4 posts categorized "Real Estate"

01/15/2016

ALTA CEO Talks with NPR About FinCEN Order for Title Insurers to Provide Info About Suspicious All-cash Deals in Miami, Manhattan

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued Geographic Targeting Orders requiring several title insurance underwriters to identify the names of individuals involved in shell companies and other legal entities that make all-cash purchases for high-end residential real estate in Manhattan, N.Y., and Miami-Dade County, Fla.

FinCEN is concerned that all-cash transactions in these areas are being used by individuals to hide their assets and identity by purchasing residential properties through limited liability companies or other opaque structures. To help mitigate this potential money-laundering vulnerability, FinCEN will require certain underwriters to identify and report the true “beneficial owner” behind a legal entity involved in certain high-end deals in these two areas. The reporting requirement also pertains to the underwriters’ subsidiaries and agents.

NPR interviewed ALTA CEO Michelle Korsmo about the order. Below is audio of NPR's article, which includes a portion of the interview with Korsmo. She can be heard at the 2:17 mark.

Transaction Requirements to File Report with FinCEN

Any underwriters that received the order must file a currency transaction report with FinCEN if these things occur:

  • Location (deal occurs in Manhattan or Miami-Dade County)
  • All-cash deal (no financing)
  • Purchase price in Manhattan is $3 million or more and purchase price in Miami-Dade County is above $1 million
  • There’s a corporate buyer
  • Purchase price paid via monetary instrument

The report must include:

  • Information about the identity of the individual primarily responsible for representing the buyer. The title company must obtain a record of the individual’s driver’s license, passport of other similar identification
  • Date of closing of the covered transaction
  • Total amount transferred in the form of a monetary instrument
  • Total purchase price of the covered transaction
  • Address of real property involved

If the purchase involved in the covered transaction is a limited liability company, the underwriter must provide the name, address and taxpayer identification number of all its members.

Additionally, covered title companies must retain all records relating to compliance with the order for five years, store the records so they are accessible with a reasonable period of time and make the data available to FinCEN or other law enforcement or regulatory agency, upon request.

The term of this order expires in 180 days, but FinCEN may indefinitely renew the order for another six months and for additional areas.

FinCEN said title insurance companies play a central role in real estate transactions and can provide valuable information about potential illegal activities.

“FinCEN appreciates the assistance and cooperation of the title insurance companies and the American Land Title Association in protecting the real estate markets from abuse by illicit actors,” FinCEN said in a release.

ALTA is actively assisting our members to comply with these reporting requirements. Korsmo said "ALTA looks forward to continuing its work with FinCEN as members implement the order to help prevent money laundering schemes and the illegal purchase of real estate in the United States. As the independent third-party at the closing table, ALTA members work to safeguard the real estate transaction for millions of Americans every year. Our work with FinCEN underscores ALTA members’ commitment to providing a compliant real estate settlement experience.”

ALTA has already submitted a letter to FinCEN’s director asking for several clarifications to promote consistency in reporting and help the industry better understand which transactions are covered by the order.

 

ALTA Seeks Clarification of Orders from FinCEN

ALTA proposes FinCEN adopt RESPA’s definition for “residential.” Industry familiarity with definitions and regulatory scheme provided by RESPA will help title companies identify transactions covered by the order.

ALTA recommends that the definition of “Legal Entity” exclude trusts. The order defines the term “Legal Entity” as a corporation, limited liability company, partnership or other similar business entity.” According to the letter, ALTA said that unlike a corporation, a trust is not considered a separate legal entity under the common law of various states. Adopting this recommendation will provide a definition consistent with those used by the industry for purposes of determining how to effectively transfer title.

ALTA also suggests that the definition of “agents” refer only to people or entities with a contractual relationship with the covered title company. State insurance laws require insurers to appoint agents via a specific written contract or authorization. This will help the insurers consistently determine which business partners they must educate and supervise to comply with the order.

“We urge FinCEN to use a reasonable and good-faith test for determining insurers’ compliance with this order,” ALTA wrote in its letter. “We believe the clarifications requested and joint education with the insurer and FinCEN, should ensure that all covered transactions that the insurer is aware of will be reported; however, even with the best efforts of title insurers, there may be transactions of which the insurer is not made aware.”

To aid compliance, title professionals are encouraged to have a better understanding of the types of customers they do business with. Real estate agents and attorneys should be resources to help gather information about corporate entities purchasing real estate.

 

09/01/2015

Survey Shows Consumer Demand to View Closing Documents in Advance, Sign Electronically

While consumer satisfaction with the real estate process is strong overall, homebuyers are interested in receiving updates about progress in their transaction and want the option to sign documents electronically, according to a survey from the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR). Nearly 1,100 homebuyers participated.

“The survey offers some very telling measures and provides guidance for the title industry on what is important to the consumer,” said Stewart Morris Jr., vice chair of Stewart Title Guaranty Co. and a member of ALTA’s Board of Governors. “With the new integrated mortgage disclosures and owner’s title insurance labeled as ‘optional,’ it will be vital for the title industry to get information to the consumer earlier in the home-buying process.”

Esigning graph

According to the survey, 40 percent of those who participated said they did not feel educated about the closing process. Of those who felt they did not receive enough information, two-thirds would have liked to know more about the closing process before hand. The survey found that 93 percent of the homebuyers were interested in receiving and/or signing documents that don’t require a witness in advance of the closing. As far as timing, the survey found that 90 percent of all transactions closed less than two months after an offer was accepted. The length of time to close a transaction was either as expected or shorter than expected, according to 74 percent of those polled.

 

For those who believed the closing took too long, the top causes were:

  • Mortgage company not cooperative
  • Some of the documents were incorrect and had to be redone
  • Other real estate agent was not organized
  • Title company was not cooperative
  • Inspection identified issues that had to be rectified

To improve the process, HAR provided the following suggestions:

  1. Make the documents available electronically, with the ability to sign some in advance
  2. Provide clear communication and updates on the process
  3. Properly explain documents and fees early in the process
  4. Complete documents accurately and on time
  5. More follow up and involvement from the title agent is needed

06/06/2014

Census Bureau, HUD Highlight Characteristics of New Housing

Most of the single-family homes built in 2013 included central air conditioning and at least a two-car garage according to a joint report issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. The Annual 2013 Characteristics of New Housing Report reveals details on single- and multi-family housing completed and sold last year.

Each year, HUD and Census Bureau conduct a national construction survey that offers national data on the characteristics of new privately owned residential structures, such as square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, type of wall material, and sales prices. Many characteristics are available at the region level.

HUD and the Census Bureau also provided this interactive chart to examine traits of single-family homes built in 2013.

Report details:

Of the 569,000 single-family homes completed in 2013:

  • 518,000 had air-conditioning.
  • 59,000 had two or fewer bedrooms and 251,000 had four bedrooms or more.
  • 27,000 had one and one-half bathrooms or less, whereas 188,000 homes had three or more bathrooms.
  • 166,000 had a full or partial basement, while 91,000 had a crawl space, and 312,000 had a slab or other type of foundation.
  • 305,000 had two or more stories.
  • 333,000 had a forced-air furnace and 216,000 had a heat pump as the primary heating system.
  • 347,000 had a heating system powered by gas and 214,000 had a heating system powered by electricity.

The average single-family house completed was 2,598 square feet.

 

Of the 307,000 multifamily units started in 2013, 23,000 were age-restricted.

 

Of the 195,000 multifamily units completed in 2013:

  • 14,000 were age-restricted.
  • 129,000 were heated with electricity and 64,000 were heated with gas.
  • 91,000 had two or more bathrooms.
  • 79,000 had one bedroom and 27,000 had three or more bedrooms.

The average square footage of multifamily units built for rent was 1,082.

 

Of the 10,000 multifamily buildings completed in 2013:

  • 5,000 had one or two floors.
  • 6,000 used electricity as the primary heating fuel.

 

Of the 429,000 single-family homes sold in 2013:

  • 120,000 used vinyl siding as the principle type of exterior wall material, while only 12,000 used wood.
  • 300,000 had 2-car garages, whereas 98,000 had garages for three cars or more.
  • 207,000 had one fireplace and 20,000 had two or more fireplaces.

The average sales price of new single-family homes sold was $324,500, compared with the average price of $292,200 in 2012.

The average price per square foot for new single-family homes sold was $93.70.

The average new single-family home sold was built on a lot of 15,456 square feet.

 

91,000 contractor-built single-family homes were started in 2013.

The average contract price was $298,000.

01/16/2014

Hottest Neighborhoods of 2014

Redfin announced its annual list of the hottest neighborhoods across the country. To rank the neighborhoods that have grown the most in popularity leading into 2014, the company analyzed hundreds of millions of pages its website users visited and homes they added as Favorites to monitor for price changes or sales.

Highly ranked schools and scenic community parks look like the obvious common thread among the top neighborhoods. However, Redfin agents have found that the real trend in 2014 neighborhood popularity is a short commute at an affordable price. The trending neighborhoods offer a short drive to or easy access to a commuter rail line at prices that are not the most expensive in the city.

"After a year in which prices popped 13 percent, Americans are checking out still-close-in but often-overlooked neighborhoods in search of affordability, even if means less-fashionable restaurants or a home that needs a little more work," said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. "Like the actress who was nominated for 18 Emmys before finally winning, these are the Susan Luccis of neighborhoods, finally getting their due. The buyers who have made these alternative spots so hot aren't like the ones we saw in the last boom, who just borrowed more and paid up. Our clients in 2014 have settled on a price range, and they're sticking to it."

Here are Redfin's top 10 hottest neighborhoods across the U.S.:

Hotneighborhood