By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

A hidden hazard on your property is not the kind of thing you’re going to stub your toe on. At least not the kind of hidden hazard that we’re talking about here.

In the title business, a hidden hazard is an issue that is not uncovered in a traditional search of property records. Most title companies are really good at finding potential problems in the research of deeds, maps and plats, mortgages, tax records, court records, liens, abstracts of judgement, probate and divorce actions, etc.

Issues that can be found by a typical title search are considered “discoverable.” These would be items like outstanding mortgage loans, tax liens, court judgments, utility easements, and such. Anyone with enough time, resources and expertise could likely find these things in court records and a search of the chain of title. Or they would find most of them at least. 

But even the most fastidious title search may not reveal a hidden hazard. Sometimes they are impossible to uncover until an event brings it to light.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

When putting a contract on a property, a buyer can usually expect to write two checks to accompany their contract — an option fee check and an earnest money check. There is no strict rule about how much each of these checks must be. The amount of this up-front money is negotiable between buyer and seller. However, the amount sends a strong signal to either buyer or seller.

A buyer offering too little in either option or earnest money can indicate they are not serious or very interested in the property. Perhaps they can’t even afford it.  A demand of too much option or earnest money from the seller may send the message that they are unreasonable or mistrustful. The state of the real estate market also influences the amount of option fee and earnest money. 

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

There are lots of kinds of insurance. There’s homeowner insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, life insurance, liability insurance … You can insure just about anything of value.

“We focus mostly on property and casualty insurance,” says insurance agent Amanda Campbell of Smith Allen Insurance. But she and other insurance companies offer all kinds of insurance. “You can insurance your pet for loss, accidents, medical bills, and more.”

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

A Title Plant is not a big factory that produces property titles. Nor is it a flowering bush used in real estate transactions.

A Title Plant – also called an Abstract Plant – is an operation used as the basis for delivering title insurance. The main focus is on historical records organized by county. The Texas Department of Insurance oversees title plants and states they “shall consist of fully indexed records showing all instruments of record affecting lands within the county.”

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With the Abstract of Judgment, the skeletons of a property’s title may come out of the closet.

By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Judgment Day in the title business is when the title search comes in and the skeletons in the closet come out. These types of skeletons often come in the form of an Abstract of Judgment. Most law abiding folks aren’t familiar with an abstract of judgment or how it affects real estate. But we see it in the title business regularly.

In Texas, an Abstract of Judgement (AJ) is basically a lien that is filed on a property for an unpaid debt. First a judgment for debt is rendered and then the creditor may file an Abstract of Judgment on the debtor’s property. It is designed to prevent the transfer of that property until the judgment has been paid.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor
 
Title companies are like the private detectives of real estate. That’s right. We’re like a combination of Sherlock Holmes and James Bond. Only without the guns and fast cars. Well, maybe we’re closer to a mixture of Nancy Drew and the tech nerd in the back of your office. But we still help save you from real estate disaster.  

One of the reasons title companies are so essential is the title search they perform. A real estate title search involves collecting documents and evidence of the history of a property. The purpose is to ensure the title is clear and valid, and to answer questions regarding a particular piece of real estate prior to the transfer of the title.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

One of the quirks of the title industry is the roller-coaster pace of business. A week day in mid-January can be as boring as watching paint dry. The last Friday of the month in the summer feels like bungee jumping into fire.

While title companies are generally glad to close a transaction, some days are a lot more welcome than others. The last day of the month is usually the busiest time for title companies and lenders. Fridays are the fullest days of the week.

I’ve suspected that mortgage companies were pushing for these days to close out their month or week with more business. But that is probably not correct.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) recently updated the standard residential contracts to now address policies regarding deposits of earnest monies. These changes become mandatory May 15, 2018.

On the first page of the newly updated Texas contracts, it states that “Within 3 days after the Effective Date, Buyer must deliver $___ earnest money to ___, as escrow agent, at ____.”  Previous TREC contracts did not have a deadline for delivering earnest money except to say it was due “upon execution of this contract.” Simultaneous delivery of the contract and earnest money didn’t always happen. Now it is clear.

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