Aug 16 | 2017

EasyFund is Now Available Directly Through
The Conveyancer®

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EasyFund is now available directly through The Conveyancer®At FCT, we’re always looking for ways to make real estate transactions more efficient for everyone involved. To do this, it’s important to ensure that any new innovation is integrated easily and seamlessly into the existing closing process.

Do Process shares our goals to streamline practices and provide innovative solutions to the legal community. We’re happy to announce that EasyFund is now accessible directly through The Conveyancer platform*. This integration is another way we can provide our customers with greater efficiencies in the closing process. They can now enjoy a truly end-to-end solution through The Conveyancer.

“FCT has found the Holy Grail for Canadian real estate lawyers: electronic transfer of funds between solicitors… and now they’re making it even easier.” Mitch Kowalski, author, advisor and innovator in the global legal services industry.

EasyFund was created in response to a need from the legal community to provide greater efficiencies in the cumbersome practice of paper cheques delivered between offices during a real estate funding process. It is a secure online service that offers legal professionals the ability to safely manage the transfer of real estate closing funds, effectively reducing the need for certified cheques, bank drafts, direct deposits and couriers. It allows legal professionals to manage the payouts of a transaction quickly and easily without leaving the office.

Now, through our integration with The Conveyancer, the payout process can be completed securely and even more efficiently in two simple tabs.

How will this integration benefit you?

  • It will eliminate the need to re-key client information which saves you more time
  • Provide you with an end-to-end solution to process your deals
  • You will remain in control of the entire process
  • You will gain access to a larger network of lawyers who use EasyFund, making your transaction process easier

Join the growing network of law firms who already enjoy easier and faster closings with EasyFund by enrolling now! Contact us at 1.877.313.0505 or easyfund@fct.ca for more information.

*EasyFund is currently available in Ontario only.
Jul 14 | 2017

Why Jack Smith* was Glad he had E&O Extra® with Protection+

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E&O InsuranceWhen Jack’s clients were slapped with a $47,000 development charge, they were astounded. Jack made an honest mistake in failing to advise them about this charge and that there was no cap on it.

To maintain their reputation and keep their clients happy, the law firm was able to negotiate with the builder to reduce it to $10,000. Looking at a reasonable industry standard, the purchaser of a new home could expect to pay $7,500 in development charges so the firm covered $2,500 from their own pocket and the clients paid the remaining amount.

Luckily for Jack, he was protected by his E&O Extra** with Protection+ insurance. He submitted a claim to FCT and was reimbursed for the $2,500 paid to smooth things over with the client.

If you were in a similar situation, would you have been protected?

FCT understands that mistakes happen. We offer insurance products to complement your mandatory E&O insurance. We provide reimbursement for losses resulting from claims against your mandatory E&O insurance for residential and commercial real estate transactions. This includes your standard deductible payment and any increase in premium***.

For additional coverage, like Jack’s, you can add Protection+ to your E&O Extra policy for a minimal fee.  It offers you the ability to settle smaller claims directly with your client and avoid going through your mandatory E&O coverage. It covers up to $10,000 per policy year or a maximum of three claims (whichever comes first).

Contact us to learn the different ways we can protect you and your reputation.

 

*The name has been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.
** E&O Extra does not cover dishonest, fraudulent or criminal acts of omissions.
*** Standard deductibles, premiums and coverage amounts vary by region.
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.
Jun 21 | 2017

What’s Happening in FinTech?

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Top FinTech LearningsThe spring season brings a lot of activity to the financial services space in Canada. It’s one of the busiest times of the year for typical “money out” campaigns from our banks and coincides with strong activity in listings, transactions, and ultimately closings.

More recently the spring season has also come to signal the start of FinTech conference season across Canada. The size and scale of these events continue to grow while our own homegrown talent is taking center stage. With over 250+ FinTech companies across Canada and $1BN in cumulative venture capital investments, Canada is well on its way to solidifying itself as a global center for financial innovation.

As Head of Product at FCT, one of my primary responsibilities is understanding how the needs of our lenders are going to be changing over the next 3-5 years. Internally, we’ve been aggressively transforming our own product portfolio and expanding our focus on hybrid solutions that leverage the best of our financial technology, business process outsourcing (BPO) capabilities, and insurance expertise. As I have been working through the process of how we align our own product roadmaps to these opportunities, I wanted to share more broadly what I’ve learned on the conference circuit throughout the year.

Developments in FinTech

Opening up financial services data:

  • The European Union is already well ahead of North America when it comes to FinTech penetration. In an unusual role reversal, we actually see governments across the globe leading the charge to create an environment that is conducive to FinTech growth and innovation.
  • Initiatives like the European Union PSD2 open banking API, where by 2018 all lenders will be required to open up transactional data (with user permission) to enable third parties to build new types of financial services is one important example. While Canada is definitely lagging in this area, there are several opportunities to target key data as a starting point and use that information to re-engineer how financial services are delivered to customers across all segments.

While cash flow will always be king, managing identity in the digital age is close behind:

  • Online identity is the next cycle of the internet and as we see more and more digital lending platforms that don’t require in-person interaction, there is more of a need for identity management applications that simplify and perfect authentication/verification, early detection of fraud, and are adaptable.
  • Contextual commerce is the next major area of growth in the financial service space. This area deals with making payments through internet connected devices that are not a smartphone or laptop but rather devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Oculus Rift, and even your connected car. Thinking through the connected car example, how would you know the driver of the car is the right driver to offer a service?

Homegrown products will find greater product-market fit than global imports:

  • Canadian built and managed FinTech solutions will have the advantage over more global or regional efforts that try to ‘Canadianize.’ Rethinking financial solutions from the ground up will provide another advantage. The underlying point here is a true need to take a product-driven approach to building new financial services as opposed to a clone strategy from other markets.
  • For example, at FCT we believe understanding your customer segmentation in FinTech is critical. Existing companies overly rely on safety, security, legacy as the bread and butter of their solutions. Those features are table stakes but do not do enough in isolation to capture the wallets of the millennial, and eventually Gen Z segments. Great user interface and user experience, smart use of data, and transparency are at the top of the decision matrix for these segments and are causing radical reinvestments in technology talent across existing companies of all sizes.

This is the year of blockchain….or maybe its Ethereum… but it’s time to see RESULTS

  • By now everyone has heard of blockchain and the power of the underlying technology in financial services, but the conversation is FINALLY shifting to the business opportunities and that will be the catalyst for blockchain-infused products to gain traction. Experiments like Project ‘Jasper’ which is a Bank of Canada + Big 5 proof of concept with blockchain to reduce reconciliation efforts in payments systems are examples of the results and value of using distributed public networks.

We strongly believe that we are less than 12 months way from seeing the first mainstream pilot for tools like smart contracts and we are even bigger believers in the truly disruptive nature of these technologies.

I’m incredibly interested in your opinions and welcome comments. If you are passionate about thinking differently in the financial services space, I’d love to chat and can be reached at rlambert (at) fct dot com or through LinkedIn.

Jun 16 | 2017

Title Insurance: What Every Homeowner Needs to Know

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Title Insurance: What every homeowner needs to knowYou combed through websites, apps, maybe even the papers and visited dozens of places until finally! You found the perfect house! Your biggest achievement, your biggest asset – how do you keep it safe? Or like in this case, how can you even make sure that it’s all yours?

Before you purchased your home, the property may have changed hands several times leaving room for mistakes like an incorrect survey, a non-existent permit or title-related issues. Even with a new build, somewhere along the way there may have been an error that could affect your ability to sell, mortgage, or lease your property in the future. These are the types of things that a title insurance policy can protect you against.

What exactly is title insurance?

Title insurance is a unique form of insurance. Unlike home insurance where you are insuring the structure and contents, title insurance protects you, the homeowner, against losses related to the title (ownership) and other defects relating to your property. Plus, it may cover fixing issues or legally defending your ownership, which can be very costly and stressful.

Do you automatically get a title insurance policy when you purchase property?

It’s a common misconception that homeowners automatically get a residential title insurance policy when buying property. While a lender policy is required on every purchase, a homeowner policy is not. It’s up to you to make sure that you have the protection available to you through title insurance.

Does the lender or loan policy cover you?

No, a lender aka loan policy covers lenders only  and protects their interests when it comes to priority and enforceability of your mortgage, title and survey defects, municipal issues and title fraud.

What does a homeowner title insurance policy cover?

A typical title insurance policy covers common issues that may have happened both before and after you’ve purchased your home. This is sometimes referred to as pre- and post-policy because the day you take ownership of your home is generally also the effective date of the policy.

The main areas of coverage in the Homeowner Policy are:

  • Fraud — a person fraudulently transfers your property without your knowledge or consent.
  • Forgery — someone forges your signature on a registered document, which allows them to sell or mortgage your property.
  • Encroachments — if a structure built by a previous owner sits outside the property’s boundaries or if a neighbour builds a structure that is partially on your property after you purchase your policy.
  • Lack of building permits — if a previous owner completed work to your property without the required building permits, you could be forced by your municipality to remove or fix the structure.
  • Duty to defend — if you have to protect and restore your title as a result of a covered title risk, FCT will pay for the legal fees and costs associated with it.

How much does a policy cost?

  • For a low one-time premium, you can ensure that you have the protection you need for as long as you own your home. Your lawyer can provide you with a quote within minutes.

Don’t put yourself at risk. For a free quote, visit fct.ca today!

This is provided as general information only. For further details regarding coverage, please review your policy.

 

Jun 9 | 2017

What Can Buyers do to Avoid Surprises and Delays in Closing?

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Tips for closing successfullyWith rising prices and stricter controls on mortgages, housing affordability is getting more challenging. And once you finally obtain funding (after squeezing out every last drop of your savings for a down payment), it’s still not a done deal till the closing date. A number of unexpected issues can come up that may kill or delay a deal.

Here’s a checklist that will help you get to the finish line successfully:

  • Don’t start spending big – Now that you’ve secured funding for your house, you might think that it’s time to start buying furniture for your new home. Try not to spend large sums of money, whether cash or credit, as it will affect your standing with the lender. Your financial status will be checked a few days prior to closing and any major changes from your initial evaluation will need to be reassessed to ensure you still have the ability to pay off your mortgage.
  • Be wary of changing jobs – While it might seem like a great idea to take a higher paying job before your closing date, it may affect your lender’s decision to close as scheduled. They may want a few months of pay stubs from your new position to prove that you have stable income. While it may not be a deal breaker for your lender, it may delay the closing date.
  • Provide documents on time – Your closing date can be anywhere from 30-90 days after signing the agreement of purchase and sale. You do have some time to provide your mortgage broker and lawyer with the documents that they require, but don’t delay! The sooner you provide all the paperwork necessary, the sooner your team will be able to handle any unexpected findings or issues that may arise.
  • Try not to skip the home inspection – With the hot market and multiple offer scenarios nowadays, a lot of homes are being sold without conditions. While presenting a clean offer may win you the home of your dreams, it can also end up costing you more than you expected. When you’re mortgaged to the max, you can’t afford costly surprises like leaks or repairs that you come across when you finally move in.
  • Keep extra funds on hand – Buyers often put as much money as they can into their down payment. However, you should always keep extra money on hand to prepare for closing costs like land transfer fees, legal fees and any bills the sellers may have prepaid, such as property taxes or utilities. You may also need to put down a larger down payment if the lender appraisal values your house at a significantly lower price than you paid for it.
  • Don’t forget the title insurance – Make sure you’re protected by asking your lawyer to purchase title insurance for you. It not only allows you to close fast even in the absence of a survey and provides gap coverage, but it also protects you from paying any liens or debts the previous owners left behind.

Have you encountered unexpected issues before closing? Share your stories in the comment section below!

May 31 | 2017

Does Your Client Really Need Title Insurance?

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Does your client need title insuranceThe topic of title insurance may come up when clients are purchasing a new property, and a common question is, “do I really need it?”

Well, title insurance in Canada has come a long way from when we first introduced it to the market over 25 years ago. It offers the best defense against title fraud, as well as survey and title issues/defects. It can also protect your clients from unexpected costs that may threaten their financial status.

For instance, Jason and June* finally found their dream home after years of saving and searching for the right property. Once financing was approved, they happily moved into their newly purchased home. Shortly after moving in, they received a notice from the city about outstanding tax and water utility charges amounting to over two thousand dollars. This was a very unwelcome surprise given their tight budget as first-time homebuyers. Luckily their lawyer had recommended they purchase a title insurance policy, which covered outstanding tax and utility bills. Because of their title insurance coverage, they were spared the extra expense when the claim was paid out by FCT.

Commercial property owners also benefit from protecting their multi-million dollar investments with title insurance as it covers issues like encroachments, zoning violations, unpaid taxes and utilities, etc. For example, a developer Jack*, purchased a golf course with plans to develop it into a larger golf course and resort. The municipality provided confirmation that the land could be developed for these purposes. Unfortunately, after closing, he was notified by the municipality that there was an error and the land was zoned as “open space/residential” and applying for re-zoning was not an option. As a result, the land could continue to be used as is but development plans could not proceed. Because FCT had insured the value of the land along with the approximate value with the improvements, Jack received a claim settlement for the loss in property value because of the zoning error. With the claim settled, he had the choice to use the property in keeping with current zoning, or sell the property without incurring a financial loss.

So does your client really need title insurance? You decide.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients. This information is provided as general information only. For further details please review the subject policy.

May 24 | 2017

8 Tips for Selling your Home

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8 tips for selling your homeCompetition can be fierce in the real estate business, especially in these uncertain times. One day it’s a seller’s market and the next it’s not. So how do you make sure your home stands out in the marketplace?

While there are a lot of factors beyond a homeowner’s control—such as market conditions and regulatory environment— there are certain things a homeowner can do 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.

  1. Ask yourself the important questions – Is now the best time to sell from both a personal and a marketability perspective? How much do I want/need to get in terms of a selling price?
  2. Prepare yourself to have people in your home. Potential buyers will scrutinize your living space and you should be ready for the feedback.
  3. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and do a thorough walkthrough, critiquing your home from their perspective. Making a few small touch-ups and repairs can make a big impression.
  4. Clean, de-clutter and de-personalize your home so that prospective buyers can envision living in the space. For a complete listing of areas to consider when making your home look its best, click here.
  5. Gather paperwork such as utility and tax bills, warranties, property surveys and permits that will answer any questions for a prospective buyer.
  6. Maximize curb appeal to create a powerful first impression. Here are some good ideas to make your home more inviting, as suggested by MoneyTalksNews.com.
  7. Interview several realtors before selecting one to represent you. It is important to choose one that specializes in your area and type of home; one that has a solid reputation and valid credentials.
  8. Consider using the Certified Resale Home service – a pre-listing home inspection backed by an 18-month transferrable warranty to help your home stand out. By understanding what repairs your home needs, you can get in front of potential conditions that can delay or kill a deal. Visit thecertifiedresalehome.ca for more information on how to put FCT’s innovative service offering to work for you.

Do you have any other tips to share?  Please comment below!

 

May 10 | 2017

How to Respond to the Transitioning Real Estate Industry

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How to respond to the real estate industryDeath and taxes, according to Benjamin Franklin, were the only certainties in this world. For all his wit and wisdom, he missed one obvious thing – change.

As pioneers of the title insurance industry in Canada, FCT constantly responds to change with its own innovation. This ability to adapt is even more important in the current real estate market. New regulations are in effect that are throwing the market into chaos. That’s what this blog post will address – how to respond to change and chaos.

For the past year, we have interacted with some of the most compelling personalities in Canadian financial services. We went deep with ‎Fisgard Capital’s Hali Strundlund-Noble, our former president, Pat Chetcuti, Dominion Lending Centres’ Jay Seabrook and Paradigm’s Kathy Gregory—original minds all— and we like to think we got gold. Most of all, we discovered some remarkable commonalities.

Reflecting upon the shared intuitions from our trailblazers, this is what we learned:

1) It is important to stay resilient and responsive to ensure we can deal with business threats.

2) Intuition plays a key role in decision making – where intuition relies on and emotions and expertise-based analysis of data.

3) The benefits of adopting a startup strategy – rapid response, great team chemistry and staff retention.

That’s not all. Researchers have confirmed “that the more unstable an organization’s environment is, executives reported the reliance on their intuition, and their organizations’ performance was better than the industry average when they did so.”

Takeaway? Chaos is good. Instability inspires creativity and entrepreneurial behaviour. And, recognizing a good decision right now is better than a perfect decision next week. This is good because odds are we’re going to see more chaos this year—not necessarily more than usual but almost certainly in new forms.

So: the Canadian mortgage industry has cracks all over it—our trailblazers shared this truth time and time again.

Why? There are deficits in client education, in process innovation, and in responding to regulatory change. There are gaps when reading the fog that lies ahead. Or when there’s technological disruption that drives big banks into agile best practices. In addition, there is more potential disruption with upcoming regulatory changes, FinTech, blockchain, peer-to-peer lending among a myriad of allegiances for financial service businesses to navigate.

What’s going on in the industry?

  • Increased CMHC mortgage loan insurance premiums
  • More rigorous stress tests for property buyers
  • Capital gains reporting changes
  • Portfolio insurance changes
  • Tax on foreign buyers
  • Expanding rent control, and more

 

How will this play out? 

From broker to lender, people begin to worry. But as it turns out, worrying is actually good for us.

This year, the mortgage marketplace will reward not just those capable of seeing beyond the numbers to the stories beneath and then pivoting, but also to those who can use the anxiety.  And we all experience anxiety when change hits us right between the eyes.

Here’s the paradox.

It’s not the worrying that freezes us. It’s our inability to get past the moment the worry does freeze us. This is the moment when powerlessness wins and we’re no longer open. What freezes us is not surrendering to the anxiety—the paradox is that worry is actually doing something.

In fact, research shows that worry motivates us and makes us better planners. A crew of enterprising researchers looked at rumination and discovered that people who sat with their anxiety tended to have far higher verbal intelligence than those who don’t.

The ability to apply that intelligence is quite likely the recipe for success. And here’s how you can do that:

  • Use worry as a mindfulness tool: Worry is often based on expecting something to happen in the future. The cues of feeling the physical tension of worry or noticing that you’re spiraling into despair can bring you into the present. When worry surfaces, allow yourself a set time to stew in it, and then start a distracting activity.
  • Plan ahead: Essentially, worry helps to prepare us. Once we decide on the different actions we can take in various scenarios, the need to worry is eliminated. When you worry about a particular situation, balancing the negative with a positive action plan will help you set your fears aside.
  • Create a support system: Fear and worry can leave you feeling isolated. However, when we feel a sense of connection and support, our fears can be calmed. Based on the plan you create, build a support team to help you action your plan or just to share the worrisome moment with you and hold you accountable.

 

How are you responding to the changing real estate industry? Share it with us in the comments!

May 3 | 2017

Who will be FCT’s Next Scholarship Recipient?

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ScholarshipScholarship applications are now being accepted.

Our Honourable William G. Davis Scholarship is now open for 2017 submissions. The program awards five $1,000 scholarships to students who have been accepted to or are currently enrolled at a post-secondary institution in Canada.

It is named after The Honourable William G. Davis, the 18th Premier of Ontario, whose passion for education contributed to his work in building Ontario’s community college system. Recipients of the scholarship are remarkable young people who aim to make a difference in the lives of others.

For instance, one of the 2016 William G. Davis Scholarship recipients, Bernice Ho is ready to make an impact through her education. She is currently enrolled at Queen’s University where she is studying to be a pediatrician. Bernice pursued her passion to work with children since high school by volunteering for the YMCA, tutoring elementary students, and working with the Markham Stouffville hospital to draw and colour with young patients. She is also the co-founder of the Sick Kids Foundations Club.

What really pushed her to follow her dream of being a pediatrician was a course that changed her world view.  “How I saw the world was profoundly changed by my Social Determinants of Health course because I learned that an individual’s socioeconomic status could impact their access to healthcare,” Bernice explains. “Therefore, my love for children and my passion to abolish such “guidelines” in healthcare policies encouraged me to become a pediatrician working alongside health promotion to implement affordable and available healthcare, so that each child, no matter their adversities, can get an equal start to life.”

We are proud to support Bernice in her academic journey and look forward to awarding scholarships to more deserving students this year.

Scholarship applications will be accepted till June 30, 2017. For details on how to apply, visit our website.

Best of luck to all the applicants!

Apr 27 | 2017

FCT is Recognized as a Great Place to Work Again!

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Great Place to WorkWe are pleased to announce that the Great Place to Work® Institute has named FCT one of the “Top 50 Best Workplaces” in Canada for the third consecutive year. FCT now ranks 21 out of 50 Large and Multinational companies, moving up 7 spots since last year. We have also been named one of the “Top 50 Best Workplaces for Women” in Canada for the second year in a row.

To earn a spot amongst the hundreds of companies vying to get on the list, applicant companies must participate in an employee survey and respond to an in-depth questionnaire about their programs and company practices. The only way to get on the list is if your employees put you there!

“At FCT we strive to create an environment that makes people feel engaged, appreciated and motivated to succeed. The fact that we’ve made this list for three years in a row, and we’ve now been named a Best Workplace for Women for the second year in a row, indicates our people feel we are delivering on our commitment to them,” says Sharon Wingfelder, Vice President of Human Resources/Corporate Affairs at FCT.

We are invested in our employees and their development. We empower them to deliver their best each and every day through programs that allow them to surprise, thank or make it right with our customers as they see fit. Our internal learning and development initiatives provide employees with access to hundreds of courses to improve their skills and set them up for success. We also offer competitive benefits and recognition programs, along with an annual volunteer day to encourage employees to get involved in the communities in which they live and work. Through the FCT Charitable Foundation, employees are able to make a difference by donating time and money to charities across Canada.

This is the 12th year that the Great Place to Work® Institute has announced its Best Workplaces list in Canada. Great Place to Work® is the global authority on high-trust, high-performance workplace cultures. They are a research and consulting firm whose mission is to build a better society by helping companies transform their workplaces.

We are so proud to be among the top 25 on the list this year and will continue to work towards making FCT a Great Place to Work in 2018!