Mar 4, 2021

Electronic Signature Do's and Don'ts

The real estate industry has been ramping up its use of technology to conduct business over many years. Now, more than ever, buyers and sellers frequently execute signatures to seal the deal on contracts for efficiency and convenience.

Digitally signed real estate contracts became more popular about 15 years ago with the passage of electronic signature law. These laws support the principle that e-signatures and records hold the same legal authority as pen and paper records. E-signing documents is mainstream in 2020.

But before you sign on the virtual dotted line, please follow these important suggestions:

DO realize that electronically signed contracts are legally binding just like a traditional, hand-signed document. Treat it as you would any legal document.

DON’T sign too quickly. One of the beauties of electronically signing documents is that it is quick and easy. But it’s not a race. “But I didn’t see that” is not an excuse to present later. All electronically presented documents should comply with legal requirements to enable to signer to view and read the document prior to signing.

DO read the entire document. Don’t just view the document – read it. You know there is a difference. Missing a checked box about the survey, financing, deadlines, etc. could cost you big bucks later.

DON’T rely on your verbal requests to actually appear in writing on the contract. If you want a home warranty, check to see if it is there. If the dining chandelier is supposed to be excluded, ensure that it is in writing. Verbal agreements are not legal in Texas real estate.

DO keep a copy (either electronically or printed) of the documents you sign. I like to save resources and operate paperless as much as anyone. But keep in mind the size of your real estate investment and commitment. All too often, a buyer or seller doesn’t have a copy of the contract they signed until someone like me sends it to them days after they have signed. 

DO track, save and label all signed documents. Often a contract may go back and forth between parties while they are negotiating. The changes may be slight but significant. Keep a copy of the last document that you signed to avoid misunderstandings. Just like paper documents, electronic contracts can be altered after they are signed. Unlike a paper document, electronically signed contracts are time stamped if proof is needed.

DON’T blame your agent or anyone else if you sign a document electronically and later claim it isn’t what you intended. If the terms and conditions are not clear before you sign, then don’t rush into signing. 

Today’s technology options make it quick and easy to digitally sign most documents on smartphones, laptops, tablets and workstations. The processes for authentication and verification of signers is safe and sophisticated.

Although real estate contracts can be executed completely electronically, the use of e-signatures is optional. If you’re unsure about electronically signing a contract, the traditional process of using ink and paper still works.

[where: 75230]

Feb 6, 2021

New Real Estate Survey measurement rules

Not all surveyors have two right feet. But some do.

For more than 100 years, there have been two different survey definitions of the 12-inch measurement known as a foot. But change has been afoot for some time for the official measurements used by U.S. surveyors.

Many land surveyors use the widely accepted International Foot for measurements. However, the “U.S. Survey” foot is still used by some land surveyors in 40 U.S. states and territories. Texas is one of them.

Soon the International Foot will be mandated for use throughout the U.S. The National Institute of Standards and Technology states that the International Foot will become officially used by all surveyors by 2022. That means the Texas system of using the U.S. Survey Foot will need to get the boot. The Texas Legislature designates the state standard for survey measuring applications in the Texas Natural Resources Code, Subtitle B, Chapter 21.

The difference between these measurements is miniscule. When measuring a mile, the International Foot is about an eighth of an inch smaller. So it’s not going to make a difference in your average residential survey. But it can make a difference when measuring large distances. In a measurement of 1 million feet, the difference is 2 feet.

The problem started almost 90 years ago. In 1893, the U.S. government definition of a foot was 1,200 meters divided by 3,937. That makes a foot equal 0.3048006+ meters. In 1933, the International Foot was created. It was defined as 0.3048 meters, exactly. The last digits were eliminated. By 1959, the U.S. government switched to the International Foot and mandated its use – except for surveying and mapping applications.

The minor difference may seem insignificant, but it has caused problems for surveyors, engineers, and planning officials for high-speed rail and bridges in some states. It seems prudent to use the same measuring stick like the rest of the world to avoid errors, confusion, and additional costs. Discontinuing the use of the U.S. Survey Foot is expected to bring uniformity and accuracy for professionals in the surveying, mapping, and engineering businesses.

Industry icon Barry Rhodes with Burns Surveying has worked in the surveying business for more than 50 years and is responsible for more than 120,000 surveys in North Texas.

“The difference in measurements are so minute for local surveyors,” says Rhodes. “The difference isn’t usually a big deal unless you’re dealing with long pipelines or something similar. When you go really long distances, you have the curvature of the earth to deal with.”

Rhodes doesn’t expect the change to create problems for Texas surveyors. “I always use the U.S. Foot. But if the state says to make the change, we’ll do it,” Rhodes said. “Our software probably has the option to convert.”

The next time someone tells you that a foot is 12 inches, you might want to add that the official definition of a foot is actually 0.3048 meters. Even in Texas.
[where: 75230]

Jan 2, 2021

The Truth about Title Theft Protection

You may have seen the ads or heard the buzz about companies offering title monitoring services or “title theft protection.” Are they legitimate or just a scam? Is there any real value in these services?
First, let me clarify that “title coverage” offered by some of these unregulated companies is not title insurance. They do not actually protect you from fraud, title thieves, scammers, etc.  Their standard service does include taking any actions regarding the rightful ownership of your property.

What is Title Theft Protection?
Monitoring services like Secure Title Lock and Home Title Lock offer subscriptions that say they will alert you to court filings affecting your home’s title. For $100-150 a year, they will monitor court records to show title fraud or theft. The “protection” they offer is basically a notification that someone has changed the ownership or deed to your property.
“Title theft” is a fairly new term that has generated a handful of companies feeding on consumer fears. These companies suggest that criminals can “steal” your property by forging your name on a deed, then resell the property or take out a mortgage loan against it. They claim a title thief can stick you with a debt that isn’t yours.

That isn’t true. Though a title thief or forger could attempt to steal your home, the consequence is actually a lot of headaches and legal hassles for a property owner. Proving and dealing with fraud can be time consuming and expensive.  Title theft protection services are meant to be proactive in helping you shut down mortgage fraud.
The benefits of a title monitoring service are ambiguous. They are only designed to alert you to a change in your title. They don’t prevent the fraud and they don’t actually help you deal with it if it happens. A title theft monitoring service will not help to clear or correct a title. They have no legal obligation to assist the owner with a title theft and they don’t offer protection against financial losses. That’s what home title insurance is for.

What is Title Insurance?
Title Insurance protects the owner and their lender from the possibility of someone contesting their ownership of a property. When buying or refinancing a home, you need a title insurance policy if you are closing at a title company or getting a mortgage loan. The title insurance premium paid at closing protects you for the entire time you own the property.
Title insurance not only protects you from financial loss, it requires the title company to legally defend you if your ownership is ever challenged. However, it insures against issues on the title when you purchase the property. It doesn’t cover future criminal incidences.
How to Protect Your Home Title
You don’t need to pay a company to protect you from thieves putting their names on your home title. You can easily monitor your title yourself for free. Just go to your county’s tax web site and periodically check your property record. Ensure that it shows your correct name and address. 
If you discover that your property ownership has been fraudulently changed, contact an attorney. The county clerk at the property recording office can also advise you on filing a notice affidavit with the county court.  [where: 75230]