respecting the information presented and assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions.
Whether you are purchasing a home or selling a house, knowing what to expect and being prepared at the âclosingâ can help eliminate stress and result in a pleasant experience. We understand how important this transaction is to you, and we are committed to consistently providing a superior level of service that prepares you for this final step in your real estate transaction.
Here are some common items that may be required from you at closing and can help your closing go as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Valid Photo Identification
- Two forms of identification are typically required at closing, including one of the following:
- Valid Driverâs License or non-driver I.D. issued by any state
- Valid Canadian or Mexican Driverâs License issued by the official agency
- Valid United States I.D.
- Current United States or Foreign Passport (Foreign Passport must have been stamped by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service)
Hazard Insurance Policy and Paid Receipt
- A hazard policy, also known as homeownerâs insurance, with the lender designated as the insured holder of the mortgage, is required on most loans. Evidence of hazard insurance, including a paid receipt, must be provided prior to closing.
- Due to the new FAR BAR contract language requiring collected funds at closing (as stipulated in the Florida Administrative Code 690-186.08), as well as the overwhelming number of fraudulent cashier's checks circulating in Florida, Southern Title will require all cash to close to be tendered in the form of a wire transfer. Our wiring instructions will be sentâ¨with every closing transaction and are available upon request.
All Persons Who Hold Title to the Property or Who Will Be Purchasing the Property Must Attend Closing to Sign Documents
- Florida law requires the spouseâs signature on the mortgage and deed on homestead property even if he or she is not in title. If any parties to the transaction are not able to attend closing, please contact our office in advance to arrange for a Power of Attorney or Mailaway Closing.
We are committed to orchestrating a professional and stress-free closing. Our knowledgeable professionals welcome your title and closing questions any time. Call us today at (866) 297-5535.Continue reading
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) announced that the collection of the new title insurance policy assessment of twenty-eight cents ($0.28) has been delayed until May 6, 2013.
You may recall last year that the OIR ordered the assessment to begin December 3, 2012, following the demise of National Title Insurance Company. The collection commencement start date was then moved to February 4, 2013. Earlier this month, the OIR indicated the collection would begin May 6, 2013.
Why the Assessment?
After National Title went into receivership in 2009, the Department of Financial Services determined that the reserves of National Title were not sufficient to pay the claims and continuing claims administration costs for title insurance policies issues by National Title. OIR then ordered an assessment of $212,478, which will be funded by the surcharge.
Specifics of Surcharge Collection
- Beginning May 6, 2013, all Florida Title Agents must collect an assessment of twenty-eight cents ($0.28) on each title insurance policy they issue.
- The surcharge must be collected on all policies with an effective date of May 6, 2013 or later.
- On simultaneous issue policies, only one twenty-eight cent ($0.28) surcharge is collected â the surcharge is not collected on the simultaneous loan policy.
- The entire surcharge is remitted to the underwriter.
- The surcharge is charged to the party paying for the title insurance, unless the parties agree otherwise.
- The surcharge is not charged on endorsements to existing policies â only on newly issued policies.
If you have any questions, please call any of Southern Titleâs office, or you can reach us toll free at (866) 297-5535.Continue reading
With Congress passing and President Obama signing into law H.R. 8 (American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012) to avert the so-called âfiscal cliff,â you may be interested in several provisions of the legislation that impacts housing.â¨â¨The centerpiece of the measure permanently extends current income and capital gains tax rates for taxpayers with taxable income of up to $400,000 for individuals and up to $450,000 for couples. For individuals earning less than $400,000 and married filing jointly less than $450,000, marginal tax rates will stay the same as they have been over the last few years. Hereâs a look at key real estate-related tax provisions included in the legislation:
- Mortgage Cancellation Relief: One year extension of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act until Jan. 1, 2014. This should help keep short sale, foreclosure and deed-in-lieu transactions moving. ALTA sent a letter a letter to members of Congress on Dec. 12 urging for this extension.
- Mortgage Insurance Premiums: Itemized deduction for premiums paid for FHA or private mortgage insurance for filers making below $110,000.
- Leasehold Improvements: 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements on commercial properties.
- Energy Efficiency Tax Credit: The 10% tax credit (up to $500) for homeowners for energy improvements to existing homes.
- Limits on Itemized Deductions: Rules limiting the value of itemized deductions (Pease Limitations) were permanently repealed for most taxpayers but will be reinstituted for individuals earning above $250,000 adjusted gross income and couples earning more than $300,000.
- Capital Gains: The capital gains rate increased to 20 percent for high-income earners.
- Estate Tax: The estate tax is now subject to a $5 million exemption in individual estates ($10 million for family estates) with a tax rate of 40 percent (up from 35 percent).
For more information about new tax provisions, contact your attorney or tax advisor.Continue reading
Among the many changes we can expect in the New Year, the expiration of the current tax break for short sales on December 31 will impact us first as people rush to complete any short sales or restructurings currently in the pipeline.
As you may recall, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence through a short sale, a mortgage restructuring or a release or waiver of deficiency in connection with a foreclosure. As is always the case in the Tax Code, there were certain limitations, conditions and provisos:
- The property had to qualify as your principal residence. No rental properties or second homes allowed.
- The cancelled debt had to be debt incurred to buy, build or improve your principal residence or refinance debt incurred for those purposes. Amounts related to a cash-out refi donât qualify for this special treatment. This has always been one of the big limitations on when a short sale made sense for customers.
- The maximum amount you can treat as qualified principal residence indebtedness is $2 million ($1 million if married filing separately for the tax year); and
- The amount forgiven must be reported on the homeowner's tax return and form 982 filed.
While we are cautiously optimistic that this tax relief will be renewed in some form or fashion -- as we rush headlong up to the âfiscal cliff,â nothing in Washington is certain. We understand that this issue is now caught up with the ongoing debate over the mortgage interest rate deduction among others.
(DAYTONA BEACH, FL â November 26, 2012) â As a result of her active involvement in federal, state, and local issues impacting the real estate industry, Shelley Stewart, president of Southern Title Holding Company and past president of the Florida Land Title Association, has been named to two national committees that will guide the policies of the insurance industry.
Stewart, who has presided as president of Southern Title since its founding in 1995, will serve as an agent liaison on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Industry Liaison Committee. The committee meets bi-annually to discuss issues of common interest to state regulators and insurance industry representatives.
At the American Land Title Association annual convention in October, Stewart was named to the ALTA Government Affairs committee, which is charged with developing strategies to achieve the groupâs federal legislative and regulatory objectives.
Stewart has taken an active role in the real estate title industry, serving as President of the Florida Land Title Association (FLTA) in 2010. She was recently named Associate VP with the Florida Home Builders Association, and has held leadership positions in the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers, Mortgage Bankers Association, Womenâs Council of Realtors, the Volusia-Flagler Title Association, the Daytona Beach Board of Realtors, and the East Coast Building Industry Association.
About Southern Title
One of Southern Titleâs underwriters has been approved to offer a lower cost title insurance policy specifically designed for loan modifications. Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty announced the OIR has granted the requests made by several title insurance underwriters to offer this reduced cost title insurance product specifically designed for loan modifications at a reduced cost to lenders. Called a Mortgage Priority Guarantee policy, the product is suitable when lenders amend an existing mortgage loan agreement in order to help a struggling homeowner remain in their home and prevent a foreclosure on the property.
Floridaâs Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) has approved three companies to sell this form of insurance in Florida. One of Southern Titleâs underwriters, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, is on the list. Westcor Land Title Insurance Company and WFG National Title Insurance Company are the other authorized insurers.
As a result of a large number of mortgage defaults, lenders are seeking alternatives to working with homeowners who are having a hard time making their mortgage payments. By modifying an original loan agreement, a lender can help a consumer stay in his or her home, by reducing the principal or interest on the loan, extending the loan payment period, or modifying the loanâs variable rates.
According to the OIR, the lender can utilize the Mortgage Priority Guarantee policy to protect the mortgage liensâ priority at a minimal flat cost of $125, saving potentially hundreds of dollars otherwise required for a full lenderâs title policy. The result can be a substantial savings for borrowers who amend their mortgages because they are often required to pay the lenderâs title insurance premium as part of the transaction.
Hurricane Season begins June 1 in Florida. You might be thinking that weather hazards and title insurance are mutually exclusive . . . while actually what happens outside your home can have an impact on your ability to buy, sell or refinance real property.
If you are buying real estate during hurricane season, please be aware that many homeownersâ insurance companies cease writing policies when a storm has been named. Youâll have to contact your insurance company for specific information but itâs good to be aware that lenders require homeownerâs insurance in order to fund the transaction and if your company of choice has temporarily ceased writing policies, it could impact your closing date. Best thing to do is get your hazard insurance policy in place early!
Your Ownerâs Title Policy is just as important as birth certificates and social security numbers â and vital to keep it in a safe place. After Hurricane Katrina, there were many challenges with proving homeownership because courthouses were flooded and valuable documentation lost. When you close with Southern Title, all of your paperwork related to the purchase of your home is scanned and stored online and available to you anytime you need it, including your survey, title policy, and closing statement,. That comes in real handy if you need to prove ownership, your home and paper documents are flooded, or you decide to sell or refinance and need a copy of your prior Ownerâs Policy of Title Insurance to enjoy the savings of a reissue premium.
We also recommend that you store your documents in another, back up location, such as through DropBox, on an external jump drive, or in a safe deposit box. Please feel free to ask Southern Title for assistance in backing up your valuable homeownership documents!
Southern Title is unique among many title companies because we have multiple office locations, the ability to handle your real estate transaction from any of our offices, and a redundant back up center. If we lose electricity at one of our offices, another office is available to help you. We have a rock solid Business Continuity and Emergency Plan (BCEP) in place that encompasses associate and customer safety, document security, technology, public information, and operational issues that arise during hazardous weather, or other types of business disruptions. Our website, social media, phone greeting, on hold recording, and emails will alert you to any changes in our business processes that could impact you and your transaction. Itâs all part of our desire to provide you with a smooth, simple real estate closing and exceed your expectations every time!
If you donât have your own personal Hurricane Preparedness Plan in place. please check out this emergency preparedness website from the National Hurricane Center for assistance.
Be safe this hurricane season!
On Friday, April 27, the Real Estate Mortgage Network, The Real Estate Book Volusia, and Southern Title presented the inaugual edition of Open House Radio. Ten local Realtors called in to promote the open houses they were hosting as part of National Association of Realtors Open House Weekend; an additional 14 provided homes to be discussed on the air.
Open Houses open Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29 include:
Ashley Savant, Adams Cameron â (407) 222-3569
- 757 Cobblestone Way, Plantation Bay. Open Sunday 1-3 p.m.
- 10 Ridge Trail in the Trails. Open Sunday 2-4 p.m.
Rose Roberts, ReMax Property Center â (386) 299-1175
- 1408 Newry Circle, Halifax Plantation Open Saturday 1-3 p.m.
- 129 Chelsea Place, $249,000 Open Sunday 1-3 p.m.
Paige Pentz & Susan Hillyard, Watson Realty (386) 846-7776
- 193 Flamingo Road, Edgewater $449,000 Open Saturday 1-4
- 195 Godfrey, Edgewater, $1,799,000 Open Sunday 1-4
Michelle Cecchini, Chelle Realty (386) 275-2896
- 11 Lakecliff Drive, Ormond Lakes 749,000 Open Saturday and Sunday 12-3 p.m.
Greg Holbrook, Watson Realty (386) 689-4700
- 4608 Van Kleeck Drive, New Smyrna Beach $424,300 Open Sunday 1-4
Maria Lewis, ReMax Property Centre (386) 295-5898
- 32 Forest View Way, Breakaway Trails $259,500 Open Saturday 1-3
- 49 Spring Meadows Drive Ormond Beach $249,900 Open Sunday 1-3
Becky Malin, Exit Beach Realty (386) 299-5767
- 1608 Crescent Ridge in Ocean Dunes $279,900 Open Saturday 1-4 p.m.
Michelle Llanos, KB Home (386) 265-5942
- 281 Thornberry Branch Lane in Bayberry Lakes $149,900 Open Saturday and Sunday 10-7 p.m.
Debbie Callahan, Adams Cameron (386) 299-5281
- 1 Revilo Blvd., Daytona Beach, $750,000 Open Sunday 1-4 p.m.
Ellen Darden, Watson Realty (386) 689-9787
- 1932 Turnbull Lakes Drive, New Smyrna Beach Open 1-4 p.m.
Kim Bell, Adams Cameron, (386) 212-8686
- 90 Ullian Trail, Palm Coast, $129,000 Open Sunday 1-3 p.m.
Exit Beach Realty (386) 441â1141
- 21 Dolphin Avenue Open Saturday, 10-1 and Sunday 1-3 p.m.
- 1257 Sunningdale Lane Open Saturday and Sunday 1-3 p.m.
- 8 Crooked Tree Trail Open Saturday 11-1 p.m.
- 24 Silk Oaks Drive Open Saturday and Sunday 11-3 p.m.
Kristin Petersen, Exit Beach Realty (386) 453-6930
- 172 Valencia $134,900 Open Saturday from 11-3 p.m.
- 45 Ormond Green Blvd. $184,900 Open Sunday 11-3 p.m.
Pat Carey, Adams Cameron (386) 453-7932
- 3670 John Anderson Drive $745,000 Open Sunday 1â3:30 p.m.
Darlene Mazur, Realty Pros (386) 235-8239
- 5 Cross Creek, Breakaway Trails, Ormond Beach $650,000
Merrie Yelvington, Magnolia Properties (386) 690-1982
- Diamond Head Point Condos $279,000 - $390,000 Open Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Steve & Nancy Koenig, Koenig Realty (386) 257-6700
- 336 Bucknell Drive, Daytona Beach $239,000 Open Saturday 1-4 p.m.
As new home construction picks up and the 2012 Volusia Building Industry Association Parade of Homes is poised to begin, we often get asked why buyers need title insurance on a NEW home. In reality, construction of a new home raises special title problems for the lender and owner. You may think you are the first owner when constructing a home on a purchased lot. However, there were most likely many prior owners of the unimproved land.Continue reading
Buying, selling or refinancing and looking to save some money? Hereâs some tips to help you get the most value and protect your investment.
- Ask if you qualify for a reissue premium, which could help you save money on your title insurance. Note: You donât have to return to the same company who handled your prior closing. All legitimate title agents offer 100% reissue if you are qualified.
- Make sure you know what your policy covers BEFORE you purchase by reading the title commitment thoroughly. Call your title agent with any questions.
- If your real estate agent, or loan originator recommends a title agency to you, ask whether they have a financial interest in the company. If you are selling and purchasing a title insurance policy, you have the ability to choose the title company.
- Be sure that you read and understand all the documents you sign at closing.
- Be sure that the policy describes all the property and interests you are acquiring. Check for correct spellings of all names and addresses.
- If you are buying previously foreclosed property, be sure you get an Ownerâs Policy of Title Insurance, and carefully review Schedule B-2 of the Commitment, which outlines items that are excepted from coverage to be sure you are receiving marketable (not just insurable) title.
- Be sure your title agent is a member of the Florida Land Title Association and the American Land Title Association. FLTA and ALTA members are committed to high ethical standards.
Earlier this year, the title insurance industry received approval of the ALTA 2006 forms from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. This is a win-win for YOU! With the new title insurance policies and endorsements, you will receive additional coverage at no additional cost when you purchase an Ownerâs Policy.
New coverages include:
- Continuation of coverage if you transfer ownership of your home into your trust (in the previous version of the Ownerâs Policy, this type of conveyance would have voided the policy)
- Entitles the insured to an extra 10% in the amount of insurance coverage in the event of a loss (for no additional premium)
Youâve undoubtedly seen news reports about the inappropriate practices that have occurred during the foreclosure process in Florida. The best way to protect yourself is to purchase an Ownerâs Policy of Title Insurance when purchasing property. As part of the title examination, the title agent will review the foreclosure process, try to uncover any visible deficiencies and correct them. Your Ownerâs Policy will provide insurance coverage over those deficiencies that are not detectable and provide valuable security for your real estate investment.
When choosing a title agent or attorney, be sure you choose a member of the Florida Land Title Association. FLTA is the stateâs premier association of professionals who have committed to a standard of ethics and are dedicated to the preservation and protection of real estate interests.Continue reading