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Commercial and Residential Real Estate

Wire Fraud in Real Estate Transactions

Wire Fraud in Real Estate Transactions

Wire fraud is on the rise everywhere and the Federal Reserve is being asked to take a more proactive role in preventing it, especially as it relates to real estate transactions. Two key points are:

1. All parties involved in the real estate transaction need to help educate customers on the dangers of wire fraud and on the ways to protect data and funds. For example, by encouraging consumers to call their known reputable source at a verified number to verify instructions before transmitting funds.

2. Financial institutions on the receiving end should match not only the account number but also the payee’s name when there is a wire transfer. Oftentimes fraudulent wire instructions will say the transfer is to be sent to the attorney’s trust account, for example, but instead it goes to the criminal’s personal account as beneficiary.

If you intend to wire funds to us and suspect anything may be wrong with the instructions, please phone us to verify. If we have sent you instructions and you suddenly receive an email asking you to wire to a different account, phone us to verify. We have only (1) IOLTA account, so we will never change our instructions and ask you to wire to a different account.

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The process of buying and selling a home

The process of buying and selling a home

1. An offer is accepted by the seller and a contract is signed by both parties, marking the effective date of the contract.
2. At the same time , a deposit is paid to an attorney, broker or escrow agent. The deposit does not become the property of the seller until the closing takes place.
3. The buyer reviews and signs off on any disclosures. These disclosures vary based on property type, but often include things like known flaws with the property, prior improvements or repairs, radon gas and lead paint disclosures.
4. The buyer may elect to perform inspections of the property as agreed upon in the contract and these inspections must be completed by a certain date, which is usually within 10-15 days. Based on the outcome of inspections, buyers have a certain number of days to provide the seller with a report revealing any defects and the buyer may elect to ask the seller for repair work, closing cost credits or a reduction in the sale price due to flaws that were uncovered.

For those borrowing to purchase a home, the mortgage process can be the most stressful part of the transaction. It’s best to start as early as possible and be ready to produce lots of documentation.

The detailed steps that make up closing are:

1. A title search is performed to determine if there are any liens or assessments on the title. Provided that the title is clear, the closing proceeds as planned.
2. A buyer’s attorney or title company begins preparing the paperwork to convey title to the property and schedule the date for closing.
3. A final cash figure for what a buyer needs to bring to the closing in the form of a cashier’s check is calculated. This is based not only on a mortgagees closing costs, but also the proration of property taxes and utilities..
4. A final walk through may be performed the day of or before closing to verify the property is in the same condition it was in when the process began.
5. At the closing table the buyer and seller sign all closing documents. At the conclusion of the closing the representative from the title company or your attorney will record the deed and any other documents with the appropriate registry of deeds.

After all of the documents have been signed and payments exchanged, buyers generally take possession of the keys unless a separate agreement has been reached to allow the seller stay in the property for a period after closing.

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Home Equity Line of Credit loans

Home Equity Line of Credit loans

An important thing to consider if you are paying off a home equity line of credit, also referred to as a HELOC. These are usually open ended loans that allow you to borrow on them for a designated period of time. Therefore, if you pay off the balance, the mortgage that is the security interest for repayment may not get discharged. When paying the loan in full, you must request in writing to have the loan marked paid in full and discharged.

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What is a Form PA-34

What is a Form PA-34

In New Hampshire, the Department of Revenue Administration is responsible for equalizing the value of property in each municipality. Equalization is used to accurately apportion county and school district taxes among the cities and towns and to distribute state revenues to the cities and towns.

To equalize property values, the Department of Revenue Administration annually conducts a sales/assessment ratio study for each municipality. The information provided on the PA-34 form is needed to assist the Department in determining whether a particular sale involved is an “arms-length transaction” and should be included in our equalization sales/assessment study.

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Homestead Rights in New Hampshire

Homestead Rights in New Hampshire

Under Homestead Exemption laws any property designated as a homestead is exempt from execution and sale by creditors for the payment of debts. The protected amount differs in each state, but in New Hampshire every person is entitled to $120,000 of his or her homestead to be exempt from the rights of creditors.

There are exceptions to the above and the following debts have precedence over the rights of homestead:

• The collection of taxes;
• The enforcement of liens of persons having done work for the construction, repair or improvement of the homestead;
• In the enforcement of mortgages on the property;
• In the enforcement of liens filed by homeowner or condominium associations for unpaid assessments.

No deed can convey or encumber the homestead right, except for a mortgage made at the time of purchase to secure payment of the money used to purchase the home, unless it is executed by the owner and spouse, if any. This is why, when a new mortgage is taken out or the property is conveyed, the husband and wife must both sign to release rights of homestead.

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Why is a new Lender’s Policy needed every time?

Why is a new Lender’s Policy needed every time?

Since the time that the original loan was made, you may have taken out a second trust deed on the house or had mechanic’s liens, child support liens or legal judgments recorded against you. These are all events that could result in serious financial losses to an unprotected lender. Regardless if it has only been 6 months or less since you purchased or refinanced your home, a myriad of title defects could have occurred. While you may not have any title defects, many homeowners do. The only way for a lender to adequately protect itself is to get a new lender’s policy each time you purchase or refinance your home.

Remember, title companies offer a refinance transaction discount if your last policy was written within 3 years. Be sure to ask us how it can save you money.

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One of the latest wiring scams involving title companies

One of the latest wiring scams involving title companies

Just as soon as one type of wire scam is uncovered it seems like a new one pops up. One of the latest versions involves the perpetrator sending the funding lender wiring instructions to a legitimate account belonging to an innocent, unknowing title company. In verifying the account number, the lender will see that the funds are being wired to a legitimate title entity.

Once the wire has gone through, the scammer contacts the unknowing title company and states that the funds were sent in error. The scammer gives the title company instructions for sending the funds back, but those instructions are fraudulent and the funds will be sent to the scammer. The title company then confirms that it was not entitled to the funds and sends them back using the account information that it has received from the scammer.

The lesson to be learned here is that if you receive wired funds in error, the wire should be rejected. In doing so, the funds will automatically go back to the original sender.

Everyone needs to be vigilant in dealing with wire transfers, verifying information by directly contacting the other parties through secure channels and being skeptical when instructions are changed at the last minute or appear out of the ordinary.

 

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How do money wiring scams work?

How do money wiring scams work?

In a money wiring scam, a dishonest person lies and tricks you into wiring money to them.

The scammer might say:you won a prize, or inherited money, but you have to pay fees first;

  • you won the lottery, but you have to pay some taxes first;
  • a friend or family member is in trouble and needs you to send money;
  • you need to pay for something you just bought online before they send it;
  • you got a check for too much money and you need to send back the extra.

These are all tricks.  If you wire money, the scammer will keep it and you will not get your money back.

Wiring money is like sending cash.  If someone you do not know asks you to wire money it is probably a scam. Scammers are clever and they try to make things look real. They are good at fooling people and they also want to rush you. They want your money before you have time to think, but before you do anything, stop and check.

If you have already wired money to someone who contacted you…that money is probably gone. Remember, if you gave money to a scammer once, you will probably be targeted again . The best thing you can do to help yourself and others is to report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission.

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Owner’s and Lender’s Title Insurance

Owner’s and Lender’s Title Insurance

Lender’s Policy – If you have ever taken out a mortgage on your home it is likely that the lender required you to purchase a title insurance policy. Then lender’s policy is also known as a loan policy and most lending institutions require it as a way to insure their security interest in the property. The policy protects the lender for as long as the loan is outstanding.

Owner’s Policy – As a buyer, you also want to protect your investment and your ownership rights in your property. That is why you should purchase an owner’s policy of title insurance.  This will protect your rights as the homeowner for as long as you or your heirs have an interest in the property.

Both of these title insurance policies pay valid claims along with the legal fees to defend against hidden title issues. They also help to decrease ownership risks by providing a thorough title search prior to the issuance of either policy.

Refinance Transactions – If you are refinancing your property you may be surprised to see that you are required to purchase a new lender’s policy of title insurance. This is because a lender’s policy only provides coverage for the life of a loan. When a home is refinanced that previous loan is paid off and the policy ends. Therefore, a new lender’s policy will be required. Because your owner’s policy provides coverage for as long as you own your home and additionally to your heirs, there is no need to purchase a new owner’s policy when refinancing

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Tenancy in New Hampshire

Tenancy in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has two types of tenancy, Tenants in Common and Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS). This has been the law in New Hampshire since November 13, 1959.

Every conveyance of real estate to two or more persons creates a tenancy in common pursuant to New Hampshire RSA 477:18. That means, that if the person preparing your deed fails to state the type of tenancy, you will automatically become tenants in common. When one person dies their half of the property will pass to their estate according to the probate process.

If you want to have your property pass to the surviving person that must be specifically stated. Your deed must state after your names “as joint tenants with rights of survivorship”. The property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant without the need of filing probate. You simply record the death certificate and in future deeds reference the death and state that you are the surviving joint tenant.

The failure to state tenancy, or stating it incorrectly, happens quite often, especially when the deed has been prepared by an out of state attorney who may not be familiar with our laws. Different states have different types of tenancy laws. We sometimes see a husband and wife owning property and thinking they owned it as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. One spouse dies and it is not until the other gets ready to sell the property that this is discovered. It can create quite a mess, take a while to clear up and ultimately delay the closing.

So use this information to take a look at your deed and be sure that you own your property the way you wanted. If you don’t, you can have a Quitclaim Deed prepared and record it to establish the proper tenancy that you want. Please give us a call at 603-836-5309 if we can assist you in this process.

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