What happens when you scan our QR codes… Best practices we use.

QR codes are still a bit of a buzz in the real estate community. At every sales or social – tech event, there’s at least one person who has a presentation about them. And whether you like them, hate them, use them, or don’t understand them, they’re here and people are talking about them. We’ve talked about them here before, explaining how we have used them in our marketing and how we generate the qr codes, etc… But we haven’t quite covered the best practices that we have adhered to in our usage of them.  Here they are…

Title Insurance and Escrow Order Form Optimized for Mobile Devices

An example of an order form optimized for mobile devices

Mobile Optimization – The question smart phone users ask subconsciously before they scan is, “Where are you taking me and will I have to squint?”  If someone takes the time to scan the fuzzy little code on our flyer or postcard we better give them a legible and usable experience! What this means is that when we direct someone to a website via qr code, that webpage should be optimized for the small smartphone screen. As an example, we have created a very simple, mobile optimized page for placing customer service and title & escrow orders. Test it out by scanning the code below to the right:

Is anyone scanning them? Tracking QR usage
As with all marketing activities, we need to measure the reach of each campaign to determine what our return is.  For QR codes, we track the number of scans by using the goo.gl URL shortener. This accomplishes two things for us. Firstly, because it shortens the URL, the resulting QR code is less complex, making it easier to scan from far away or when printed small. Secondly, goo.gl automatically counts the number of visits to the URL. All we have to do is log in to our Google account, go to goo.gl and it will tell us how many visits and when those visits occurred.

Order Title & Escrow

Scan the code above to see a mobile optimized title & escrow order form

Where we place them
What are the best locations for qr codes?  We have used them on filers, t-shirts, fortune cookies, and scan-to-win games at networking rallies.  In general they should be placed in a location where users will be close enough to actually scan them.  The ultimate goal is to provide an easy link for clients to watch an informative video, follow us on Twitter,  like us on Facebook, place orders, or request property info.

Where we don’t place them
In general, we don’t place qr codes online or in places where it’s impractical for users to scan them. QR codes on billboards may be impractical for obvious reasons.  And this may be stating the obvious but if we have a user already on our website, it doesn’t make much sense for us to ask them to scan a code (unless of course it is to illustrate a point as in this post).

Those are some of the ways you’ll see us using this technology moving forward.  So if you see one, give it a scan and look for the best practices mentioned here.

If you have suggestions or feedback, please let us know by commenting below!

$1.5M Foreclosure Fraud Scheme Busted

During a routine title exam, Lisa H. uncovered a forged quit claim deed. After a more thorough investigation, Lisa discovered the deed was one of many recorded by two brothers who were recently charged with a $1.5 million fraud scheme.

Foreclosure Fraud Lisa works for one of our sister companies as a title examiner. She was examining the chain of title for a residential sale of property in San Bernardino County, Calif. with a $350,000 sale price when she came across a deed she was sure was forged.

These were the signs that made her question the deed:

  • To avoid the payment of transfer tax, the transfer was declared a “gift” on the face of the deed
  • It was an uninsured deed and not recorded by a title company
  • The deed was handwritten
  • The handwriting matched the signatures on the document, including the signature of the notary
  • The notary stamp reflected the notary’s last name as “Desahagun” however the notary clearly signed his name as “Deshagun”
  • The notary’s name was listed on the office postings as a suspect and all documents containing the notary’s stamp should be scrutinized
  • The grantor’s signature did not match signed documents recorded previously in the chain of title
  • The “when recorded mail to” name and address was neither the grantor’s nor the grantee’s
  • Lisa ran a search on the grantee’s name, David Zepeda, and found approximately 70 other properties in which he was suddenly the owner

Lisa brought the deed to the attention of the advisory title officer and together they called the escrow officer to provide their detailed findings and to notify the escrow officer our underwriters would not be issuing a policy for this transaction. The escrow officer in turn called the property owner to find out if he in fact executed the handwritten deed. It turns out he did not. Lisa was right, the deed was a complete forgery and the true owner stated he had no intentions of selling his property.

The property owner then reported the incident to the District Attorney’s office. As it turned out, he was not the only victim of David Zepeda. The District Attorney’s office confirmed that David Zepeda and his brother, John Zepeda, were being investigated as part of a ring of suspects involved in a foreclosure scheme known as the David Zepeda Trustee Foreclosure scam, which so far has claimed hundreds of victims.

This story is an excerpt from our parent company’s Fraud Insights newsletter.  To read the entire article, click here.

A Proactive Approach at Ticor Title Northwest
Our seasoned Title Officers, Examiners, Escrow Officers, and Escrow closers in Ticor’s Puget Sound operation are trained to operate with the highest standards of conduct.  We are proactive in our efforts to identify potentially fraudulent activity in any transaction.

Questions or comments?  Please share by leaving a comment below!

 

REO Transaction? Watch for these details when setting client expectations…

Checklist for REO Transactions

Buying an REO (or Real Estate Owned) property involves a slightly different escrow process than your standard home sale. Realtors and Buyers need to remember that they are in escrow with a Bank/Lender (the “seller”) and the Bank/Lender has strict procedures in place that must be followed during the process.  Understanding certain details can help you set the proper expectations with buyers and help ensure that your REO escrow goes as smooth as possible.

Here is a glimpse of the details to look out for if you’re in an REO transaction.

Tips for smoother REO Transaction

Click the image above to download tips for REO transactions.

The Seller – In an REO transaction the Seller is an “out of state” Bank. The Bank contracts a 3rd party “Asset Management Company” which represents them in the transaction and approves the final escrow closing documents. All correspondence is done by email or by their website.

Title Commitment (prelim) – Escrow will handle ordering title to insure it is ordered from the appointed “title company”. This could be a local or national division depending on the arrangements the Seller has made.

Home Owners Association (HOA) – If you are aware of an active HOA, please be sure Escrow is also notified to insure all delinquent dues are paid current at time of closing.

Loan Documents – Should be delivered to Escrow five working days prior to closing. Once loan documents are received and Buyer’s Lender has approved the estimated HUD Settlement Statement, escrow can set an appointment for the buyer. The earlier the documents are available, the better the chances are of an on-time closing. A HUD Settlement Statement should be available to the Lender 24 hours after receipt of Loan Documents.

Proactive Communication

Our seasoned escrow staff believes that clear, early, and frequent communication with our clients is critical with every escrow closing.  With that in mind, we provide the information here to our clients immediately when an REO transaction is opened.  Being aware of potential roadblocks early in the process allows time for all parties to be better prepared and sets the stage for a positive closing experience.

Courtesy Signing – If the Buyer is unable to sign with the assigned Escrow Officer, an approved Mobile Notary will be required and an additional fee could be charged. Your Escrow Officer will arrange for the courtesy signing once the loan documents have been received.

“Seller documents cannot be sent until Buyers documents have been received.”

Seller Documents – Seller documents cannot be sent until Buyers documents have been received. The REO Seller and their 3rd party Asset Company may require 24-72 hours to approve the HUD after ALL demands have been received.

Courier Fees – Buyer courier fees will be “estimated” at time of signing and adjusted to the actual cost of courier fees at the time of funding.

Buyer / Lender Funds for Closing – To meet closing deadlines, we highly recommend wiring the funds. If you send a Cashier’s Check it will need to be held in the Trust Account overnight before we can record. If a Personal Check or Official Check is presented, it could require a 10 day hold before we could close and disburse funds.

Funding – Escrow will coordinate with the Buyer’s Lender on the Bank’s HUD approval before funding can occur. (Changes to the Seller’s side of the HUD require additional Seller approval).

Have you been a part of an REO transaction where one of these potential hurdles was cleared because an escrow officer alerted you? Please share by commenting beow!

Water Boundaries & Title Insurance

waterfront boundaries and title insurance
The Realtor® has a great listing – it’s beautiful beachfront property. But, the buyer wants to know what she actually gets for the premium price. Is the beach hers? Can anyone else walk along the beach in front of her house? Can she put in a dock for her boat? If the beach starts to erode can she put it something to stop it? Will the title company guarantee her rights to the beach?

tipTip: Click the keyword links in this post to view the definition of the keyword (i.e. click on: navigable waters). Click the link again to hide the definition.

There are three main areas of concern to the buyer

  • The first is title – that is, who owns the beach?
  • The second is the location of the boundaries – how far out does the owner’s title extend, where is the boundary between the upland and the beach, and does the upland boundary extend straight out into the water?
  • The third is use – what can the owner or others do on the beach or the water?

These waterfront issues are complicated, and the Realtor® should never assume anything about who owns what and what rights the upland owner has to use or control use of the beach.

Who owns the beach?
On navigable waters on Puget Sound, the title company will only insure land that was deeded by the State. But for non-navigable lakes or streams all upland owners would own not only the “beach” but also the submerged land out to the center. But then, where is the location of the side boundaries that extend out into the water? If a dock is built, how can the upland owner know if it extends over the line? That issue will likely require a survey that will satisfy both owners.

What use can be made of the beach or the water?
A waterfront owner has riparian rights to use the water but so do all the other upland owners. None could, for example, dam a stream to create a pond or re-route the course of a stream or dredge or add fill to a lake. Water itself is not owned privately – it’s a natural resource, so the public can often also use the water.

Also, the state or federal government has broad regulatory authority under the public trust doctrine affecting both the water and the uplands to the extent it is necessary to protect water quality, fishing resources and public commerce. So a bulkhead intended to preserve upland property, or a dock into the water or even a house on the uplands can be regulated or prohibited altogether.

“A waterfront owner may be out of luck if there are changes to the course of a stream that eliminate access to it.”

And nature will take it’s course…
It’s also important to note that nature can impact title to the land. For example, a waterfront owner may be out of luck if there are changes to the course of a stream that eliminate access to it. More importantly, if a stream is the boundary, owners on both sides might either gain or lose land. If the change is sudden (a man-made or natural mudslide, for example) title won’t change, but the land may be high and dry with no access rights. But, if it happens gradually over a long time period, the boundary line might also move – meaning one of the owners gains land and the other one loses land, but water access would remain for both.

water boundaries and title insuranceThe title company will only affirmatively insure title and boundaries of waterfront land to the extent they’ve been established of record, and if not, will take exceptions to such matters. And, no use rights will be insured. Instead, exceptions for possible rights of other riparian owners or the public will be in the title policy.

Have you dealt with a water boundary concern on a real estate transaction?
Please share by leaving a comment below!

And if you want more detailed information on Waterfront Title in Washington state, you can download the manual by clicking here.