Jun 28 | 2017

Strata Plan vs Title Insurance: Which One Do You Really Need?

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Strata plan vs title insuranceDarren* applied to change the use of his commercial condo unit to a medical one, but his request was denied. He was told by the municipality that the site plan agreement had not been complied with as the condo corporation required another 97 parking spaces to be added. The municipality then issued a Notice of Violation of the Site Plan Agreement due to the lack of parking spaces. The condo corporation has to decide whether it will add the parking to comply or try to change this requirement in the site plan agreement. This may mean an increase in common expenses or a special assessment to be paid by Darren and the other unit owners. Because Darren had a commercial title insurance policy from FCT, we are paying for the legal costs to defend him in dealing with the Notice of Violation.

In Darren’s case, the Site Plan Agreement would have needed to be compared with the Strata Plan to make sure they matched. However, having a strata plan would have provided no protection as it would not have covered his legal expenses or potential loss of value to his property if he can’t use it as he planned to.

A strata or condominium plan, like a survey, is created by a surveyor and it documents unit sizes and structures as well as what is common and exclusive use property. It also includes any parking or lockers that are part of the unit. However, if there’s an error in the strata plan or the structure does not match the plans – it’s the owner who may be responsible for part or all of the costs associated with remedying the issue.

A legal professional can provide an opinion on title based on the accuracy of information provided to them and an up-to-date or existing strata plan or survey. However, without a title insurance policy, a strata plan by itself offers no protection for the property owner or legal professional in case of incorrect information or discrepancies.

With an FCT title insurance policy, we protect both the legal professional and owner by providing loss of value coverage, duty to defend, funds to fix most municipal enforcements, fraud protection and more. It benefits lawyers by shifting the risk and liability associated with the title and strata/condo plan to us. Our condo endorsement also covers lack of disclosure in a Status Certificate, if the condo corporation has not been properly created and it results in a title defect. A Status Certificate is not always necessary for a loan policy depending on the insured amount.

While both a strata plan and title insurance are important in a condo or bare land purchase, choosing the one that offers you more protection is a safe bet!

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.

Oct 13 | 2016

Need a leader you can count on for faster, more confident closings?

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Commercial real estateIn Canadian real estate circles, FCT has long been recognized for its key role in pioneering the Canadian title insurance industry.

Over the last 25 years, we’ve made it our goal to invest in the success of our customers by investing in the industry itself. Through the development and implementation of innovative solutions that evolve along with a constantly changing industry and customer needs, we continue to fulfill our mission to make transactions simple and secure. This is especially true in commercial real estate where deals tend to be far more complex and multi-faceted compared to residential real estate. Streamlining the process and providing the best coverage available allows all parties to close more confidently while protecting these types of investments.

To hear what some of our commercial customers are saying about working with FCT, I invite you to take a few minutes and watch this short testimonial video of first-hand accounts.

After listening to the wonderful things these professionals have to say, it isn’t hard to see why we have a 94% rating when it comes to customer satisfaction; an invaluable illustration that speaks volumes about the loyalty shown to us by our commercial customers. It is for these customers that we live our motto of Experience Excellence® each and every day, and why we are here to underwrite the risks inherent to complicated commercial transactions. With world-class underwriting done by a team of in-house legal professionals who work on a case-by-case basis, we can offer the utmost in customized protection.

With FCT as your partner, known defects don’t have to equal unknown delays or lost deals.

Do you have a commercial transaction ready to go? Let us show you why we’re the industry leader.

Jul 26 | 2016

FCT: Proud to be Canadian

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Canadian experienceWhy Canadian experience matters to you and your business

Having just recently celebrated Canada’s 149th birthday and in the midst of FCT’s 25th anniversary celebrations, I thought this would be a perfect time to talk about the fifth point on our Top 10 Reasons to Partner with FCT list: Canadian expertise.

As you know, FCT is very much a Canadian company. In fact, our legal entity name is First Canadian Title, and our logo is emblazoned with a maple leaf. For us, the symbolism speaks volumes.

But aside from patriotism, what does our “Canadianism” mean to you?

Being a Canadian company operating, in Canada, means that we understand what drives this country’s commercial real estate industry. After all, it was our founders that pioneered the Canadian title insurance industry itself — who else could possibly understand it better? Our policies are created specifically for the Canadian commercial real estate industry and are underwritten right here as well. As a result, you have access to the best local coverage available from Canadian niche experts with a vested interest in your success.

It also means that we are committed to being actively engaged in the communities in which we live, work, and serve. For us, it’s always been about more than merely making a profit: it’s about supporting and protecting our customers and strengthening the Canadian real estate industry with simple and secure solutions. And to us, that’s very Canadian.

Tell us what FCT’s Canadian expertise means to you by commenting below.

Jun 13 | 2016

Customized protection and complete satisfaction? We endorse that!

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title insuranceWe all know that title insurance helps to minimize the risk associated with commercial real estate and helps the closing process run smoothly— title insurance provides coverage you can’t get anywhere else.

And when it comes to coverage, FCT is committed to ensuring you receive the best and most comprehensive coverage available on the market today: we know that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to complex commercial transactions. Plus, with our vast experience in supporting and protecting diverse commercial properties and transactions, you can trust FCT’s knowledgeable team to provide you with the personalized service you can rely on. We are committed to always finding a way to say “yes” to get you exactly what you need, when you need it.

In fact, we pride ourselves on being as flexible as possible when it comes to supporting your success. One way we do this is through specialized endorsements that allow us to address almost every imaginable situation and specialized need.

But what exactly is an endorsement?

Commercial title insurance is generally issued using a standard policy. However, certain situations and varying levels of complexity often call for additional or customized coverage. An endorsement is an attachment to an insurance policy that amends or adds to it, often adding coverage that was not part of the original contract. With market conditions always evolving, endorsements allow our policies to best reflect changing markets and customer needs without sacrificing trusted, established protection.

For a listing of the current commercial loan endorsements being offered, click here. Or if you’re more interested in owner endorsements, we’ve also got a lot to offer you.

You and your customers deserve the best in the business and that’s exactly what we are ready to offer. Have you got a complex commercial transaction to close? Let us know what kinds of challenges you’re facing by commenting below. Or better yet, call FCT — when we work together you can close with confidence.

May 12 | 2016

25 years and counting . . . Why FCT’s decades of experience matter to you

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16-187_FCT_Blog_Renzo_Exper_SquareAnyone working in this global marketplace knows that business today is characterized by relentless change. For a company to succeed, it needs to constantly adapt to stay relevant and innovative in order to add real value and meet customer needs.  After all, our success rests squarely on the shoulders of our customers’ success; customers we see as long-term, highly respected partners.

After more than two decades and thousands of commercial policies issued by our niche experts across the country, you can be rest assured FCT has your commercial needs covered. We’ve been listening to our customers since day one — listening so that we truly understand what they want in a partner. Our goal has always been to offer trusted solutions and support to help grow businesses and shape the future of the industry. And in this competitive insurance market, I can say without reservation that Experience Excellence® makes all the difference.

But why should our experience matter to you? I think that a quote I came across in an online marketing blog called Why “EXPERIENCE MATTERS” sums it up rather nicely:

“The nature of business is about constantly adapting to change and starting anew, but each time with deeper experience, greater knowledge, stronger relationships and more confidence.”

Although this particular blogger is writing about the benefits of experience in the world of marketing, the same holds true for any business, including the title insurance industry.

Having been a leader in the Canadian real estate industry since 1991, FCT is in a unique position to offer you unparalleled customized underwriting solutions. Plus, with experienced legal professionals on staff who combine in-depth title insurance knowledge together with years of hands-on real estate practice exposure, we can offer you a customer experience like no other in the industry. This experience and acumen equal confidence for you: confidence to move ahead with your commercial deal, regardless of the complexity, knowing you’re backed by a leader.

As we reflect on the last 25 years, can you think of a time when FCT provided you with a solution that closed a difficult deal? Feel free to comment below.

Apr 28 | 2016

Where extraordinary is well, quite ordinary

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Commercial Solutions How FCT Commercial Solutions delivers superior customer service

In a previous blog, I discussed the top 10 reasons why you’d want to partner with FCT. While all 10 are critical to providing you with the service levels we’re known for, the number one reason to choose FCT is and always will be our driving force: providing a superior customer experience.

Our promise to you is that with each and every touch point you will Experience Excellence®.

What does this mean? It means friendly, fast service from experienced professionals that recognize your distinct needs. In fact, for 25 years now we’ve been building our commercial solutions division with highly experienced underwriters that work on a case-by-case basis to understand and facilitate the unique needs of each transaction. This practice allows us to provide customized coverage, ensuring a smooth and timely closing, no matter how big or complex the project.

By offering a consistent, yet personalized experience, we hope to make you feel valued. Your satisfaction is the key to our success and we strive to exceed your expectations across your entire journey with us. It’s how we help you build and protect your business while shaping ours.

And it seems to be working! Our current customer rating sits at an impressive 90%. But don’t think we’re resting at that — we’re already looking ahead at ways to win that additional 10%.

With our 25th anniversary upon us, it’s the perfect time to reflect on past successes. Can you think of time when FCT came through to help you close a challenging deal? Let us know by commenting below.

Apr 14 | 2016

FCT is your trusted partner in the fight against real estate fraud

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fraud alertReal estate fraud continues to be on the rise and unfortunately, commercial transactions are no exception. But with FCT in your corner, we can work together to stop fraud before it has a chance to create havoc and claim victims.

The experienced team at FCT employs various due diligence techniques to:

  • Spot suspicious activity (what we like to call “red flags”);
  • Report potential issues to all involved parties; and most importantly
  • Prevent fraudsters from scamming our partners out of their rightful investment.

In fact, it’s something our underwriting team does (and does very well!) on a daily basis, even during the height of the holiday rush . . . .

The naughty list

At the height of the holiday rush, FCT’s commercial division received a request for title insurance for a blanket mortgage in the amount of $2.6 million, spanning five vacant properties, all with titles free and clear (first red flag!). The transaction involved a private lender and a corporate owner.

As part of the request, FCT was provided a copy of the Corporate Profile and the Corporate Document List – everything looked okay.  However, after supporting identification for the borrower was received upon our request, our eagle-eyed underwriting team determined that one of the pieces of identification being used was invalid.

Feeling a bit uneasy about moving ahead with the file, FCT underwriting contacted the lender and the mortgage broker for more information. Years of experience and pure instinct told us that something was off. Our team then called the lawyer involved with a previous purchase of one of the lots — we were right! When compared, the two pieces of ID did not match and showed conflicting information.

For our underwriting team this was more than enough evidence to suspect fraud, especially with such a large deal. We declined to insure the deal and the lender pulled out as well. The real owner was contacted and their lawyer ultimately confirmed that the deal was a fraud.

What did we learn?

  • Bad things can happen to good people – secure your client’s investment with title insurance
  • Put FCT to work for your practice – it is always beneficial to have a second pair of highly skilled eyes on your file
  • Have confidence in our process – we’ve stopped $198 million in possible fraudulent transactions over the past 4 years and we know how to help protect you

Do you have any fraud stories you’d like to tell us about? Until next time, keep your eyes peeled and as Michael LeBlanc told us in his recent blog, trust your instincts.

Mar 21 | 2016

Need a reason to choose FCT for commercial title insurance? Forget about one — we’ll give you 10!

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The top 10 reasons to partner with FCTAs Vice-President, Commercial Solutions, I am responsible for leading and growing the Commercial Solutions Division here at FCT. To accomplish this, my team listens to what our commercial customers are saying they need in order to succeed. We then provide them with the products and services to help them reach their goals and protect their investments.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: commercial title insurance offers essential protection and helps make a commercial transaction far more efficient. Plus, it has been providing Canadian lenders, lawyers and their clients with critical peace of mind since 1991, when FCT introduced the concept to the Canadian marketplace.

Today the title insurance market is a little more crowded than it was back then. Commercial customers have a choice to make and although we think that the choice is crystal clear, people still sometimes ask:

“Why would I choose to partner with FCT for commercial title insurance needs?”

I love this question, because not only do we have a good reason for you to choose FCT, we can actually give you 10 . . . and in video form, no less!

So if you’re looking for:

  • Products that meet your needs;
  • Service that makes you feel valued; and
  • Solutions that will help build your business and protect your investments

there is no need to look any further than FCT. We’ve been here since the very beginning and we will continue to innovate, well into the future.

Are you a customer of FCT? If so, tell us why you chose to partner with FCT by commenting below.

Mar 25 | 2015

Cleveland’s green plan: rehabbing a great city’s economy

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Last time, we looked at how the tiny town of Sangudo, Alberta, staked its future on the business savvy of its own talent, investing through a co-op whose success has remade the town’s economy and its real estate market. But does what worked in a microscopic rural community necessarily scale to succeed in the vast wastelands of a dying US inner city?

You don’t have to look far: the US’s economy now lives on two different planets, moving ever farther apart—and one of the “tells” defining which planet you’re on is infrastructure: the state of schools, highways, bridges, waterworks, public transport, inner city amenities, libraries, the list goes on. When the oil shock of the 1970s and the “global economy” politics of the 1980s combined to hit the old US economy right between the eyes, the first big industry to be “globalized” was US steel as Japanese and Korean factories out-innovated and out-competed the US firms.

Since the US entry into WWII in December, 1941, steel had been a critical part of a US economy driven by manufacturing. The great midwest industrial cities of Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Gary, all had steel in their veins. But in 1978, Cleveland was the first US city to default on its bond obligations, three decades before Detroit. Derided as “the mistake on the lake,” Cleveland suffered for years, as the dire state of its inner city became synonymous with “Rust Belt”;  combined with a long titles drought for its major sports teams (the NFL Browns left for Baltimore in 1995), Cleveland was a city on the ropes, its real estate prices tanking.

Enter what the activists call “community visioning” and the picture for successful community investing—and the parallel rise in residential real estate valuations in Cleveland—and things get a whole lot more interesting. Faced with a complex set of profound third-world problems in a first-world city, a core of dedicated citizens and innovative government people began to figure out how to use “anchor institutions” like hospitals and universities, dead essential to Cleveland’s future no matter what, in combination with local funding mechanisms, to grow local businesses.

The goals were overlapping and multifaceted, and the road to a viable model long and winding, but sustainability and growing property values through community-funded private ownership drove the strategy. The flight of the steel companies from Cleveland scarred the community’s memory: Clevelanders knew 30 years ago what it felt like to see a payroll of thousands of great jobs, benefits—and mortgage payments—leave town, never to return. At first, the green economy wasn’t even on the horizon—the game was simply to survive by “keeping the money in town.”

Meanwhile, even the World Bank and the Harvard Business Review were rethinking the economic principles which gutted the US’s steel belt, the World Bank actually questioning how globalization had damaged employee rights in the US; in 2010, a pair of studies, one in the Harvard Business Review and the other from Penn State’s business school, both agreed: per capita job growth and real estate price growth were intimately linked to the success not of “big payroll” companies (who could pull up stakes, tax breaks or not) but of locally owned businesses and *their* payrolls.

green-inner-city_smallSo Cleveland figured out that universities and hospitals have massive procurement needs…which can be fulfilled locally, by businesses purpose-built to serve these “anchor institutions”—with a twist: the emerging small businesses which won co-op investment are “green,” dedicated to cleaning up and keeping clean one of the most infamously dirty urban environments in the US. With these suppliers/vendors growing their businesses (and their payrolls), Cleveland’s real estate market began to grow in value, slowly, in select neighbourhoods at first, then across the metropolitan region along the Lake Erie shore. The procurement scheme is called Evergreen, and you’re going to be hearing a lot more about the success as the projects grow and deepen change in Cleveland.

From sole proprietorships to co-ops, Cleveland’s discovered that there’s actually a culture of co-operation where small businesses flourish and employee-owned green companies slowly build bank deposits and tax base because the anchor institutions are “buying green, buying local.” One simple unglamorous example: a state-of-the art “green laundry” serves Cleveland’s hospital network’s huge clean linens needs—and growing payroll and tax base to boot; across town, a co-op solar company has numerous first-time homebuyers on staff and the prospects of real social mobility for families trapped for decades in urban poverty. “If it wasn’t for Evergreen, I don’t know where I’d be,” says James Harris of Cooperative Solar. “Having the opportunity to have a career, it’s just great.”

What’s this mean for property values and the real estate market? Cleveland region MLS listings and market reports show that January 2015 grew 4.7% over 2014, with dollar volume climbing 8.4% to $310M, with an average residential sale price among the US’s bargains (Cleveland has rapidly improving ‘liveability’ statistics) at US$126K. Retail vacancy rates are also declining, another good sign; commercial values are climbing too, with innovative projects like a $10M rowers’ condo complex, right on the river, in a rehabbed Victorian foundry. Very cool.

The big picture in the US is far bigger than just Cleveland: banking assets in the US are about $8 trillion but securities assets are over $30 trillion. If even a fraction of Cleveland’s residents, like Sangudo’s did in the last post by EXPERT/ease , moved their investments from out-of-town financial instruments to backing a neighbour’s business, it’d be one smart investment in their own property values—and the future of their city. Cleveland is a slow-moving miracle, its “green procurement strategy” a signal advance in the explosion of employee owned companies in the US, from tech to microbreweries to clothing.

Here’s a wrap-up, from Sangudo, Alberta’s Don Ohler, naming the foundational pieces for community investment that works:

Common vision
In the course of facing down a serious threat, residents develop a clear idea of where they want to go

Trusted leadership
A number of locals habitually do things for the good of the whole community, while not trying to steal the show

Economic strategy
The investment co-op fights to retain the town’s core businesses largely on the strength of local savings

Wider agenda
Finally, local leaders press for reforms to government policy so others can win too. While thinking and acting in the here and now, they’re looking to their “greater neighbourhood”—other small towns and what they can achieve together, given some strategic government action

Mar 12 | 2015

Sangudo’s saga: how’d you like your steak?

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In 2010, like so many small towns in Alberta whipsawed by change and outmigration for the bright lights of Calgary and Edmonton, the small town teetered on the abyss, with sheets of 4×8 plywood boarding up over half the storefronts downtown: Sangudo, Alberta, population 325, was ready for economic life-support. Sangudo, some 90km northwest of Edmonton, had been hemorrhaging businesses for a decade; real estate prices were through the floor.

Online retailers and nearby big box stores had been a one-two punch that had Sangudo on the ropes. In 2006, the local school board decided to close the local high school…and that set a few hardy souls thinking about the future of their town. The townsfolk fought and won and kept the high school open: it was the defining “it’s up to us” moment, as one of the activists, Shelly Starman, recalled in a documentary some years later.

A citizens’ group, a co-op in mind, saw the writing on the wall; they convened to blue-sky opportunities, from carwashes to auto parts supply. Nothing stuck. And then town abattoir’s elderly owner announced his retirement and the imminent closing of his business.

That was the last straw for the citizens’ group: they formed an “opportunity development” investment co-op to buy the abattoir, raised $220,000 from 22 members, and (the biggest piece of the puzzle) induced two local residents who’d left Sangudo for greener pastures—a trained butcher and a savvy business analyst—back to town to run the operation, and held their breath. “Return on investment wasn’t the real focus,” recalls SODC board member Dan Ohler. “It’s about people working together to recreate our community, as a community.”

Guess what?

small-steakHere’s the headline, five years and a ton of hard work later: Sangudo Custom Meats, self-proclaimed purveyors of the “greatest meat on the planet,” its business plan balancing a farmer’s quick wit and a common-sense but innovative eye on growth, roared out of nowhere (actually 49th St, on the outskirts of Sangudo) to stake a claim to the best custom abattoir in a province where beef is taken very, very seriously.

Powered by word of mouth from the original investors, the abattoir has hit double-digit growth some years but the key piece is that Sangudo now has a business model that’s keeping its local economy local—and thriving. “Money isn’t the problem,” notes Ohler. “I’d bet there’s millions in local communities, sitting in RRSPs, bonds and the New York and Toronto stock exchanges. It was about leveraging those dollars and bringing them back into our community.”

The upshot for Sangudo real estate is stable prices, an influx of new families to grow the tax base a little…and certainly new jobs at the abattoir, high-skill/high-pay trades jobs with people hard at work ethically turning local cattle and pigs into superb entrees for Alberta’s high-end restaurants near and far—and SODC then turned around and bought the old Sangudo Legion Hall, renovating the once-depressing space into a thriving restaurant. More jobs, more cash moving through town—and staying there.

And word is, the steaks there are pretty darn good.

Sangudo isn’t alone; co-ops in other small Alberta towns are recirculating local wealth to build community value—rehabbing the local real estate market to boot—and demonstrating that a solid investment is where you find it: right on your doorstep.

First of two parts: next up—does the Sangudo model work in a near-derelict US inner city? Check out part two in our series, Cleveland in the EXPERT/ease series on growing real estate value by investing right in your
own backyard.