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The Legal Basics of Divorce

When a couple marries, they gain the legal right to do certain things together, such as own property or owe debts. Divorce is the legal termination of marriage; the legal status, responsibilities and arrangements of the married couple are cancelled. Divorcing requires that these all be resolved in some way. Property and debt has to be divided. Custody, visitation and support of children must be addressed. If the divorce settlement commits one spouse to financial support of the other after marriage — called ‘alimony’ — that must be defined as well.

Legally-acceptable reasons for divorce may include both ‘no-fault’, where parties divorce without officially blaming each other, and fault-based divorce, where individuals’ actions are accepted as grounds. While there are other forms of change in marital status, such legal separation and religious annulment, they are not the same thing as legal divorce.


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Fireplaces in Warm Climates

Fireplaces in Warm Climates

Fireplaces in Warm Climates

When correctly implemented, fireplaces add a charming focal point to a room. Not only do they look great, but the variety of fireplace styles can range from rustic and cozy to sleek and sophisticated. They can also be decorated for each season and are the perfect place to hang stockings come Christmas time. But nowadays with central heating, fireplaces tend to serve a more aesthetic purpose than a functional one, though that isn’t to say you couldn’t build a fire if weather permits.

But that’s just it—if you live in a tropical/subtropical climate like Florida, it’s rare for the weather to permit such a thing. Not only that, but a good deal of houses aren’t even built with chimneys anymore, as by the 1950s central heating was the ticket for keeping buildings warm. Bad news for chimney sweeps!

Fortunately, many modern fireplaces don’t require a chimney to function. Ventless gas fireplaces are popular for their cozy heat-generating capabilities, while electric fireplaces are a cheaper alternative that can add to the atmosphere of a room without the heat, which is ideal for warmer climates where heat is not in short supply.

While fireplaces are not specifically accounted for in home appraisals, they can add value to a house given the right circumstances. A fireplace can potentially add $1000 or more to a home’s value, depending on the area and how much the buyer values it as a home amenity. However, this is more likely to occur in more expensive homes, as fireplaces don’t always make the must-have list of homebuyers looking for an affordable home.

In the end, whether or not a fireplace adds value depends on individual preferences. Some people won’t buy a house without a fireplace, while others don’t want to shell out the extra money to have one. As with any home feature, it’s all about matching the right buyer with the right house.


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Buyers Closing Timeline: A To-Do List

Buyers Closing Timeline: A To-Do List

Buyers Closing Timeline: A To-Do List

Within the first few weeks after the contract is signed, you will work to hire a team of professionals that you will need to close your transaction and make sure your mortgage, insurance and property documents are at your fingertips.

Soon, you will move into your new Cape Coral or Fort Myers home, perhaps starting a new job or blending a family. But before any of that, there are steps you need to take. Once you have negotiated a deal acceptable to both sides and have a signed contract in hand, you can expect to spend about 6-8 weeks working to get to the closing table. Not all of the burden will fall on you, but you’ll need to dedicate time to completing the tasks on your closing to-do list.

To be certain your closing process will unfold smoothly, check your steps on a to-do list that you can also use to check off completed items.

Hire a real estate title insurance company immediately after reaching agreement with the seller/buyer. Sometimes the seller will choose the title company. This can be agreed upon during contract negotiations.

1-2 WEEKS AFTER SIGNING CONTRACT

• Arrange for escrow through a title company and deposit the buyer’s earnest money with the company.
• Be ready to give your information to the title company when they call or email you. This is important as they are putting all the pieces together.

2-3 WEEKS AFTER SIGNING CONTRACT

• Find your personal financial information that the lender will need (mortgage documents, property survey, insurance documents, etc.).
• Have a home inspection and any other inspections completed that may be needed.

3-4 WEEKS AFTER SIGNING CONTRACT

• Make final arrangements with the title company for additional information they or you need.
• Cooperate with the lenders requests, the longer it takes for you to provide information, the longer it will take to close your loan.

4 WEEKS BEFORE CLOSING DAY

• Hire a moving company
• Set a closing date and time with the title company.
• This is an exciting time in your life. Take care of the details that need to be handled to get to the closing table, and when the closing date arrives, you’ll be ready.


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Haunted Houses in the Real Estate Market

The Basics of Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a set of legally-defined ways for individuals or businesses to settle debts without full payment, by following rules that govern their assets and financial actions for a period of time. There are two broad types, liquidation and reorganization.

Under liquidation, the party in debt agrees that their eligible properties and assets can be taken and sold to pay back debt. Some types of property are exempted.

Under reorganization, the party in debt retains their property, but commits to repay some portion of the debt, typically over time. While it provides relief from debt, bankruptcy has serious and long-term effects, affecting credit ratings, the cost of future borrowing, eligibility for financing and purchases, and more. Bankruptcy decisions in the US are Federal. The US Constitution authorizes Congress to establish ‘uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States’. States are allowed to define exempt and non-exempt properties, but they do not make bankruptcy judgements.


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Haunted Houses in the Real Estate Market

Title Junction’s Christmas Angel Tree

Title Junction’s Christmas Angel Tree

Title Junction is partnering with The Salvation Army to host an Angel Tree for the 2019 Christmas season!

Angel Tree? What’s That?

The Angel Tree Program was created by the Salvation Army in 1979 to provide toys and clothing to children in need. In Lee County alone, there are over 28,000 children who live in poverty. Many of their parents don’t have the financial means to buy them any gifts for Christmas, so that’s where we step in!

Participating organizations and businesses (like Title Junction) hang Angel Tags from a Christmas tree, with each child represented by a numerical code along with information about their age, gender, clothing size, and what they want for Christmas. People can choose the Angel they want to adopt from the tree and then purchase gifts for their Angel.

This year, Title Junction has been entrusted with 40 Angels who each need to be adopted by a caring soul…like you!

How Do I Adopt an Angel?

1. Pick your Angel from the Angel Tree.

2. Buy new toy(s) and/or clothing for your Angel.

3. Drop off the new, unwrapped gift(s) in a bag with the Angel Tag attached at Title Junction by December 5th. If you have more than one bag, make sure to label them with your Angel’s code as well.

Then What?

Once Title Junction receives all of the new, unwrapped gifts for the Angels, the Salvation Army will take the gifts and distribute them to the families. You won’t know the identity of your Angel, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve brought joy and hope to a child this Christmas season!


For more information give us a call at 239.415.6574 or email us at marketing@title-junction.com.

Title Junction Office Address:
6214 Presidential Court, Suite F
Fort Myers, Florida 33919

Business Hours:
Monday-Friday
9am-5pm

Haunted Houses in the Real Estate Market

Haunted Houses in the Real Estate Market

Haunted houses are a staple of Halloween festivities—some people go out of their way to make their houses look as spooky as possible, while others pay money to walk through properties that range from eerie to downright horrifying. However, most people aren’t too keen on the idea of living in a haunted house on a permanent basis. The reasons can range from superstition to foreseeing trouble selling it down the line.

So what qualifies a house as haunted? Well, usually some sort of tragic event has to take place inside, such as a murder or suicide, which gives it a bad reputation and the designation of ‘haunted house.’ Whether the house is actually haunted is up for debate, but the stigma of the label does affect market value, and there are actually legal precedents in place pertaining to how they’re handled in the real estate market.

Depending on the area, sellers may be legally required to disclose whether the house they’re selling is ‘haunted’ or not, including the details of why. This precedent was set after a 1991 lawsuit known as the Ghostbusters ruling, where a woman unknowingly purchased a haunted house and then sued the seller for not disclosing its haunted nature.

Additionally, haunted houses tend to attract thrill seekers and paranormal enthusiasts, some of whom are more than willing to trespass to vandalize or otherwise disrupt the property.

So if you come upon a house that’s selling for less than comparable houses in the area and doesn’t seem to have any defects that would explain why, it’s worth double checking with both the seller and neighbors whether the house is considered haunted or not. It’s not likely, but hey, better safe than sorry, right?


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Shipping Container Homes: What You Should Know

Shipping Container Homes: What You Should Know

Shipping Container Homes: What You Should Know

Ah, shipping container homes. They’re all the rage with DIY homeowners right now, with pictures and videos all over the internet showing off the glamorous customizations that turned them into truly enviable living spaces. And it sounds so simple, right? Just plunk one of those puppies down on your property, do some personalized renovations, and you’ve got yourself a cheap and unique home!

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. The idea of using shipping containers in architecture goes back to the 1980s, but they only gained mainstream popularity within the last decade. They’re considered an eco-friendly housing option—by recycling a shipping container and converting it into a home, you cut down on other materials that would ordinarily be used in the construction of a standard house.

Cost

Depending on how decked out you want your home to be, like combining shipping containers to make a bigger living space or adding more elaborate amenities, it can range from an affordable option to a splurge that only someone making triple digits can handle. However, there are things you have to account for to make the space livable, such as insulation, interior walls, and utilities like electric and plumbing. There’s also the matter of labor, as you’ll likely need the help of a professional contractor to make sure the final product is shipshape. 

If you have experience with construction work and are content with a barebones shipping container home, you could possibly get away with building one for as low as $10,000. But if you want a multi-shipping container home with all the creature comforts, you could be looking at an average cost of $150,000 to $175,000.

Permits

Before you start construction, you’ll need to obtain the correct permits to comply with current building codes. What’s required varies depending on the area and what you plan to build. There are some local governments that don’t have anything firmly in place concerning shipping container homes, which can make the process of finding out what will keep you in compliance more complex than expected. Consult your attorney and contractor to see if building a shipping container home is feasible for you in your area.

Funding

If you don’t have the funds necessary to build a shipping container home, you’ll likely need to obtain a construction loan. However, it’s advisable to have an established contractor on board, along with completed construction plans to ease the minds of potential lenders, who could very well balk at the idea of funding something that can’t have it’s value estimated using traditional methods like comparing similar homes in the area.

Additionally, container homes aren’t always considered real estate. What this means is that if the container isn’t built on a permanent foundation or isn’t in compliance with standard building codes, it can’t be financed the same way as a true piece of ’real estate,’ which has to have a recorded title and, subsequently, property taxes.

If you’re looking to buy an already-established shipping container home, the same rules apply. It has to be taxable and have a recorded title in order for you to obtain a standard mortgage.

Takeaway

Shipping container homes have a lot of perks, but you have to be willing to do rigorous research and jump through the necessary hoops to realize your dream of a customized, unique, and potentially more affordable home. Fortunately, their growing popularity has resulted in more companies and contractors who specialize in building shipping container homes, so you don’t have to go into the venture blind.


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Title Insurance: Protected from the Unexpected

Title Insurance: Protected from the Unexpected

Title Insurance: Protected from the Unexpected

For many people, title insurance seems like an extra expense in the already pricey undertaking of purchasing a home. Escrow funds, realtor fees, paying for inspections, fees for property taxes, the title search fee…why would you want to tack on yet another expense? A fair point—unless you understand what you could lose if an unexpected claim is filed against you and you have no protection. Understanding what title insurance is and what it covers makes it clear why it just might be the most important piece of your new home purchase.

Title insurance protects you from all unforeseen claims arising against your property. What kind of claims, you may ask? They can come in the form of probate issues, liens against the property or even old fashioned forgeries. Though it may seem like something that only happens to other people, the same could be said of home burglaries and serious car wrecks. Additionally, if your new home was foreclosed on at any point before you took ownership, there’s an increased chance of claims against the property, from unpaid contractors to the prior owner’s nasty divorce.

Here’s an example of something that COULD happen. You just purchased your dream house and are moved in. Then comes a knock at the door—uh-oh, it’s a contractor who installed new windows for the previous owners claiming he never got paid. Or how about this scenario; suppose the previous owners are going through a divorce and one party forges the other’s name on all the selling documents. The other spouse, whose name was forged, could come back to you and claim the house was sold under false pretenses and try to get it back from you. Now you have a claim against your home. This means going to court to fight the contractor, which means you incurring a large fee for attorney costs. And then there’s the chance that you’ll lose your house, and then what will you do?

A house is one of the largest investments you can make, and to have it all go up in smoke with nothing to show for it can be a devastating blow. That’s where title insurance comes in to protect you from the unexpected. There’s a good reason why lenders require you to buy a lender’s title insurance policy when you purchase a home…so why not follow the lead of the financial experts and protect your own assets with an owner’s title insurance policy? With title insurance you are protected!


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: What Is Power of Attorney?

What Is Power of Attorney?

When you hear the words ‘power of attorney,’ you might assume they hold significant weight from a legal standpoint. And you’d be right. The two most basic types of types of power of attorney are general power of attorney and limited power of attorney. So, just what exactly are these powers of attorney and how do they work?

To keep a board game running while one player takes a break, that player could say to another ‘roll the dice and move for me.’ They are granting the second player power to act fully within the game rules. This is basically what general power of attorney means in the rules of the legal system – authorization for one person to act legally on behalf of another person.

If the player says ‘roll but don’t move’, that would be called limited power; limited legal power-of-attorney might cover only healthcare decisions, or only property decisions. While some legal jurisdictions accept spoken power-of-attorney decisions like this game-play example, other jurisdictions, or institutions like banks or hospitals, frequently require written or even notarized documents. The person granting this power must have the mental capacity to understand their decision.

In a nutshell, power of attorney is essentially the power you give to your attorney to handle your legal affairs, which means that you’re trusting in your attorney to do what’s best for you depending on the legal situation at hand. That’s a pretty significant decision, but one that is often required to navigate the tricky waters of the legal system.


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Beware of Unlicensed Title Agents

Beware of Unlicensed Title Agents

Beware of Unlicensed Title Agents

Buying or selling a house is one of the most important financial decisions you will ever make and can be a life-changing experience. While it’s standard procedure to research your real estate agent and lender to make sure they are qualified and the best fit for you, many people don’t put the same amount of care into making sure the credentials of their title agent are up to snuff.

Unfortunately, there are some title agencies that don’t do their due diligence and employ title agents whose licenses have been compromised. For example, an investigation was opened in 2015 on a title insurance agency for failure to designate a licensed and appointed title agent in charge of the agency. 

The unlicensed agent in question signed policies as the agent in charge, even though they’d lost their appointment with the Bureau of Licensing for failing to comply with Continuing Education requirements. The agent was sent notice in 2011 warning that their license would be terminated, and in 2012 their license expired. That means they were working in the title industry for 3 years without a license! In the end, the agent was fined $7,500 and never reinstated.

Fortunately, there is an easy way for you to find out if the agents of your chosen title company are licensed. Most states have a website where you can look up the status of a title agent’s license. For Florida, you can use the Florida Department of Financial Services Licensee Search to search the name of the title agent you want to check on, and it will give you the details of the status of their license along with other information.

At Title Junction, all of our title agents are professionally licensed and in compliance with title regulations at all times. But you don’t have to take our word for it—search the name of any of our title agents at https://licenseesearch.fldfs.com for your own personal peace of mind.


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Understanding the Basics of Short Sales

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