You need to be aware of a scam where hackers are able to hack into the email accounts of real estate brokers and others to get details of closing transactions. They then send emails to the closing agent, directing a change to the disbursement instructions.
In a most recent incident that occurred this past Friday, a closing agent sent an email to all of the parties in a transaction letting them know that the transaction had closed and the funds had been disbursed. A party member who could not attend asked to pick up their check on Monday. Monday morning the closing agent received an email from the absent party member that it would be more convenient if the funds could be wired instead. Coincidentally, while the closing agent was in the process of initiating the wire transfer, the absent party member sent a text message asking when would be a good time to pick up the check.
As it turns out, the absent party member never emailed the closing agent and the account the funds were to be wired to was not his account!
To prevent this from happening to you, do not rely on instructions received by email, no matter how good the email looks, or how many specific details the email sender provides. These hackers are good.
In my own practice, I ask that all disbursement instructions are provided in writing and notarized. Any changes to such disbursement instructions requires a my personal verification and a new notarized disbursement instruction sheet.
Florida’s Constitution allows up to $50,000 to be deducted from the assessed value of a primary residence (however only $25,000 may be deducted for the purposes of calculating the assessed value for school taxes). To receive the Florida homestead tax exemption, you must submit a homestead application (Florida Department of Revenue Form DR-501) to the Property Appraiser in the county where your home is located on or before Monday, March 3, 2014, which can easily be completed online.
To receive the homestead tax exemption, the taxpayer must meet the following requirements:
- have legal or beneficial title to the property recorded in public records prior to January 1st of the year of application;
- establish domicile in the county where the property is located;
- reside on the subject property;
- be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Once homestead exemption is established it is automatically renewed each year, until there is a change of ownership. Florida law requires the property owner to inform the appropriate Property Appraiser’s office of any change in residency, use of the property or marital status that would affect the qualification of the homestead exemption.
“Save Our Homes” Amendment: The “Save Our Homes Amendment” to the Florida Constitution limits any annual assessment increases on Florida homestead properties to the lesser of 3% or the increase in the consumer price index. In 2008, Florida voters approved Amendment 1, which now allows Florida residents to transfer the benefit of the “Save our Homes cap” to subsequently acquired Florida homestead property. To qualify for portability benefits, the taxpayer must timely file an application on Florida Department of Revenue DR-501T, as provided in Florida Statute §193.155. The portability benefit allows the taxpayer to transfer their entire assessment savings, not to exceed $500,000 to their new residence if “upsizing” and a pro-rated portion of their assessment savings to a “downsized” new residence.
For help or questions related to homestead tax exemption, contact Patchen Law, P.A. to simplify your property issues.
Patchen Law is pleased to announce that the firm is now an officially registered agent with Secure Settlements, Inc. (SSI). As a registered agent, Patchen Law has been included in a national pool of qualified and respected closing professionals who meet the risk management standards set by SSI’s mortgage lender clients. To be included in the pool of qualified closing professionals, the firm was required to undergo a rigorous vetting process to evaluate operational risks.
SSI is the first company to offer a standardized risk management process and information database of fully vetted mortgage closing professionals that protects both consumers and lenders – reducing fraud and ensuring that federal regulatory requirements are met. The Secure Settlements process delivers the most advanced closing fraud risk analysis in the industry and meets all risk management requirements for third-party vetting of vendor relationships, as outlined by CFPB, OCC, HUD, FDIC, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Credit Union Administration.
Most people think of a title closing experience as a pain in the rump…two hours of sitting in a room and signing a bunch of papers. But the right title closing agent can change all of that. Closing day should end with everyone smiling because every person sitting at the table walks away with something–the buyer gets a house, the seller gets the proceeds of the sale, the real estate agents get their commission and the title agent gets their fees as well. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Providing great customer service is how you can make sure your clients walk away happy enough to come back and pass positive feedback along to others. Making sure everything is organized so that the whole process runs smoothly is just one step to a successful closing. Another is being able to handle the unexpected without anyone in the room taking notice.
Patchen Law had a special Halloween closing and the new home owners walked away all smiles! They loved their gifts of chocolates and the housewarming bamboo plant I presented to them.
But what made the day even better was hearing my client tell me, “Heather I’ve done this before, but you made the whole process so smooth and we actually had fun too!”