A Policy by any Other Name – ALTA Homeowner’s Policy Demystified

Homebuyers choose ALTA Homeowners Title Insurance Coverage

What are the differences between Title Insurance Policies?

What kind of title insurance policy should the real estate buyer get? Does it make a difference? Is there a cost difference?

There are different types of title insurance policies with different coverages. In the past, standard or extended policies were the norm, but the Homeowner’s Policy (“ALTA Homeowner’s Policy for One-to-Four Family Residence”) has become the new standard for residential transactions. This expanded coverage policy is the default policy called for in Paragraph “e” of the NWMLS Residential Purchase and Sale Agreement. It is the best choice in most residential transactions involving platted lots with an existing home. But it’s not available for all transactions, including waterfront homes, large acreage, or if the buyer is a corporation.

The Homeowner’s Policy Benefits

The Homeowner’s policy offers significant benefits in three respects: First, affirmative coverages are built right into to the policy for such things as off-record survey related matters, the existence or impact of easements, boundaries and encroachments. And it includes significant areas not previously covered by title insurance, such as certain zoning problems (including relating to building permits) and platting irregularities. Second, the policy is written in “plain language.” It has never been easier to interpret the title policy’s “fine print”.   And finally, for the first time some limited coverages are available for future events historically excluded from policies – including, for example, you discover the former owner didn’t get a building permit for the out building that the County has now red tagged.


There may be a trade-off though because some covered matters have deductibles – either a stated percentage or a dollar amount, whichever is less. It is important for the Realtor® to remember that the benefit would be valuable only if (1) a defect was not subject to a deductible, or (2) if the cost of taking care of it exceeded the deductible. In other words, if the loss is lower than the deductible, no payment would be made under the policy even if the claim would otherwise be covered. If it exceeds the dollar limit only the amount between the deductible and that limit would be covered.

For example, assume the owner has to spend $2000 to remove and rebuild a wall and fence because they encroach onto the neighbor’s land. While it’s covered by the policy there is a $2500 deductible. So, none of the cost is reimbursable. Now, if the cost was $5000, then reimbursement would be available for $2500 – the first $2500 is the owner’s responsibility because of the deductible, and the coverage caps out at $5000.

In the example above, the extended coverage policy would have been an appropriate option – it costs more initially, but there are no deductibles in the event of a covered claim. Ultimately, a buyer who has questions about the different types of policies can contact a Ticor Title representative or if they are concerned about which policy would be best suited to a transaction should seek legal advice.

The Home Buyer Has A Choice

Even though the Homeowner’s policy is an excellent choice the Realtor® should always make sure that the buyer and seller understand that there are options to choose from.   If another form is desired by the buyer it must be addressed in the purchase and sale agreement, and then it must be confirmed that the title commitment actually reflects the correct policy.

Do you have questions or comments about the ALTA Homeowner’s policy?

Please share by commenting below!

Receive Recorders office holiday schedule via text

We’re launching a new service that will remind you via text message when the King County, Pierce County and Snohomish County Recorders’ Offices are closed for holidays!

Just text the word ‘RECORDER’ to the number 47170.

Recorders office holiday schedule King Pierce Snohomish County

Download The Recorders Office Schedule

The King Pierce and Snohomish county recorders’ offices will be closed for a total of nine holidays in 2011. And we all know that when the recorders offices are closed, it can affect the closing of our real estate transactions. So for your convenience we’ve put together an at-a-glance calendar that clearly shows the holiday schedule. That nice looking calendar can be downloaded by clicking the image to the right.

But wouldn’t it be better if you could just simply be reminded a few days in advance of when the Recorders’ offices will be closed for holidays? How about a text message reminder right to your phone?

Here’s how it works.

If you would like to receive a text message that reminds you of the recorders’ office holiday schedule, just text the word ‘RECORDER‘ to the number 47170. You’ll recieve a welcome message once you subscribe. Then three days prior to every Recorders office holiday closure date, you’ll get a short text message reminding you of the day and date of the closure.

Try it today! Text the word ‘RECORDER‘ to the number 47170

Or simply click on the button below to subscribe right now…

These are the dates that the recorders offices are closed during 2011

Monday, January 17
Monday, February 21
Monday, May 30
Monday, July 4
Monday, September 5
Friday, November 11
Thurs – Friday, November 24-25
Monday, December 26

Matt Sweet
Ticor Title

Order Customer Service and Title & Escrow Via Text / SMS Messaging!

We are very excited to announce that you can now order title and escrow & real estate property information via text / SMS messaging!  Our Client Services / Property Research team across the King, Pierce, Snohomish area is fully equipped to receive property information requests and title & escrow orders from you via text if that’s the way you prefer to communicate!

Simply text your property info requests and title and escrow orders to:


Why are we offering ‘order by SMS text messaging’?

woman ordering title and escrow via text sms messaging

Text Ticor Customer Service at 425-298-7575

Have you noticed the people around you texting a lot more lately?  Have you noticed yourself texting more and more?  Or more importantly, have you noticed that your clients prefer to communicate with you via text…. According to CTIA, Americans sent 173.2 Billion text messages during the month of June 2010.  That’s an increase from 7.2 Billion text messages sent during the month of June 2005 (CTIA is the International Association for the Wireless Teslecommunications Industry).

And that’s just texting… Smartphones in general are on a rapid rise.  A Nielsen study predicts that by the end of 2011 smart phones will hold the majority of the mobile phone market.  Another study showed that banking via mobile devices has grown 129% in the US over the last two years.

So logically with information and services becoming more mobile every day, this leads us to a few important questions:  What if you could send a text to order property research or title and escrow for your real estate listing?  What if all you needed was a single phone number for communicating with your favorite Title and Escrow company?  What if the Puget Sound’s most seasoned property information specialists were a text away?

So give it a try today!  If you have a service request or would like to open title on a property, hit us with a text at 425-298-7575 right now!

And remember that Title Insurance orders placed electronically will receive a 5% discount (click here for discount details).

6 Tips for Reading Plat Maps

how to read a plat map

Each day, most real estate professionals access ‘Plat Maps.’ The need for these maps varies for each property, and each circumstance.  In Ticor’s effort to make things easy for clients, we thought you could use some ‘Pointers’ about working with Plat Maps!

6 Tips for Reading Plat Maps:

1.  Access –  Access is simply how someone can physically reach the property.  We have a sample for you here, where you can see that ‘Access’ is shown on map, by

A. city or county road,
B. private driveway (flagpole lot),
C. shared driveway with common ownership,
D. shared driveway with easement, and
E. private road.

Click the map to view an explanation of types of access

2. Views – Ticor usually provides a ‘Close –up’ view of the lot, along with a larger view.  Viewing the larger view will help you identify important points, such as where your lot is located, in relation to a major thoroughfare, or greenbelt.

3.  Dimensions – These are usually given for the lot as shown, but there can be variances.  But, what if no Dimensions are showing?

Places to check further for ‘Dimensions,’ are always available thru Ticor Property Info.  For example, Ticor Property Info Specialists can give you a copy of the ‘Face of the Plat’ if available; or can provide approximate dimensions with a map measuring tool.

4.   Unplatted, or Platted Property – Platted Property is created by the developer recording a plat. Unplatted parcels are not  in a recorded subdivision. Platted  land often has “lot and block” legal descriptions, and unplatted usually has “metes and bounds” legals. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule! For platted parcels, we can look at the face of the plat for a wealth of information about the lot and its surroundings. We’ll address this in depth soon, here at TicorBlog.com.

5.  Location of Lot – As it relates to a block, always useful to know. We’ll address this more in a future article.  In the meantime, it is always wise to check where your subject property ‘sits’ on a block, based on what you’ve seen, vs. what is showing on your Plat Map. Are these different? If so, it’s time to ask for some help from Ticor!  You can also compare the lot size to the acreage or lot square feet given on the property profile.

6. Troubleshooting Plat Maps – Don’t assume boundary lines, based on what is showing on a Plat Map. While Plat Maps can give a good idea as do the location of these lines, the only definitive way to know exact boundary lines is thru a survey.

One last note:  Remember, King County’s Plat Maps display information a bit differently than Snohomish or Pierce County.

Our Property Information Specialists are at your service!

Ticor Email for Property Info:   cs.wa@ticortitle.com

Ticor Seattle / Renton:
Ticor Bellevue:
Ticor Puyallup / Pierce County:
Ticor International:
206-720-6969 / 425-255-6969
Note: Some charges may apply, in accordance with Washington State Insurance Commissioner Guidelines, but profile, map and deed are always free

Do you have questions, comments, or tips that you would like to share regarding plat maps? Please share your thoughts, questions, or comments below!

4 Hot Tips for Working with Escrow on an REO Closing

Real Estate Owned transactions are much more common now than in recent years. And if you’re a Real Estate agent in the Seattle area, chances are you’ve been doing your homework on how to make these types of transactions flow better for everyone involved. Our escrow team has put together a few tips that will help:

The Seller requires the Buyer’s name(s) to appear on the purchase and sale EXACTLY how the vesting will be displayed on the ensuing Deed.
If there is a discrepancy between the two, the Seller will require an addendum to rectify this discrepancy. This can save a ton of time in the beginning portion of the REO Process and help eliminate future delays in closing.

Always review the Seller’s “Counter Addendum” to avoid surprises.
Escrow reviews the Counter Addendum for instructions regarding the closing. Some things we normally see addressed are: Closing extension fees, max seller paid closing costs, excise tax, actual closing dates, “property as is” clause, utilities ‘not’ paid through closing, etc.

4 tips for REO Escrow Closing

Click the image above to download 4 hot tips for REO closings.

Remind your Buyers that their Lender’s delivery of Loan Documents is the beginning of the final stage of closing.
This means Escrow absolutely needs the Loan Documents to generate a HUD for the Buyer’s Lender to approve. Consequently Escrow cannot send a HUD for the Sellers approval until the Buyer’s Lender is satisfied with the Buyer’s portion of the HUD. This is different than your standard transaction where your seller can sign ahead of time.

Depending on the Seller and their processing time frames; reviewing, signing and returning the Seller Approved/Signed HUD can take anywhere between 24-72 hours.
What this means is the Buyer’s Lender cannot fund the transaction until they have a Seller Approved HUD, even if Escrow has signed and submitted the Buyers funding package to the funding department. This is a commonly misunderstood portion of the process and can help set Buyer expectations in the final days of closing. It is best to plan for the full 72 hours anticipating any last minute delays from the seller.

How about you? Do you have questions or feedback regarding the REO closing process? Please leave a comment below!

Deeds Indeed

Deeds Indeed

Signing the deed

Consider this… A bank is selling REO property, but will convey by “special” warranty deed, rather than the statutory warranty deed we usually see. Isn’t it still a warranty deed? Will the purchaser accept this? And, isn’t a statutory warranty deed required?

Types of Property Deeds

There are several types of deeds. A warranty” deed warrants title for all matters, no matter what they are or when they were created prior to the date of sale. It binds the seller for the benefit of the buyer and all heirs and assigns of both. Express warranties aren’t shown in the deed because Washington’s statutes say what they are – hence a “statutory” warranty deed includes them without recitals in the deed. (The warranties are set out in RCW 64.04.030.)

A quitclaim deed means that no covenants of warranty are included at all. The buyer gets only whatever interest the seller has, good, bad or ugly (and may even be nothing). It is often used to clear a cloud on the title. (These deeds are provided for by RCW 64.04.050.)

A bargain and sale” deed falls somewhere in the middle. It also has statutory definitions, and means the seller is limiting covenants of good title to only matters created during the time that the seller was in title or as specified in the deed. (The specifics are in RCW 64.04.040.)

The ability to further limit warranties gives rise to the special” warranty deed. It’s not a statutory form, but simply means the grantor is expressly stating in the deed what the limited warranties, if any, are.

Warranties may be unacceptable to a seller who shouldn’t have to assume that type of liability. Thus, a special warranty deed is used in fiduciary situations, including (in addition to the sale of REO property) a personal representative in a probate, a deed of trust trustee, and a trustee of a trust – all parties who aren’t responsible for matters arising before coming into title or who don’t have any active ownership of the land.

Warranties are valuable to a buyer because if there are problems or defects in the title, it is important to be able to sue the seller, even when the buyer has title insurance. That’s also why title companies like a warranty deed, because they have subrogation rights under the policy, meaning it can step into the shoes of the insured and sue the seller under the deed warranties. The buyer’s title policy still provides the same coverage no matter which type of deed is used.

Only the parties’ respective attorneys can offer advice in this area. The seller and purchaser need to agree on the form of deed. They each have valid legal reasons for their requirements. While it is unlikely that any REO seller will be willing to offer a statutory warranty deed, the form of deed ultimately comes from negotiation.

Do you have a question or comment about deeds?  Please leave a comment below!

Sustainable Development Clock Hour Class – March 24

Regional population growth is changing the Northwest!

Would you like to Gain an understanding of the patterns and demographics of our growing region and see the interrelationships of sustainable communities, smart growth and natural habitat conservation?

sustainability clock hour class seattle

Click the image to download the flyer

Come to this 3-hour class to familiarize yourself with the lingo of sustainability and develop your skills in conveying your knowledge to your clients.

Green site development is here to stay; it is rapidly growing and with more regulations coming that will make understanding these practices necessary to your business.

March 24th 2011 10-1PM
3 clock hours $35
Instructor: Patty Moriarty

Sterling Savings Bank Home Loan Division(Validated Parking!)
Metropolitan Park East Tower
1730 Minor Avenue, Suite 1100
Seattle, WA 98101

Register Today  – Call or Email:

Patty Moriarty 206.898.0356

More information at NativeGrowth.com

QR Codes and how we generate them

A while back we talked about what QR codes are and how we applied them to our marketing process for our Clock Hour Class in December. As a follow up to that post, today, we’re going to talk about how we went about generating our own unique QR codes.

How to generate a QR Code

Code Machine

Remember that QR codes have many applications. But, for our purposes, we are using the codes to enable smartphone users to easily find our web page of choice when they point their smart phone at our code which is on a printed flyer. If you think about it, QR codes are adding a whole new level of interactivity to printed materials. We joke about how antiquated print has become, how it’s not really forward-able or shareable, and how you can’t tweet it or add it to your favorites. But now that’s not such a problem because if a print item is QR code-enabled, a person with a smartphone can take action and (in Ticor’s case) register for a class, read a print article on the web, watch an escrow video, or ultimately order title and escrow

So Here are the steps we took to get and apply our QR code:

1. We decided what page we wanted our readers to land on. In our case we wanted our readers to have an easy way to register for our Real Estate Clock Hour Class via eventbrite.com. Our actual URL was http://foxburyclockhours.eventbrite.com.  We’ll call this the landing page URL

2. We copied the Landing Page URL and pasted it into a QR Code generator. We used http://qrcode.kaywa.com/. It’s free and easy to use. The QR code generator created our QR code and we saved it as an image to our hard drive.

3. We added the code to our print piece. We use InDesign, Word, and Publisher for various print pieces and each of them allow us to overlay the QR Code wherever we need to.

4. Finally, we tested it! It’s actually still a thrill to effectively “click” on a piece of paper to navigate to the web!

For more information about our Title & Escrow and Technology Clock Hour classes, please check out our Puget Sound Clock Hour Classes Page!

Property Information on demand saves the day

Real Estate Buyer

Click the image to download “5 Reasons to Order a Trio”

Having the right property information at the right time can sometimes make or break a sale.  At Ticor, we live and breathe property information.  It’s our job to examine every parcel in the Puget Sound area that we insure to know how it’s described, who has a claim to it, and how it may be used. And naturally this area of expertise becomes invaluable when a Real Estate agent needs information fast. Below is a true story that took place in December:

Right around December 16th, most of us were occupied with Holiday prep and planning.  But for Shawn L., it was a good day to handle a sign call.  Shawn had moved to a new brokerage in West Seattle a few months earlier, and he had several listings on the market.

‘Tell me about your listing,’ said the client.  This buyer was interested in a home that Shawn had listed in Seattle’s Central District, and phoned around 2 pm to ask about a showing.  And the buyer had several questions, most of which were easy to answer immediately. But, when the buyer asked ‘How much are property taxes for this home?,’  Shawn had to get help fast.  So, on the way to his showing appointment, he called Julie McCullough Hale with Ticor.

‘Can you get me property taxes for this address?’ asked Shawn.

‘Yes!  How about a property profile, legal description, and a plat map too?’ said Julie.

‘That would be awesome!’ replied Shawn.

And in 20 minutes, Shawn had all of this info at his fingertips, delivered to his iPhone.

Ticor sends free property information to our customers every day. What Shawn received on his phone was called a ‘Trio’ (Property Profile, Map, and Deed with Legal Description).  This is also called a ‘Listing Packet.’

Often, agents order title work at the time of listing a property, and Ticor always confirms this with an order number, and a ‘Free Trio.’  And even though it’s something that goes out dozens of times every day, our Property Info staff knows that every request is critically important to whoever contacts us.  In Shawn’s case, he needed his info on the run, since he was driving to meet a client.  He didn’t have time to personally research. So, he called the people he knew he could count on for accuracy and a fast turn around.

So, what happened with Shawn’s prospect?  Later that day, Shawn made another call to Julie with Ticor.

‘How quickly can we close for a cash buyer? I think he’d like to do so before Christmas.’

Property Information sent to your smartphone

Property Information sent to your smartphone

Julie let him know that with a clear title report, and a cash buyer, it was quite likely that closing could be completed within a week.  The next morning, his office called Ticor Escrow for an earnest money pick up.  And the best part – this transaction closed in under a week.  A nice end to a busy year for Shawn and his office.

‘We’re reminded every day how important our Property Info Services are,’ said Ryan Kalalau, Ticor Sales Manager.  ‘Getting the right info delivered quickly, is one of the most important services we offer.’

Thanks to:  Shawn L., West Seattle agent

Here’s a link where you can order your own ‘Free Trio’ right now!

Order free Ticor Trio HERE

Ticor Seattle / Renton:  206-720-6969 / 425-255-6969
Ticor Bellevue:  425-467-0377
Ticor Puyallup / Pierce County:  253-383-0055
Ticor International:  425-204-5113
Ticor Email for Property Info:   cs.wa@ticortitle.com

Download “5 reasons to order a trio” here

Do you have a story about how having the right information at the right time made the difference between winning and losing a deal? Please leave a comment below!

The REO Transaction Process Explained

REO (Real Estate Owned) properties make up a significant portion of the inventory in the Puget Sound real estate market. As a reality of the current real estate industry REO transactions draw plenty of confusion and frustration for many who are involved. Here at Ticor we’ve been handling a steady volume of REO properties and deal with some large REO accounts. Based on our experience with REO transactions we’ve produced the following outline.

Please understand the REO process described below represents an “average” experience and just like any real estate transaction many factors can affect time frames and conditions.  For more details, click the following link for hot tips on working with escrow on an REO closing.

The Beginning – Mutual Acceptance

The beginning is signified by mutual acceptance of the Purchase and Sales Agreement

Day 1 Escrow is opened and Title is OrderedEarnest Money is deposited
Day 2-3 Deed is prepared and sent to SellerBuyer’s vesting info is taken from the purchase contract, if incorrect the Seller will request proper vesting and an addendum will be required

Buyer’s Lender requests fees from Escrow

Escrow orders HOA, Lien Demands and other money matters associated with the property

Day 4-5 Seller will begin requesting weekly status updates from Escrow regarding specifics like the appraisal, inspections, earnest money deposits, underwriting criteria for buyer’s lender, etc.

The Middle – Underwriting (10-20 Business Days)

For the next 2-4 weeks the Buyer’s Lender will work on underwriting the loan for the transaction and await approval to move forward.

The End – Closing Process (3-7 Business Days)

Day 1 Buyer’s Lender delivers loan documents to EscrowEscrow completes an estimated HUD and sends to Buyer’s Lender for approval
Day 2-3 Buyer’s Lender approves estimated HUD and notifies EscrowUpon Lender HUD Approval, Seller’s HUD is sent for signature

Schedule Buyer to sign loan documentation

Day 3-6 Signed Buyer’s documents are received back at EscrowFunding Package is assembled and sent to Buyer’s Lender for final funding approval pending Seller Signed HUD

Seller Signed HUD is received by Escrow and forwarded to Buyer’s Lender to accompany the Funding Package


If the Buyer’s Lender is satisfied with the funding package and conditions the transaction will fund, the Deed will subsequently be recorded and the transaction will close.


Questions or thoughts?  Please leave a comment below!