All posts by Ryan Thompson


5 Ways to Stay Safe Financially During the COVID-19 Pandemic

woman animation planning her financesWe’re all experiencing an unprecedented time in our history; most of the country and large parts of the world are under some type of stay-at-home orders. While our team members at FAN are working hard to make sure your transaction closes on time, unfortunately, there is an army of unscrupulous people that are using this time to attack you financially.

As the world has turned to online services for financial transactions, 22% of Americans have been the target of fraud attempts in the past few weeks. They hope that you’re too preoccupied with the immediate need of social distancing to notice that the threats of fraud are still quite high.

With that in mind, here are 5 ways to stay safe financially during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic:

  1. DOUBLE CHECK YOUR CLICK – At least half of all COVID-19 related websites that have registered during this time are suspected of malicious activity. Be wary of ANY coronavirus specific website and pay attention to your clicks on social media or the internet. Before your click, check that the link is going to the expected website – preferably one you know already and trust.
  2. BE AWARE OF FAKE NEWS – Scammers are creating fake news stories on contaminated websites in hopes that you’ll not only read them, but share them online – all to get you and your friends to visit their malicious websites. While some of these websites may look legitimate, they can hide spyware or be phishing for your data. Check all news stories to ensure they are from mainstream media sources.
  3. VERIFY THE SENDER – The FBI warns of a significant threat of phishing emails relating to economic stimulus payments, charitable and relief contributions, fake cures, vaccines, and testing kits. If you’re not sure, click on the sender’s EMAIL ADDRESS (but not any links in the email) to see if the email matches the sender. If you’re not 100% sure who the sender is and that you were the intended recipient, do not open or forward the email.
  4. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS – While you should always be cautious about your passwords, it’s good practice to change them during times of accelerated fraud activity. Some experts recommend using pass phrases instead of complicated passwords, which may be easier to remember. Also, it’s not OK to share passwords among websites and other places to prevent your passwords being stolen from one website and used on another.
  5. DON’T TEXT BACK – Have you heard of SMISHING? It’s a new form of information phishing that hackers are using to send you text messages that include links or will appear to be from legitimate sources. Remember the same tips from your emails and don’t trust anything unless you’re SURE who the sender is. Delete anything you’re not sure about. Also, no one will ask for your password via text messages, so if you get a text asking for ANY passwords, it’s delete-worthy!

Those are just a few ways to help you stay safe while we all are trying to keep our distance from one another. Remember, while you should always use caution when banking, communicating or shopping online, now is the time to be EXTRA vigilant.

 


eClosings: Welcome to the Future!

businessman-hands-signing-digital-signatureYOU Are a Time Traveler!

Congratulations to you, the time-traveling realtor, for helping to advance closings of the future. If you’re not as excited as we are, it’s likely that you don’t know you’re a part of the future of real estate – eClosings.

What Is an eClosing?

An eClosing is any closing where documents are delivered and executed electronically. If you’re a customer of any Florida Agency Network title agency, you have probably participated in an eClosing as we stay on the cutting edge of closing technology.

If you’re not already one of our lucky time travelers, here’s what an eClosing can look like for you and your customers:

  1. Using our online portal, your customers are not at the mercy of office hours to have documents sent or received. There is no need to fax or come into the office.
  2. Some documents will be sent directly to your customers to be signed electronically. Most modern mortgage documents are signed with services such as Docusign or Adobe Sign.
  3. A digital PDF copy of the Closing Disclosure is sent electronically for review by you and your customers.

Then, most importantly, when it comes to the actual closing day, you and your customers have many choices on where – and HOW – to execute the final documents:

  1. Come to any of our 25+ offices to sit with one of our licensed title agents who can answer any questions you might have. They may have you sign at least some of the  documents electronically.
  2. Next, have your customers meet you at their home, place of work, or your office. We can send one of our “Mobile Closers” to you to make the closing completely convenient and have someone guide your customers through the documents.
  3. With RON, or remote online notarization, you may be able to have your customer close anywhere in the WORLD – while they are on vacation, a work trip, or just sitting on the beach. They just need to be a U.S. citizen and have a strong WiFi connection.

So, while we’re still waiting for our flying cars and robot maids, you can join us in the future today!

 

 


Tax time – How to Get Your Documents from Our FAN Portal!

tax season

A few things in life are certain, and taxes are one of the least enjoyable ones. For real estate agents that are guiding their customers through one of the most important financial decisions of their life, it’s vital to understand that they are likely to have tax implications when buying or selling a home and to know how to get them started on the right path to properly file.

Jake Alexander, President of Action Accounting in Clearwater, states that “it’s very important for real estate agents to advise their clients to know their dates and know their numbers, so they can file properly the first time and not have to deal with a surprise letter from the IRS years down the road.”

Luckily, Florida Agency Network is equipped with a secure portal that allows YOUR buyers and sellers to pull their documents in the privacy of their own home.

Both buyers and sellers can login to the same portal they used when purchasing or selling their home and navigate to the documents section to find their tax documents.

  • Buyers should pull their ALTA statement from the “SETTLEMENT STATEMENT” section of the portal. They should also keep track of purchase documents and improvements they make to their home to reduce their tax liability within the 24-month exemption of capital gains in case of the sale of the property.
  • Sellers will need to pull the 1099 forms provided on the portal and report those on their taxes. The issue of tax liability when selling their home will rely on many factors, and they should seek the advice of a tax professional to answer any questions.

Be sure to mention the availability of these documents to your buyers and sellers throughout the year and consider setting up a calendar reminder to touch base with all of them at tax time. They’ll appreciate the reminder!

As always, if you need any assistance with helping your customers locate their documents, please feel free to reach out to any of our locations. 

 

 


What can RON do for your clients?

Young operator

Who can you help with eClosing technology?

For months, your Title Agent has told you about how 2020 is the year of remote online notarization (RON), and we’re proud to be the first title company in Florida to offer completely paperless eClosings! While it’s certainly a cool new way to complete your closing, the real question is – how can WE help YOU help YOUR customers?

We’ve put together a few examples of real world customers that would benefit from our eClosing and RON solutions.

Closings with Multiple Signers

Florida has one of the highest rates of inherited properties, and many times, the children who are inheriting these homes live all over the country or even abroad. This can create confusion and lengthy procedures because, under a typical closing, the title agency must provide a mail-away package or arrange for each person to visit a separate closing room. Now, all parties involved can sign at the same time, regardless of physical location – saving everyone involved time and money!

Sellers Traveling or Stationed Internationally

Traveling or working out of the country is usually planned well in advance, but sometimes, members of the military, those with jobs that call them abroad, or even vacationers can get caught with a closing before they make it back to the States. While there are solutions available for out-of-country sellers, it usually requires finding a notary at a US Embassy/Consulate, and there have been cases where transactions fell through because this wasn’t possible. RON is an excellent solution to help facilitate this and can help make the process that much easier.

Have you ever traveled and needed to sign documents for a closing but can’t find a witness to assist the Notary? With the new RON technology, witnesses now potentially can be anywhere in the US using this technology!

Older Individuals Who Cannot Travel Easily

For some customers, the simple act of traveling to one of our 20+ offices can be too cumbersome to manage. Completely mobile closings are popular and offer these customers the ability to close in the privacy of their own homes without requiring them to invite strangers onto their property. RON is an excellent solution for them and allows them to complete a secure closing without ever leaving home.

As you can see, there are many ways you can add RON and eClosings to the toolbox of services that you offer your clients. If you’d love to learn more about RON, the eClosing process, and what we can offer you in this new digital age of closings, simply schedule an in-office training for your team. To set up one of these educational events, contact your Title Rep today!


What’s in a Name? When It Comes to Your Deed, Everything.

couple holding key to new home

We all remember the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. It was a story of love, tragedy, and (SPOILER ALERT) a SERIOUS lack of communication. While tragic in the end, it’s a great story to recall around Valentine’s Day, and it’s one that can be used to help your customer make sure their story has a better outcome.

Sometimes even a star-crossed couple will make the largest decision of their lives – the decision to purchase a home. While many couples will pool their assets, get a joint mortgage, and take title together, sometimes that’s not possible or one spouse already owns a home before marriage. In pre-marriage ownership scenarios, if one spouse solely owned the home before the marriage, their new, non-owner spouse will need to sign a deed and/or mortgage on the property for the owner spouse to sell it or mortgage it – unless they get a divorce prior to the sale. (Hey, Romeo & Juliet WAS a tragedy after all!)

So, in Florida, even if a spouse is not going to be on the title or a promissory note to repay a mortgage, they still need to sign the deed when selling the property or getting a loan. That’s because, unlike the Capulets and Montagues, today’s couples have something that Romeo and Juliet didn’t – the Florida Constitution.

Article X, section 4, of the Florida Constitution, also known as the Homestead Exemption, is a powerful law that offers many benefits to Florida citizens. You may already be aware of the tax benefits of declaring your “homestead” that are outlined in section 6, but section 4 has some other, lesser known, and noteworthy protections, including:

  1. Exemption of Forced Sales, Even at Death
  2. Restrictions on Wills & Estates
  3. Rules on Alienation or the Voluntary Act of Disposing of a Property

Section 4 helps guarantee that a Florida homeowner cannot be forced to sell their home to repay a debtor in most situations outside of mortgage repayment, mechanical liens, and outstanding property taxes. It also allows tax protection when the couple sells their home and intends to use the profits to buy another home.

To protect as many citizens as possible under these laws, married couples are required to sign the deed to the property when they sell the home. This means that if the Capulets had ever convinced Juliet to leave the Montague she married, she could not have sold their home without Romeo knowing about it. Also, neither she nor Romeo could leave the home to a minor child in their will, without the other party waving at least a portion of their rights.

So, while we are sure that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, make sure your customers understand why both spouses’ name should be on any deed once married and stay tuned for more tips to help your customers to come as we move further into the year.

Until then, parting is such sweet sorrow…..