Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Understanding Title Insurance & Why it's Necessary

Recently a client of mine contacted me after reading a news story about a Title Company CEO that committed suicide after an investigation was started into missing escrow funds in his company.  I helped this client purchase an investment property and the Title Company the listing agent used had a similar name to the Title Company mentioned in the story.  My client was concerned that it might affect the Title Insurance Policy on her recent home purchase.  Fortunately this was not the Title Company that was used in her transaction.  Although, even if it had been, the insurance policy was still in effect.  The gentleman in the article above was being investigated for embezzling escrow funds.

Her question prompted this blog post which will cover Property Title, Title Search, Title Insurance and Escrow, hopefully clearing up any questions you may have as a home owner, buyer or seller.

What is Title?  The "Title" to your property is a means of legally proving ownership of "real property".  Land and the structures built on it are considered "real property", meaning it cannot be moved or hidden.

What is a Title Search? Real property (land and homes) can change ownership many times over the years.  At any point along the chain of ownership, problems may arise that cast a “cloud” over a title, potentially causing issues regarding ownership.  A Title search reviews the chain of ownership and will hopefully uncover and issues affecting the Title with the intent of resolving those issues before another change in ownership occurs.  Things that can negatively affect Title of a property are: Mortgages in the property, past ownerships that were not correctly dissolved, mechanics liens, failure of past owners to pay property taxes, etc.

What is Title Insurance? Just like other insurance policies we purchase such as homeowners, health or life insurance policies, title insurance protects your claim to your property from potential problems caused by irregularities that may have occurred in the past. It is important to use a Title Company that uses a reputable underwriter to issue their policies.  Your title insurance policy is only as good as the underwriters ability to pay in the event of a claim.  Ask your Title Company who they are using as an underwriter and verify their standing

What is Escrow? An escrow is an arrangement in which an objective third party, called an escrow holder, holds legal documents and funds on behalf of a buyer and seller, and distributes them according to the buyer's and seller's instructions.

What does a Title Company do?  In Colorado, the Title Company performs the title search, issues the title insurance policy, holds the escrow funds and performs the closing of real estate transaction. A Title Company can use a good underwriter so their policies are good but if the Title Company itself is not reputable or properly managed the money they are given in Escrow can be misused as in the example above.

Why is it necessary in Real Estate Transactions?  Traditionally in Colorado the seller pays for a title insurance policy for the buyer and the buyer pays for a title insurance policy for their lender.  In both cases the insurance policy protects the owner of the policy (the buyer in one case, the lender in another) should there be an issue that arises in the future that may affect the ownership of the property.  This is a good faith effort on the seller's part to ensure they are transferring the property with a 'clear' title.  The lender requires the insurance policy to protect their investment (your mortgage) in the property should a question of legal ownership come up.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Do NOT ignore these problems in your home.

Go ahead, you can admit it, there are home repairs that you have been ignoring. We all do it.  I teach home improvement classes, I was a home inspector for over 5 years and I'm a real estate broker and I procrastinate about doing home maintenance, too.  We all have busy lives and there are only so many things we can accomplish in any one day.  HOWEVER, there are some things that should NOT be ignored or your home can become a burden rather than a blessing.

Anything to do with water
Water is the enemy of your home and can do an incredible amount of damage if ignored for too long.  The top three things NOT to ignore when it comes to water are:
  1. Failing to maintain good seals in tubs and showers.  You should closely inspect the condition of
    the grout between your tiles, the caulk joints between tub or shower pans and walls and any corners or seams.  If you see any gaps or cracks take care of them as soon as possible.  
    • Putting clear caulk over cracks in your grout can serve as a TEMPORARY solution but you should re-grout as soon as practical. 
    • When re-caulking joints and seams remember that new caulk will not stick to old caulk. Remove all of the old caulking and be sure the entire area us clean and dry before applying new caulk. Use a silcone based caulk for tubs and showers. Click Here for tips on how to caulk
  2. Failing to monitor exterior drainage, especially downspouts and gutters.  All gutters should be clean, free of debris and in good condition.  Gutters should also be sloped towards the downspouts with no dips or low points.  Downspouts should be in good condition and should always direct water far enough away from the house to ensure that water does not drain near the foundation, enter into window wells or under concrete. Click Here for more information.
  3. Allowing pipes to freeze in cold weather.
    • Remember to drain your sprinkler system
    • Remove all hoses from hose bibs (outside faucets)

    • Insulate any water pipes that are near exterior walls or in unconditioned spaces (crawl spaces, basements, garages)
    • If you live in an older home you may want to open the cabinet doors under your sinks and leave the faucets on with a very small drip.  Moving water doesn't freeze as easily.
    • Click here for more information. 
Exterior Surfaces 

It is very easy to ignore the outside of your home.  Many of us drive into or garages and rarely give the outside of our home a second thought.  If you have any wood or wood composite products on the exterior of your home such as siding, window and door trim, decking, railings, etc. it is important to keep those surfaces sealed and/or painted.  Wood that is exposed the the elements (rain, wind, sun and freezing temperatures) will deteriorate very quickly and you may find yourself replacing entire portions rather than just repainting.   

Safety Devices

If you don't have a Carbon Monoxide Alarm you should BUY ONE TODAY.  Make sure you test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms regularly and replace the batteries at least twice a year.  If your smoke detectors or carbon monoxide alarms are more than 7 years old they should all be replaced.  
Click here for information about carbon monoxide

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why is my home the ONLY ONE in the neighborhood that hasn't sold???

If your home isn't selling I suggest you review the info-graphic below and have an honest discussion with your real estate professional.

Data provided by ActiveRain.com.

ActiveRain is an online community of real estate professionals who exchange best practices, write real estate blogs, and get free education from the industry and their peers.

#1 OVERPRICING - pricing a home can be complicated and if you worked closely with your broker to establish the initial listing price it may be time to do another market analysis.  The real estate market can be fickle and some neighborhoods are much more susceptible to seasonal sales trends.  If you didn't listen to your broker at first, it's time to change the price.

If you're confident the home is priced right you'll need to take a look in the mirror...

#2 SHOWING AVAILABILITY - If buyers can't see your home, they won't buy it.  Believe me, I know how frustrating it is to have strangers tromping through your home at what seems the most inconvenient times, but you MUST make it easy to see your home.  This is the FIRST IMPRESSION the buyer has regarding how easy or difficult this purchase process is going to be.   Don't ask for 24 hours notice, don't refuse to show your home on evenings and weekends (buyers work, too). Make sure you've made arrangements for any obstacles to showing your home (pets, guests, odd work hours). If you make it difficult to show your home I guarantee both the buyer and the broker are thinking, "I wonder if they're going to be this uncooperative during our transaction?"  Ask your real estate professional if they have a showing service that allows buyer's agents to set-up showings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It's important that every aspect of the showing process be simple and straightforward and clearly states, WE WANT TO SELL OUR HOME.

#3 EWWWW  - First impressions are everything. It's not easy for any real estate professional to have this conversation with a client but it has to be done.  If you're house smells like wet dog, the "air freshener" is not going to help. If your pet has peed on the carpet, it's time to replace it and have a friend care for your pet.  I truly am sorry if you have a condition that requires you to use medical marijuana but you MUST NEVER smoke inside your home (that goes for cigarettes, too).  It may cost $30 a month to store some of your things somewhere else but that's a small cost when compared to the delay in selling your home.  You hired a real estate professional for a reason, LISTEN to what they have to say. 

#4 BEING STUBBORN OR UNREASONABLE DURING NEGOTIATIONS - First take a deep breath... One important reason you hired a real estate professional to sell your home, was to create an  "arms length" transaction.  Buying and selling a home can be very emotional and buyers can seem unreasonable.  Remember, they are likely making the largest purchase of their life and want to be sure they're making the right decision.   Having a real estate professional handle the negotiations allows the emotions to be tempered on both sides of the transaction.  Every request by the buyer is not because they're jerks or that they're trying to steal your home.  Trust your broker to give you the insight you need during the negotiations.

#5 YOUR HOME CAN'T BE FOUND ON THE INTERNET - This one isn't shown on the info-graphic but I believe it is a much larger issue than many think.  97% of buyers are using the internet to search for homes (I believe it's 100%).  When choosing a real estate broker be sure they are tech savvy enough to ensure your home can be found on every real estate website and that the data is accurate.  Consider these items:

Thorough and accurate data is a must.  All fields in the listing should be filled out and accurate.  Ask your broker to print out your listing and compare it to the entry form to ensure all items are correct.  When buyers and their agents are searching for homes they are putting in search criteria and if it is incorrect in your listing, your home will be eliminated from their search results.

Attractive and correctly ordered pictures.  In our multiple listing service (MLS) an agent can enter up to 35 pictures, BUT, when that information is shared to sites like Zillow, Trulia and others only the first 10 or 15 pictures may transfer.  It is important that the 'money' shots are the first in the series.

If you're thinking of selling a home in the Denver Metro Area please contact me.  I would love to assist you in making the process as easy and stress free as possible.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kitchen Remodel - Before and After Pictures

Looking South West Before
Looking South West After
Looking South Before
Looking South After
Wall Before
Wall After
Looking North Before
Looking North After
Looking North West After
Looking North West Before

Kitchen Remodel - Almost Complete

Here are the final (almost) pictures.  The only thing we have left to do is install a light fixture in the ceiling and a pendant over the sink.  Those are both on order.  I looked and looked an finally found something I liked at Urban Lights on Sante Fe.  I'm continually surprised at how expensive lighting fixtures are.  Oh well, after all the money we've spent on this kitchen I guess I shouldn't complain and at least have what I want to finish it all off.
Here are pictures of the lighting I picked out.

The final pictures (without lighting)  I have a couple that show before and after paint.  We didn't have many walls to paint.  We painted the wall we had cut out and the back wall on the north side with the doorway to the family room.
Wall that was cut out.

Looking North West Before Paint

Looking North West After Paint

Kitchen Remodel - Upper cabinets and counter-top install

The upper cabinets and crown molding were installed which was quite an event considering our floor and our ceiling are not even remotely level or parallel to each other.  Having an old house, our's was built in 1959, that has been "updated" several times in the past certainly means things get interesting.  Although both Bill and I have hung cabinets before I would never have taken this job on myself. Special congratulations to Mike with Remarkable Remodeling for doing the crown molding.  Crown molding is difficult when the ceiling is level.  I'm still amazed at how great it all looks. 

Definitely a job for professionals!  Thanks to everyone at Remarkable Remodeling for their hard work!

Looking North

Looking South

Looking North East

Looking South West

Kitchen Remodel - Countertop stuff

I have been remiss and have not posted our progress as it was happening.  With Thanksgiving coming and the push to get everything done I just didn't take the time to keep you all updated.  I'm going to do the remaining posts as several different posts just to keep the pictures and commentary separated.

In a previous post I showed the base cabinets installed which needed to be completed to allow for a template to be created for the cutting of our new granite countertop.  Unfortunately I did not get pictures of the process of creating the template,  but I have to say it was very clever.  The young man who came by was quick and efficient and used a piece of plastic coated corrugated cardboard to create the template. Very nicely done.

I don't believe I talked about our adventure in choosing the granite slab for our counter-top.  We purchased our counter-top through Project Professionals (huge thanks to Jessica Padilla) who sent us to Bedrosians to pick out our granite slab.  I won't go into the long drawn out process I went through in my head to finally agree to granite let's just say I am SO glad I did.

Here's a picture of samples I was using to choose floor tile and granite colors.

I'll tell you, walking through the warehouse looking at all the granite slabs was just amazing.  They are all so beautiful and breathtaking, it's hard to choose the one you want.  It took us about 45 minutes to finally decide. Here's a picture of our very own slab before the shipped it to Cutting Edge Granite, who cut and installed it.

The picture does not do justice to the colors.  It really is beautiful.
While we were there we found some glass tile that matched perfectly to use in our back splash.

The next post will show pictures with the upper cabinets installed and some of the counter-top as it was installed.