The number of residential property sales exploded over the past few years, but the hot real estate market may have driven at least one unexpected consequence when it comes to surveys. Amid the highly competitive market, some home buyers may have been told that it would take longer to close a transaction since surveyors were overwhelmed with numerous orders. Thus, some buyers elected to waive surveys. After purchasing the property, however, buyers may have discovered encroachment matters impacting their property or their neighbor’s property, or that a boundary line is in a different location than originally believed.
Every year the claims team receives several notices involving survey matters and boundary disputes. Here are a few scenarios that serve as a reminder about the importance of surveys, and what you can do when a transaction does, or does not, include a survey.
Scenario One: A new buyer does not obtain a survey at closing. She is visited by her neighbor a few days after purchasing the property. The new property owner believes it’s going to be a friendly visit but instead the neighbor says, “your driveway and garage are encroaching on my property, and we want it removed in 30 days or else you will be hearing from our attorney.”
Typically, such an encroachment would have been shown in a survey. Further, the title policy may not offer much relief to the beleaguered buyer in such a case.
A title policy will likely have reflected a standard survey exception in Schedule B which may read, “Any discrepancies, conflicts, or shortage in area or boundary lines, or any encroachments or protrusions, or any overlapping of improvements that would be disclosed by an inspection or an accurate and complete land survey of the Land.” Since a survey was not obtained in this scenario, this may result in the matter not being covered under the title policy.
Scenario Two: This next situation involves a seller who owns a large tract of land and decides to split the tract into three smaller lots. The seller only wants to sell and convey one of the smaller, unplatted lots. The legal description in the seller’s deed is for the entire larger tract. How will the parties determine which of the three tracks is to be sold and properly identify the location of the property and its legal description to include in the deed? The purchase agreement most likely is not clear and will require additional questions and written clarification between the agent and the parties as to what is intended to be conveyed in the transaction. Unfortunately, without clarification in such cases, the parties may eventually find themselves in an expensive lawsuit.
In either scenario, if a survey is not requested and purchased at the time of closing, it is a good practice to have the buyer sign a document that the party understands a new survey is being declined, and to keep the document in the closing file. On the other hand, if a survey is obtained ahead of closing the transaction, consider the following:
Review the survey for accuracy of the survey and the survey certification. Are the correct parties identified? Review the legal description. Do you have a signed and dated survey from the surveyor?
Carefully review the survey to locate any items beyond the boundary lines or encroaching onto the buyer’s property.
Add any specific survey matters which are reflected on the survey as exceptions in the title commitment.
Provide a copy of the survey to the buyer (and lender, if appropriate).
As a good practice, have the buyer acknowledge receipt of the survey by having the buyer sign and date either the survey or a separate document confirming receipt, and keep a copy in the closing file.
Also, in certain jurisdictions, Survey Coverage or Survey Endorsement may be available for purchase to add coverage to an Owner’s or Loan Policy. If permitted in your jurisdiction to rely on a prior survey and an affidavit, discuss such a situation and the requirements with the Alliant National underwriting team before the closing occurs.
We understand not every case requires a new survey, but a buyer may find that a survey provides an understanding of what was conveyed and some peace of mind regarding their investment.
If you have questions, please contact the Alliant National claims team.
Gather round the social media crystal ball and see what’s coming next.
For the last few years, if you haven’t been on TikTok, you haven’t been on social media. Former heavyweights such as Facebook have been losing their luster, and TikTok has rapidly usurped its role as being on the cutting edge of digital communication. Things can change quickly online, especially within social media.
What are forward-thinking businesses supposed to do? How can one effectively plan a social media strategy when the space is continually in flux? If you are asking yourself those questions, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s explore emerging trends in social media and what they mean for business leaders who want to leverage them for competitive advantage – now and in the future.
As mentioned, while older social media platforms have waned in popularity of late, others have emerged to take their place and a chunk of their market share. Here are a few of the top sites that have left a mark in recent years and are worth keeping an eye on going forward:
Clubhouse: Clubhouse emerged during the first year of the pandemic, offering users a way to form synchronous, audio-only connections between the audience and the speakers. Businesses can consider leveraging the platform to increase the profile of high-performing content pieces or host a dialogue between an industry thought-leader and their target audience.
CaffeineandTwitch: Both Caffeine and Twitch have built steady followings since their launches in 2018 and 2021 respectively. Each of these platforms are video-based, giving users and businesses a powerful way to connect with audiences, position their brands and generate engagement. The success of Caffeine and Twitch also highlight that video is the future when it comes to social marketing – particularly if you need to appeal to the Gen. Z market.
BeReal: BeReal has been adopted with great gusto by Gen. Z. While the full scope of its business applications has yet to be determined, this is a good application to investigate if you’d like to cultivate a highly authentic social presence for your brand.
Paying to Play Will Continue
Last month on this blog, we discussed whether it is now necessary to supplement your organic social media activity with paid promotion. The conclusion we drew is that it has become increasingly difficult to gain the results you may want to see through organic marketing alone. Going forward, this will likely continue to be the case; however, where you spend your marketing dollars is likely to shift. Studies show that consumers prefer ads on sites like TikTok far more than others.[i] Pinterest is another site that has proven itself to be a good bet for advertisers, generating strong ROI for those who choose to deploy its advertising functionality.[ii]
Using Social for Customer Support
While it varies amongst different demographics, customers increasingly expect to interact directly with brands via social media. The gravitation of customers away from the phone and toward online platforms for customer support has been in the works for awhile now, but it truly went into overdrive during the pandemic. To succeed with customer service in this space, businesses must familiarize themselves with how different platforms support one-to-one customer interaction and then make a customer care plan.
The data on this subject robustly backs up these claims. 64 percent of people claim that they would prefer to message a business digitally than hop on the phone.[iii] Despite this, a huge number of businesses have not yet invested in their online customer care, which can be detrimental to their brands, operations, and future profitability.
Embrace the Future
Nothing lasts forever, especially not in the digital sphere. But while that can be intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. New trends are emerging in social media that will allow businesses to accomplish strategic goals far more easily, whether that be hosting authentic online content, advertising more effectively, or improving customer care. Keep your finger on the pulse, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new and emerging technology. That will continue to be key to social success.
Employ best practices to keep your systems running smoothly.
As someone who has been in the IT game for a while now, trust me when I tell you that “updates” is a word that comes up a lot. From business networks to cybersecurity, technology never stays the same for long.
Software programs frequently require updating to the latest version. Businesses need to have a plan for keeping software current and staff apprised of workflow changes.
A quick note on software updates
I’m willing to bet that you have some experience keeping your devices current. But what really goes on during a software update?
A software update can be viewed as a sort of “patch” for the current iteration of a program. Updates typically include a set of changes designed to fix or improve upon pre-existing software, including:
Removing bugs from code
Providing new tools or features
As you can see, updating consistently is important to maximizing your software’s value. But perhaps nowhere are updates more essential than for cybersecurity. When an update comes out designed to address security vulnerabilities, time is of the essence for implementing it. If you don’t, the software may become vulnerable to malicious actors, which can jeopardize the overall effectiveness of your business.
Putting it into practice
With so much riding on keeping systems and programs current, what exactly is the best approach for ensuring that each new update is promptly installed?
There are several strategies that can keep you and your team moving forward without creating a lot more work for yourself in the process.
Automatic updates: Whenever possible, enable automatic updates. These will keep your systems running efficiently and safeguard your business from security breaches.
Create an inventory: While it may require some heavy lifting up-front, establishing an inventory of all programs and systems can be incredibly helpful for staying on-top of security updates and software patches.
Stay apprised of update schedules: To avoid surprises, it never hurts to have familiarity with when certain vendors push out updates. Microsoft, for example, consistently puts out updates on the second Tuesday of each month. Adobe follows a similar pattern.
Create a personal schedule: When you are running a small agency, it may be difficult to find time to take care of necessary updates while overseeing everything else that goes into a successful enterprise. One strategy to overcome this is to set aside designated time each week for carrying out this work. Be sure to make it consistent week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year, and don’t waver once it is established.
Communicate clearly: No one is an island in business, and changes to your systems and programs will impact the workflows of others. Clear and consistent information delivered before, during and after an update is critical when performing an update. Employees need to know what types of updates are going on, how long they might take and how it will ultimately impact their day-to-day activities.
A solution for your solutions: There is an old saying that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and that holds true for something like software updates. If that sounds familiar to you, it may be worth considering adopting a technological solution for your software solutions.There are many tools that can make tracking and managing your critical software updates easier. Check out this article for more on getting started.
Hiring help: It is never a bad idea to seek out help from a professional for your IT-related needs, even if you have a small shop and minimal technology requirements. Of course, this can pose challenges for the small business owner, in that you must assess whether to bring on a full-time worker or outsource your needs to a third party like a managed service provider (MSP). Luckily, you don’t need to make this decision alone! Check out Alliant National’s blog about this topic, which you can read here.
Enjoy a secure system
The work of IT never ends, and this poses real challenges when it comes to software updates. Yet like anything else, solutions exist. Carefully planning your updates, staying hip to the latest changes and getting assistance when needed can help you strengthen the IT systems on which your business success relies.
Longmont, Colo. – (August 23, 2022) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, the title insurer that is uniquely responsive to the needs of independent agents, announces the hiring of Liam Shay as Underwriting Counsel.
Shay is a 20-year veteran of the title insurance industry and has routinely been involved in nearly every aspect of the business. He has focused on title examinations, and he has spent the last five years as an in-house underwriter focusing on claim resolution, risk analysis and staff management.
As underwriting counsel, Shay will apply his extensive experience to working directly with agents who write for Alliant National and are located primarily in Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas. He will provide guidance, support, risk analysis and continuing education, with his central goal being to improve their business and grow their revenues.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this new opportunity,” said Shay. “I can’t wait to work alongside this already stellar team to improve agent operations and deliver great results for the independent agent. I already feel like I am a part of the Alliant National family!”
“Bringing Liam on board represents an incredible win for Alliant National and is essential to maintaining our position as the premier independent underwriter for the independent agent,” said Jeff Stein, Chief Underwriting Counsel and Senior Vice President for Alliant National. “With his two decades of experience, I know Liam is going to be an incredible asset to our agents as they work to issue the best possible policies and ultimately close more business.”
Shay is a member of the Minnesota State Bar and is also a member of the Minnesota Bar Association Real Property Section. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School.
He lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.
Alliant National supports its independent agents by combining expert residential and commercial underwriting with a passionate heart for service. The company delivers uncommon help that promotes the wellbeing of agents and the communities they serve.
Cathie Beck Capital City Public Relations e: firstname.lastname@example.org p: 303-241-0805
ABOUT ALLIANT NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY
Alliant National is on a mission to empower independent agents while protecting property owners with secure title insurance. The company partners with its agents and never competes against them with direct or affiliate operations. Alliant National serves thousands of title professionals as a licensed underwriter in 30 states and the District of Columbia.
The “R” word is one of the most feared words in the marketplace today: RECESSION. There’s a lot of debate around whether the United States is in recession, but whether you call it a recession, slowdown, correction, or a normalization, it’s clear the market is changing.
As a title professional, now may be a good time to consider taking action, particularly if you’re already seeing some slowing in your market. New situations like this present new dangers and requirements, but they also present opportunities.
Let’s start with the dangers. The most obvious threats are reduced sales or revenues, which could threaten profitability and put pressure on cashflow. Those are troubling possibilities, but good management techniques can help you navigate these potential headwinds. Here are some steps to consider:
Keep a close eye on your business metrics
Get accurate revenue numbers and watch them carefully.
Seek realistic sales projections. Know what’s in your pipeline, and in your customers’ pipelines.
Watch expenses closely.
Know your “cash-burn” rate (i.e., how long you can operate at a loss).
Hope for the best, but make a plan for the worst
No one likes layoffs, but you should have a plan. Make this as soft as possible. You may consider salary “freezes” and percentage salary reductions as an option should conditions warrant.
Work with landlords, vendors, suppliers, and banks for more favorable terms.
Build a “war chest” or “rainy day fund.” Having cash-at-hand is prudent.
Consider a line of credit. Seasonal slowdowns, roughly October through February, may make cash flow challenging. One alternative may be to obtain a reasonable line of credit from a trusted, local lender that can be used for short term coverage of payroll or extraordinary expenses “just in case” it is needed. The line of credit option creates flexibility for expense management.
Having discussed the dangers, here are some new responsibilities you may face in a contracting economy:
Get your game face on
Things are a lot more competitive. There is more competition for each revenue dollar. Prepare your team to compete more effectively.
Keep a close eye on your competitors. Know what they are doing and where they may be looking to take market share, your employees, etc.
Take special care of your best customers. Know where your revenue is coming from. “Show the love” to customers who may be at risk.
Find partners you can trust. Look for loyalty, financial strength, and assess the risk of being betrayed. Some underwriters may put increased pressure on you to make minimums, or they may cut staff or divert resources to support their direct and affiliate operations while neglecting your needs. Find the partners that are going to be highly responsive to your needs so you can get your difficult deals closed.
Watch out for “bad moods.” Your team members may worry about slowing market conditions or even about being laid-off. Fear and stress can make it difficult to compete. Company culture is important. Stay close to your team and engage them. Get their input. Share your action plans.
Make new commitments. Revise sales projections and requirements for the sales team. Now is the time to invest in your team’s selling skills and marketing efforts.
Find efficiencies. It’s time to streamline processes and improve your systems. Seek ways to do more with less.
If you cope with the threats, fulfill your obligations, and have adequate financial capital, you may have the chance to take advantage of opportunities in a slowdown. Some of these opportunities include:
Improving the quality of your team
Upskilling – consider education and training for your staff including CE, CLE, and sales training.
One consideration is to hire top performers from competitors. Of course, you want to remain vigilant for competitors looking to “poach” your employees.
Become a bigger and better company
Now may be the time to consider purchasing a competitor for a discount to expand into new markets and to obtain new capabilities.
You may wish to rethink your customer experience and employee experience to give you a competitive edge.
Streamlining management and operations can help you become a more agile company. This might include bringing in new technology to do more with less and to improve turn time and accountability.
Consider making new offers – such as commercial transactions, education and training for your real estate agent customers, or new digital capabilities for customers such as mobile apps.
Regardless of whether the economy experiences a soft landing, hard landing, stagflation or a recession, anticipating what you might do in advance of these situations is essential to the success of title professionals. By planning ahead, you can overcome market challenges and adopt a new “R” word to describe your organization: RESILIENT. Of course, your Alliant National agency representative or agency manger is always available to discuss market conditions and ways to help your business thrive!
This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.
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The Independent Underwriter for the Independent AgentSM