By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor
 
Disaster can strike a home at any time. Even the day before it’s scheduled to be sold. Be it hail, wind, fire or water, a casualty loss to property while it’s under contract can be disastrous.

But, there are remedies. The Texas real estate contract folks thought of many ‘what if’ scenarios and they’ve incorporated them in the standard sales contract. A casualty loss results from a sudden, unexpected event like a storm or fire. Casualty losses are addressed in paragraph 14 of the contract. It states that if any part of the property is damaged or destroyed by casualty loss between the time the contract is executed and the closing, the seller shall restore the property to its previous condition as soon as reasonably possible.

That sounds simple on paper but not so much in real life. Often the damage can’t be repaired prior to closing due to no fault of the seller. For example, when a hail storm hits the neighborhood two days before closing, it isn’t likely the roof will be replaced or repaired that quickly.

The seller has obligations and responsibilities for the property when it is under contract and before closing. They must make efforts to restore the property to its previous condition by the closing date. No messing around here. If the seller doesn’t comply, the seller can be in default. There are options available if the seller cannot restore the property before closing due to factors beyond the seller’s control. Note that I said, “due to factors beyond the seller’s control.”

If the seller cannot restore the property by the closing date due to factors beyond their control, the buyer has three options:

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Lots of folks are dying to buy or sell a home. They may be eager, desperate, impatient, or anxious. However, they’re not literally dying.

Except when they are.

Yes, it has happened that a buyer or seller dies while they have a property under contract. They could die the day after the contract is signed or as they are walking into the title company on closing day. Both of those scenarios have occurred in offices where I’ve worked and it’s awful for everyone.

But what happens to the deal?

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Selling the marital home. Some refer to this as the great divide. Getting divorcing spouses to agree on selling their home, an asking price, an agent, the final sales price, etc. can be difficult and stressful at best. Emotions and tensions can run high well before we add on the legal requirements of transferring title of the property.

The unfortunate, but real, scenario of legally selling a home while divorcing can combine some difficult tasks. It requires cooperation from all parties. While everyone’s situation is different, there are basically two ways to divide the property before, during, or after a divorce.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

When a person dies holding real estate in their name, the property doesn’t transfer to heaven. Some people think the situation can become quite the opposite. The process can be agonizing.

The owner who has died obviously can’t sell their home after they’re dead. The property cannot be sold until their name has been removed from the title. That can be a long and often complicated process. Often the heirs aren’t prepared to deal with the months of upkeep expenses, taxes, mortgage payments, etc. that come with the property.

There are usually two situations when selling an estate property. The owner died either with or without a will to designate their wishes.

If the owner died with a will, the heirs can take immediate action. The will can be entered into probate proceedings with the county court within four years of death. A last will and testament does not automatically cause the real estate to transfer. It is just a statement of the deceased’s intent. The property must legally transfer to another person(s) or entity if it is to be sold.

An Heirship Affidavit may often be used if the will has left the property only to the direct descendants of the deceased. Sometimes, this may be a less expensive and faster process than a probate proceeding.

An Affidavit of Heirship is also required if the deceased died without a will.

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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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