By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

There is more than one Big D in Dallas-area real estate. These important “Big Ds” represent the circumstances that often demand that someone sell their property. I’m talking about death, divorce, downsizing, disaster, debt, and default. These difficult situations can make transferring the title to a property more complicated.

Folks don’t like to think about most of these situations, but they are a real fact of life that many homeowners must deal with. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at the challenges in buying or selling a property when it involves one of these.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Despite the sound of the name, there is nothing secretive or hushed about ‘Quiet Title.’ This is actually a legal action to ‘quiet the title’ under Texas law.

Quiet Title refers to a lawsuit to clarify the ownership of land and the validity of any liens on a piece of property. Legal action to quiet title is basically a suit filed to establish the true ownership of real property.

Typically, the reason for a quiet title lawsuit is to remove a cloud from the title. A cloud is any potential claim to ownership of a property such as a lien, encumbrance, mortgage, legal dispute, tax levy, partial ownership claim, etc. These are usually discovered in a title search of the property conducted by the title company or title plant. 

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Title companies in Texas all offer the same basic services. And since title policy premiums are regulated by the state, there isn’t much difference in cost from one to the next. What makes one title company better than another? What keeps agents going back to their favorite escrow officers time after time?

I thought I’d survey a few Realtors. After all, they are the ones who usually choose which title company to send their real estate contracts.

After surveying dozens of agents and lenders, the No. 1 answer was great communication. To win their business, the title agency and closer must communicate quickly and frequently. This was at the top of the criteria for agents like Robin McCoy (Keller Williams), Chris Suwannetr (JP & Associates), Sheri Stout (Ebby Halliday), Erik Hargrave (PrimeLending), Kerry Slaughter (Keller Williams), Mary Anne Collins (eXp Realty), Vanessa Bamback (Haute City), Nichole Vilchis (Keller Williams), Kay Wood (Briggs Freeman Sothebys) and Phillip Walker (Keller Williams).

“They’re communicative with all parties and always one step ahead,” says Amy Timmerman (Local Resident Realty) about her favorite title company. “Updates, reminders, clear and prompt responses,” are what Lori Hudson (Ebby Halliday) appreciates about her preferred title agency. 

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Buyers and sellers aren’t the only victims of real estate scams and crimes. Realtors are also a favorite target of crooks, criminals, and other shady types.

Due to the nature of the real estate business, agents naturally come in contact and work with strangers on a regular basis. Most real estate deals involve big ticket transactions and that adds to the risk of dealing with unfamiliar people.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve highlights a few scams aimed at buyers and sellers. Realtors often get caught in the web of these deceptions as well. They just add to crimes that focus on these professionals.

After quizzing a few Realtors, here are just some of the scams going around lately:

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

The internet can be both an ally and an adversary to today’s home seller. When it comes to scams and cons, homeowners are easy prey for professional criminals.

Let’s face it. When selling real estate, you are inviting strangers into your home. Figuratively with online photos, maps, and more. And literally when they come to view your property. You and your home are exposed for the world to see.

Being aware of the scams aimed at sellers is the first step to stopping them in their tracks. These are some of the most popular swindles I’ve heard about in the past year:

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scammersLydia Blair
Special Contributor

When you’re buying a home, the last thing you want to think about is criminals and scammers. Unfortunately, as a homebuyer, you are a major (and often easy) target for criminal types. With thousands of unwitting victims every year, it is a lucrative business for crooks.

Maybe homebuyers should be afraid. Be very afraid. But perhaps it’s better to say, “Be aware.” Be vigilant. Be cautious.

Here are the five most common rip-offs I’ve heard about in the past year. (more…)

By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

March is a month for changes — in both the Texas weather and real estate contracts. Haven’t you heard? There are recent contract changes that became mandatory for use by agents on March 1, 2019. 

Don’t worry. You’re not the last to learn about these changes. Seems like very few agents are aware of them. They aren’t life changing, but they’re important when it comes to terminating a contract, getting a mortgage or the appraisal.

The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) recently adopted these changes to the addendums that accompany real estate contracts. I think they’re a good thing because they help clarify issues and potential disputes.

Here is the short and simple version of these changes that are now mandatory if you’re using TREC contracts (which would be everyone I know):

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

At closing, some items, like real estate taxes, are divided up between the buyers and sellers so that each party pays their share of the expenses. This is called proration. The amount each party pays is based on the number of days in the year (or month) that they own the property. It is only fair that you are charged ownership fees and taxes just for the time you own the property.

The title agency is typically responsible for dividing these kinds of expenses proportionally based on a unit of time. For annual property taxes, we divide the tax amount by 365 days to obtain the cost per day. We then multiply the cost per day by the days the seller owned the home and the days the buyer will own the home. Each party is responsible for their prorated amount.

If the taxes for that year have not been paid, the seller is charged for their share and it is credited to the buyer to pay the total bill. If the seller has already paid the taxes for that year, the buyer is charged for their share and it is credited to the seller at closing.

Of course, property taxes aren’t the only fees that are prorated …

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