Mar 20 | 2017

Your Feedback Counts

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See what improvements you’ve inspired at FCT17-025_Health_Check_Blog_Box_03-17_v1

Tell us what you love about working with FCT, and what you don’t.  Our online customer survey for legal professionals runs twice a year; the next survey invitation will arrive in your inbox soon!

Your feedback helps us identify key areas where improvement is necessary, so that we can implement solutions to make your FCT experience that much better. Recent survey results have inspired various process improvements such as:

  • Reduced call transfer wait times
    When you’re in the middle of placing an order and have a question for the underwriter, you can now be placed on a three-way call to get your question answered and then continue with your order.
  • More efficient ordering process
    We’ve improved how you order over the phone by structuring the order forms to be consistent with the sequence of questions from the underwriter. This helps you prepare for the call and organize your files accordingly, ensuring a fast and smooth experience. You even have the option to order by email to further speed up the process.
  • Faster issue resolution
    When you provide feedback in the survey and indicate that you would like to discuss it further, our team will reach out. This has helped deals that appeared to be in jeopardy close on time, as we believe it’s important to action survey feedback quickly.

While FCT is a driving force for change and innovation in the real estate landscape, the one thing that hasn’t changed in 25+ years is our unwavering focus on you – our customers. We consistently strive to improve our products and services so they work better for you. One of the ways we identify how to improve is through our customer surveys.

If there are any improvements you’d like to see at FCT, be sure to complete the survey!

If you want to share your feedback directly, you can contact our Chief Customer Officer, Colleen Reitzel at creitzel@fct.ca or 888.771.0065 x 763455.

Mar 7 | 2017

What You Need to Know About Real Estate Fraud

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Real estate and legal professionals need to stay vigilant as criminals are getting craftier with real estate fraud today. We take fraud seriously at FCT and strive to combat it at every step in the process. We have a certified fraud examiner on staff specializing in early detection and protection. We also underwrite for it in our policies, and we defend our clients who fall victim to it.

March is fraud prevention month, so we’ve included a round-up of the real-estate scams to look out for:

  • Title fraud and forgery: The ownership or title of a property is fraudulently changed or documents are forged to allow a fraudster to illegally sell or refinance the property.
  • Mortgage fraud: A mortgage is obtained from a lender under false pretenses. This is also known as application fraud.
  • Value fraud: A lender is led to believe a property is worth more than it really is through conceareal estate fraudlment or intentional misrepresentation of the property’s attributes and value.
  • Foreclosure Fraud: A homeowner in default on their mortgage is deceived into transferring their property title either in exchange for a loan or for assistance with their mortgage. The fraudster imposes payments that are not sustainable for the homeowner and they end up losing their property and equity along with it. The homeowner’s payments are not used to pay off the mortgage and the fraudster can resell or remortgage the home.
  • Shadow flipping: A realtor or investor sells the same property multiple times at increasing prices before the initial sale closing date. The initial seller ends up making less while the last buyer pays an inflated value for the property.

While you cannot prevent fraud from occurring, you can protect yourselves and your clients by carefully reviewing the details of all your deals and by following our recommended best practices.

The best way to protect against title fraud is to get both an owner and lender title insurance policy from FCT.

With a title insurance policy, owners can rest easy knowing their title will be defended in the event it is ever challenged* and they will be protected from other issues like survey and title defects. Lenders will be protected against losses associated with the priority and enforceability of the mortgage, title and survey defects, municipal issues as well as title fraud. Lawyers can rest easy knowing that all parties are protected and FCT has their back in the event of fraud.

Have you come across any fraudulent transactions lately? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

* Insurance by FCT Insurance Company Ltd. This material is intended to provide general information only. For specific coverage and exclusions, refer to the applicable policy. Copies are available upon request.  Some products/services may vary by province. Prices and products/services offered are subject to change without notice.

Jan 26 | 2017

Fraud is Alive and Well in B.C.

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Fraud in B.C.I am sure by now many of you have read the Fraud alert: Notices to the Profession published by the Law Society of B.C.  And for those of you who have not, click here for the link.

So as a legal professional, what can you do to protect yourself and your clients from the devastating effects of fraud?  In addition to the tips provided in the Law Society’s publication, as an expert in detecting and deterring fraudulent real estate transactions, FCT has compiled a list of best practices to assist in avoiding fraud:

1. Whether you are acting for a vendor or borrower, always insist that the balance of the proceeds are made payable to the registered owners after payment of secured creditors, taxes, legal fees, bank loans, credit cards, etc. and not to third parties. If the borrower or vendor owes money to a third party that does not appear to be related to this transaction, they can deposit the balance of the proceeds into their bank account and cut their own cheques. In most fraudulent transactions, funds are made payable to third parties, which allow the fraudsters to quickly negotiate the funds and disappear.

2. Be wary of very quick closings where you do not know or have never acted for your clients.  Most fraudsters go to solicitors/notaries who do not know them and hope to pull off the fraud quickly.

3. Question transactions being signed under Power of Attorney.  Why is the Power of Attorney being used and can you contact the Donor?  Review the Power of Attorney carefully.

4. Read your lender client’s mortgage instructions carefully and ensure you comply with their fraud requirements.

5. Get title insurance for both your lender and purchaser clients in order to protect them from the devastating effects of title fraud.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend one of our fraud seminars, you can still view it online and obtain CPD credits, by clicking here.

Have you come across any fraudulent transactions recently? Please share your stories with us.

Nov 29 | 2016

How Jay Seabrook Co-built the Financial Literacy Revolution in Canada

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financial literacyAs you may or may not know November is Financial Literacy Month (FLM) in Canada. FLM is led by the Financial Literacy Leader, Jane Rooney, and promotes the cooperation of organizations to improve the financial literacy of all Canadians at any age. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term, financial literacy refers to the knowledge and skills that are required to make responsible personal financial decisions.

Why is Financial Literacy Month important?

FLM aims to teach Canadians about the importance of creating and following budgets and living within your means.  According to the
Government of Canada
less than half (46%) of Canadians currently have a budget, and 42% of 35-44 year olds are not keeping up with bills and financial obligations. Only 66% of Canadians are financially prepared for retirement and 52% of Canadians admit that they could not cover at least six months’ worth of living expenses if they lost their main source of income.

These alarming trends are being passed onto Canadian youth, and inspired Jay Seabrook, the focus of this month’s EXPERT/ease feature, to create a financial literacy program for high school students.

Jay and his long-term business partner Kevin Cochran built the EnRICHed Academy content to target the comprehension of high school students “so they could really understand how to build wealth in a fun and entertaining way.” EnRICHed Academy recognizes that everyone deserves financial awareness and is dedicated to financial education, a premise that won over the business brains on Dragon’s Den in Season 7.

To learn more about Jay’s path to success with EnRICHed Academy and Dominion Lending Centres read the November edition of EXPERT/ease.

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.

Aug 17 | 2016

Certified Resale Home: Delivering a superior customer experience

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customer experienceIt’s pretty clear that brands with a good understanding of the value of customer experience manage to be so successful in large part because of word of mouth. This level of exposure is what every company strives for!

Looking at real estate, agents are typically chosen based on referrals and/or repeat business (having worked with the same client previously). But what really underlies this choice?  In my opinion, CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

There have been numerous technological advancements that have made buying and selling a home much easier (i.e. online property searches, buy and sell checklists, electronic transaction platforms with e-signature etc.) but the secret ingredient will always remain the same – give a customer a great experience and they will come back for more or let others know about it.

When it comes to return on investment, delivering a superior customer experience will go beyond any marketing spend. It was one of the key opportunities we identified when FCT started to devise our Certified Resale Home service. Of course, it helps that delivering superior customer experiences has been our core value for the past 25 years.

Certified Resale Home is an impartial, honest and expert assessment of a home that provides greater transparency and information so that the seller, realtor, and buyer can make informed decisions.

Here’s what it can do for everyone involved:

The seller – get the best possible offer, quicker

  • Immediately differentiate the property and make it stand out
  • Optimize purchase offers
  • Enhance buyer comfort

The buyer – reduce anxiety and reduce the buyer beware environment

  • Build trust by offering more transparent information through a recognized ‘brand’
  • Ensure they have an impartial and honest inspection to rely on and peace of mind and confidence with a warranty to fall back on

The agents – increase customer satisfaction and generate referrals

  • Take control of the situation and get out in front of issues for their client
  • Reinforce their value with a superior full-service experience
  • Time is money – close listings faster

We are currently piloting with RE/MAX Niagara (Ontario) and Century21Carrie.com (Winnipeg).  If you are a homeowner looking to sell in those areas, contact us for more information. All pre-listing home inspections are fulfilled by AmeriSpec® Inspection Services.

Warranty Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited
® Registered Trademark of AmeriSpec Inspection Services.

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.

May 31 | 2016

Preparing your home for sale: A checklist for helping you stand out and sell faster

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real estateCompetition can be fierce in the real estate market. So how do you make sure your home is the one that gets attention and gets sold? Well, a lot of factors come into play that are beyond a homeowner’s control, such as current market conditions and regulatory environment. That being said, there are a lot of things that a homeowner can control to maximize opportunity and profit. Here is a quick list to help you make the most of your selling experience before you even put your home up for sale:

  • Do some research to determine your home-selling strategy and ask yourself: Is now the best time to sell from both an emotional and a marketability perspective? How much do I want/need to get in terms of a selling price?
  • Prepare yourself emotionally to have people in your home. Potential buyers will be scrutinizing your living space — and you need to be ready for the feedback, both positive and negative.
  • Locate paperwork that will answer potential buyers’ questions such as utility bills, tax bills, warranties, renovation dates and invoices, property surveys and so on.
  • Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and do a thorough walk-through, critiquing your home from their perspective. Making a few small touch-ups and repairs can make a big impression.
  • Clean, declutter and depersonalize your home so that prospective buyers don’t get distracted from its features. For a complete listing of areas to consider when making your home look its best, click here.
  • Maximize curb appeal to create a powerful first impression that draws prospective buyers. Here are some good ideas to make your home inviting as suggested by MoneyTalksNews.com.
  • Enlist the help of an experienced, certified and trusted home inspector like AmeriSpec® Inspection Services. By understanding what repairs — both minor and major — your home needs, you can get in front of potential conditions that can slow or derail a sale altogether.
  • Interview several realtors before selecting one to represent you and your listing. It is important to choose one that specializes in your particular area and type of home; one that has a solid reputation and valid credentials; and one that comes recommended. Howrealtorshelp.ca offers 10 questions you should consider asking potential candidates.

By preparing yourself and your home with these simple yet effective tips, you’re well on your way to ensuring a better, faster closing experience.

Do you have any additional tips for preparing a home for sale? Feel free to share by commenting below.  And be sure to visit thecertifiedresalehome.ca for more information on how to put this innovative service offering to work for you.

May 25 | 2016

China’s real estate market

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Are regulations cooling things off or merely inflating another bubble?

The sheer size of China’s populatio16-162_FCT_Blog_China_Sunset_Squaren trumps imagining: with nearly 1.4 billion people living within its borders, China has more people speaking English than the English-speaking populations of the United States and Canada combined (quoted by former US ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman).

China’s real estate marketplace is equally immense—and, many analysts contend, as fragile as it is vast.

Why should we care? Because if the Chinese real estate market implodes, then China’s economy may subside as well. What’s underpinning this fragility?

People: people moving.

Some 220 million Chinese have moved from rural towns and villages to one of China’s metropolitan areas, where, as unskilled labour, many work building “ghost cities”: square miles of highrise apartments with no residents. These “ghost cities” aren’t owned by the government: they’re owned by investment syndicates; should the market collapse, the evaporation of wealth would be unprecedented, with global implications.

Regulatory changes in 2013 were designed to cool off a white-hot market and for the most part, most China property market-watchers agree: the regulatory changes worked. The market consolidated, then took off again, growing by an eye-watering 14.4% in 2014, fuelled by investors departing China’s cratering equities marketplace.

There’s more: for years, China’s sky-high savings rate—over 60% for most Chinese; there’s no state pension scheme in China—has been the bedrock for the property market’s fluctuations. That and minimal Chinese household debt ratios have provided a measure of cushioning from the wildest market movements, but the huge residential inventory overhang looks to be catching up with China’s spectacular appetite for housing investment.

The subtle thing is that China’s urban market is differentiating—and that differentiation is accelerating, as first-tier, technology-driven megacities (Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, with populations over 10 million) outpace smaller, more traditional urban economies (Chonqqing, Tianjin, populations 5-10 million).

Tech capital Guangdong province is catalyzing real productivity gains and job creation, inciting population inflows; that, in turn, contributed to Shenzhen’s 52 % property price gains over the past year. It’s Silicon Valley all over again, only bigger.

“China’s 60 richest cities—many of which have double-digit real estate appreciation annually—produce $8.6 trillion in economic value (half the size of the US GDP),” notes China real estate analyst Dan Steinbock “include all of the world’s 10 fastest-growing cities and represent 15% of all global growth.”

There’s a catch, of course: the very policies designed to decrease the wild market conditions of China’s overbuilt smaller cities and housing-starved megacities are just as likely to inflate yet another bubble.

With 30% down financed by easy down payment loans and 24% interest, China’s real estate market is playing with matches, with a burgeoning (and highly illegal) secondary market for down payment loans threatening to catch fire in Shenzhen and Beijing. Mobile and online platforms aren’t helping matters, adding even more modes of leverage to already over-leveraged markets. Expect to see another wave of government regulations in short order. Make no mistake, however: China’s real estate market has cracks all over it.

Do you think this bubble is ready to burst? Comment below.

Further reading:
Shanghai to monitor mortgage lending more closely: document
China’s Shenzhen raises property deposit thresholds
Why China’s Property Rally Has ‘Reached A Tipping Point’

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.