Jul 7 | 2017

3 Tips to Stay Healthy When it Gets Busy

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Tips to stay healthyWhether you’re a lawyer, lender, mortgage broker or realtor – working in the real estate industry can be unpredictable. Before you know it, things get hectic and you can slip into bad habits like skipping meals, not exercising and working on just a few hours of sleep. This will eventually take a toll on your health and even your mood. But when you’re busy, it’s even more important to maintain peak performance.

Here are three simple ways you can stay healthy and energetic all year round.

1. Make healthy food choices

Not that you can’t enjoy the occasional pizza party, but think of it this way, nutrition fuels your body and you’ll get the most out of premium gas. If you skip meals, you may end up making bad food choices out of hunger. Try to stash healthy snacks like fruits, nuts and pre-cut veggies at your desk. This way you won’t need to rely on candy bars and fast food to get you through the day.

2. Keep active

You may be sitting hunched over a desk all day or behind the wheel of a car – going to client meetings or rushing from one property to another. Take some time in the day for a quick stretch break or better yet, start a fitness challenge with co-workers. Getting other people on board is a great way to ensure you all stay moving and motivated.

3. Set expectations and priorities

At the end of the day, you’re only human. Make sure your clients and co-workers have reasonable expectations of you. Create a list of priorities for the day to help you get organized and let people know when they can expect deliverables.

Do you have any other tips to get through busy periods? Share it with us in the comments section!

Mar 4 | 2015

How to protect against mortgage fraud

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how_to_protect_you_smallMarch is Fraud Prevention Month, and as such, our focus turns to this month-long education campaign aimed at addressing fraud within Canada. As one of the fastest growing crimes in North America, it is absolutely vital for all Canadian individuals and businesses to be able to recognize and prevent it.

What is mortgage fraud?
Mortgage fraud is a type of real estate fraud that most often hurts the institutions lending money to individuals purchasing property.

The most common type of mortgage fraud is when fraudsters acquire property and then artificially increase the property’s value through a series of sales and resales between themselves and an accomplice. A mortgage is then secured on the property based on the artificially inflated price.

Mortgage fraud can also occur when individuals falsify information used to qualify for loans beyond their financial reach.

Fast and easy money with huge consequences
According to the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP), the average case of real estate title fraud amounts to $300,000 and industry insiders estimate these scams are becoming increasingly common.  For lenders, this type of fraud amounts to potentially huge losses resulting from unpaid mortgage and property foreclosures.

FCT pays out more as a result of fraud than any other claim type.

Protect yourself and your organization
In this digital age where face-to-face contact is minimal, it is more important than ever to be vigilant. Prevention is and always will be the best protection against fraud:

•    Know your client
•    Request a face-to-face meeting, whenever possible
•    Ask for identification and verify its information
•    Look for patterns of odd behaviour and trust your instincts
•    Get title insurance

Title insurance — the ultimate protection
A title insurance policy from FCT allows you to:

•    Protect your financial interests with some of the most comprehensive title insurance coverage available
•    Safeguard yourself, your reputation, and your business by easily mitigating risk associated with claims
•    Provide the best possible service to your clients by partnering with the leader in the title insurance industry

For more information, watch for real-life lender claims stories in an upcoming post.

Jan 14 | 2014

Prospering in the face of reduced mortgage volumes

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mortgagesThe year 2013 wasn’t bad. The Canadian housing bubble did not burst, interest rates stayed in check and the economy seemed resilient and stable. But, we did watch mortgage volumes diminish. Some of that effect was, no doubt, induced by CMHC belt-tightening around mortgage affordability and perhaps some was just consumer belt-tightening prompted by growing personal debt levels. Whatever the cause, mortgage lenders had to do more with less. How do you maintain profitability when the revenue side of your operation is challenged? You get more efficient and contain costs.

You might wonder how a Title Insurance Blog would relate to this situation – here is the answer. In an earlier post, ‘Mortgage Lenders Need Title Insurance Too’, we outlined the unique benefits of title insurance for lenders – essentially what title insurance protects. But equally important to lenders, perhaps more so, is what title insurance enables. With such things as coverage, enforceability, priority, survey concerns, etc., lenders need to focus on processing efficiency and speed to enhance their offerings. Title Insurance enabled mortgage processing operations deliver those very elements through a combination of automation and unique process capabilities, including:

  • Capacity to handle high transaction volumes, exacting service standards and timelines
  • Title investigation and insurance commitments are reduced to hours
  • Document processing and delivery is streamlined and faster
  • Mortgage signings can occur in-branch, sometimes even in-home
  • Customer funds are available on signing – no waiting for mortgage registration
  • Lower, fixed closing cost for mortgages

All these capabilities mean better service for borrowers. They also mean faster, more efficient and less costly processing for lenders. Those are welcome benefits when shrinking volumes challenge profitability.

Do you have specific mortgage processing challenges facing you? Let’s dialogue – together, we may find solutions.

Nov 26 | 2013

Congratulations to CAAMP and its 2013 Mortgage Hall of Fame Inductees!

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hallof-fame_postLast year I remember sitting in the audience of the CAAMP Mortgage Hall of Fame Awards Night feeling very proud of FCT’s President, Pat Chetcuti for his induction into the Mortgage Hall of Fame. Pat was instrumental in designing a mortgage refinance process with title insurance that in the past two decades has saved borrowers millions of dollars on the cost of their mortgage and significantly decreased the time to fund for borrowers.

This year I would like to extend my congratulations on behalf of FCT to all the new inductees − Kathy Gregory, Paul Grewal, Brian Matthey, Grant Thomas and Debbie Thomas.

I am particularly delighted by the recognition for two new Mortgage Hall of Fame Inductees. I have had the pleasure to work with both Kathy Gregory and Paul Grewal for many years and can attest to the passion and expertise they have brought to this industry and to the organizations that they have represented. I know that all members of CAAMP recognize the challenges working in this industry that is highly scrutinized by government, the media and the public – as it should be. As those of us in the mortgage industry are well aware – a mortgage is for many the difference between owning and investing in your own appreciating asset as opposed to renting and paying for someone else’s investment vehicle.

Home ownership is the biggest financial investment most Canadians make and I have chosen the word “investment” not biggest “purchase,” although that may also be the case. A mortgage is the way of facilitating this investment in a residential property. So it is fitting that CAAMP is making its inductions into the Canadian Mortgage Hall of Fame during November which is also Financial Literacy Month.  I know that all of the inductees are being admitted to the Mortgage Hall of Fame not only for their contributions to the industry and the profession, but also for all of the people that they have assisted in transitioning from renter to investor. And I am also aware of the resources that CAAMP continues to dedicate to financial literacy and increasing Canadians’ mortgage knowledge.

I congratulate all of the new Hall of Famers and I congratulate CAAMP for its commitment to financial literacy. Who deserves recognition in your industry? Will you nominate someone next year?

Nov 22 | 2013

Mortgage brokers & title insurance – what’s the connection?

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brokerconnectionIn earlier posts to the FCT Blog, we outlined the important protection and benefits that title insurance brings to home-owners and lenders.  But why should a mortgage broker care about title insurance?

As most successful, career brokers might tell you, their business is based on service.  They get the best for their clients and nurture their all-important lender relationships.  So, what is in the best interest of  borrowers and lenders should be in the best interest of the broker, right?  Absolutely!

Over the last 20 years, title insurance has become nearly ubiquitous from a protection perspective.  Lawyers buy it for their clients and lenders insist on it for themselves because there is no other way to create the same level of security around ownership and property title.  It just makes sense that mortgage brokers should be champions of title insurance on that basis alone.  But, there are even more compelling reasons for brokers to embrace and recommend title insured transactions – reasons that benefit brokers directly.

What really matters to someone who gets paid only at the end of a successful transaction? – having a successful transaction, of course.  That means getting mortgage deals closed.  Title insurance can help with that.  Often, minor defects related to title, zoning, permits, etc. can be ‘insured over’ by a title insurer and make it possible for a deal to close weeks before it would otherwise.

Surveys are often required by lenders, which can add both delay and cost to the closing of a mortgage transaction.  However, most lenders recognize and accept title insurance as an alternative because the policy will cover the lender for defects that would have been discovered in an up-to-date survey.  This doesn’t just save time and money for clients – it enhances certainty around the transaction itself.  Unmet mortgage requirements are an undesirable ‘loose end’, especially if they are unnecessary. 

Lenders who have title insurance-driven closing models are also beneficial partners for the broker because their process is often less costly, more streamlined and faster to fund.  FCT’s Platinum refinance program, for example, offers unique advantages for the broker, lender and borrower, including:

·         Managed, seamless process

·         Convenient in-home signing in most provinces (ideal for virtual broker operations)

·         Enhanced communication through email, milestone notifications and a Broker Hotline

·         Competitive fixed pricing with no surprises

·         Title insurance for the lender – also available for uninsured borrowers

Protection and security for your clients, enhanced service and speed, improved certainty around your transactions – all good things.  If you are a broker and would like to understand more about the benefits of title insurance in your world, why not ask us or give us your comments.  We would love to hear from you.

Nov 12 | 2013

Mortgage lenders need title insurance too!

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Why would that be?  In earlier posts, we discussed the significant risks that title insurance covers for homeowners.  But why would mortgage lenders care about title insurance?  They just provide the money, right?  Well that’s right, but it’s not the whole story.  Daniela DeTommaso, FCT’s Vice President of Lenders Advantage, explains:

Keep in mind that a lender provides a lot of money for someone wanting to finance a home and, in addition to earning interest, a lender needs to know that its money is secure and will be repaid.  A mortgage is that security – it gives a lender the right to sell or acquire the property should the borrowing owners default on the loan.  So, a mortgage lender can actually become the property owner and need to sell that property to someone else.  Viewed through this lens, the need for title insurance becomes clearer.  The lender needs the same protection from title errors, defects, claims, etc. as any homeowner and needs to know that the title is marketable to allow for the ultimate sale of the property to another buyer.  The lender policy gives this protection.  But, let’s back up a bit.

Mortgage Validity, Enforceability & Priority

The most fundamental element of the lender’s security is its ability to take over the property upon default.  The entire lending proposition relies on this premise.  What if it’s not so?  What if the mortgage is found to be invalid or unenforceable by the lender?  This can occur for a number of reasons, not the least of which is fraud.  A lender policy insures these critical elements of the mortgage and it also insures that the mortgage has its rightful priority against other claims.

Lack of Survey

This is a very interesting provision of the lender policy that benefits both the lender and the borrower.  From a protection viewpoint, the lender has coverage for any defects that would have been shown on an up to date survey.  Since the lender is covered, the survey is redundant and, unless the borrower has other reasons for requiring a survey, the often significant cost of a survey can be avoided.

Numerous other protections are offered in the lender policy for situations such as:

·         Lack of pedestrian or vehicular access to and from the property

·         Failure of the property to contain a single family residence

·         Outstanding work orders against the property

·         Unknown planning act violations

There is also protection built in for things that may occur after the policy is issued.  Certain construction lien situations and lack of appropriate municipal permits for renovations are two common examples in which coverage is provided.  And, there is important fraud and forgery coverage for post-policy events such as a fraudulent mortgage discharge.  

The general policy provisions described above provide some insight into the breadth of protection contained in the Lender Policy.  For a full understanding of these and other provisions, you should refer to the actual policy for specific coverage and exclusions.

Clearly, many of these policy elements have been crafted to meet the unique needs of lenders.  Title insurance is not a ‘one size fits all’ concept.  The expertise in each of FCT’s product areas allows unique risks to be analyzed and understood.  The result is an evolving set of title insurance and business solutions for a wide variety of complex customer needs.title insurance

Oct 15 | 2013

A bit about me and my vision for FCT

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Michael LeBlanc, LLBRecently in August, I was honoured to become FCT’s second CEO in its 20+ year history. I owe a debt of gratitude to all FCT employees whose contributions have made FCT the industry leader it is today. In my first blog, I would like to introduce myself and give you a glimpse of where I see FCT going in the future.

I have been working with FCT for almost 20 years starting as their Atlantic Regional Director in 1994. Here is the link to my corporate bio if you want all the details.  At the time I was practicing law in Nova Scotia and focusing primarily on litigation. As a litigator like an insurer, I had to make judgements about “acceptable” risks- which strategy would minimize the risk for my clients? What were risks that my clients wanted to avoid? And did this risk profile offer any opportunities?

These questions are also relevant to how an insurance company approaches risks. As the pioneer and leader in the Canadian title insurance industry, FCT changed the way homes are bought, sold and mortgaged by introducing a third party risk taker -the title insurer- into these transactions. For over twenty years FCT has been reducing the risk in real estate transactions through innovative products and services  for lenders, legal professionals, insurers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and homeowners like our title insurance, valuation insurance, and indemnity insurance products. We also have a relatively new division providing leading edge solutions reducing the risks in debt and default management.

While I intend to build on this legacy of innovation and risk management, I also know that the changes in the real estate and financial landscape from new market entrants, new technologies, government regulations, are changing the risks in real estate and financial transactions and therefore offering new opportunities. FCT will continue to introduce new solutions to reduce financial risks that build on our core commitment to our customers and ensure that they will “experience excellence.”

We intend this blog to be a gathering point for all professionals (and consumers) involved in the real estate and financial marketplace to discuss risks in Canadian real estate and financial transactions. I say “we” because FCT is a company built on the expertise and excellence from every one of our employees. Through this blog you will meet FCT’s product leaders and experts who will be able to respond to your questions about our products, services and solutions.

As part of FCT’s culture we have a standard saying at the end of a presentation – so I will conclude with it here because it is now your turn – “What questions do you have?”

Oct 11 | 2013

New scam alert — the Air Loan mortgage fraud

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caampYesterday I had the pleasure of participating on a panel at the CAAMP mortgage fraud summit to discuss “Air Loan” scams. Air loans scams refer to a mortgage fraud where a lender has its security registered “on air.” In this scam lenders are duped into taking security on a vacant parcel of land when all the documentation shows that there is a dwelling located on the land.  The fraud is usually discovered when the mortgage goes into default and the lender discovers that, instead a lot containing a dwelling, the lender has security on a parcel of vacant land.  These frauds can be quite sophisticated and often involve many parties working in concert to defraud the lender of the mortgage proceeds

Each participant on the panel covered a unique aspect of the “air loan” scam. The panel included  Amanda Jackson, Partner, Gowlings, Mathieu Langelier, Property Risk Consultant, and Doug Robinson, Senior Mortgage Security Specialist, Scotiabank to discuss the Mortgage Air loan scam.  The panel was moderated by Randal Slavens Director of Adjudication Strategy, of Canada Guaranty and organized by Nancy Patterson Risk Management Officer and Senior Fraud Specialist also of Canada Guaranty.

My presentation involved some real life case studies of title insurance claims I have been involved with using air loan scams.  In these cases there is often a promise of a new home being built but nothing materializes.  The panel participants focused on what lenders can do to avoid being victimized including diligent underwriting and dealing only with known and trusted professionals. A key to risk mitigation is physical inspection of the property prior to advance of funds – something that is frequently performed by appraisers.  However, current lending practices have evolved away from high-cost appraisals to determine the value of the security, in favor of less expensive solutions like automated valuation models or insurance.  These approaches are faster and cheaper and perhaps even better from an overall portfolio cost – but they can’t help with the exposure to air-loan scams.  Fortunately the lender’s title insurance policy provides coverage for the lenders losses which arise from the failure of the land to contain a single family residence.

Oct 4 | 2013

Title insurance — can someone please explain?

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Title insurance It’s been about 20 years and almost 11 million title policies since FCT (then First Canadian Title) opened its doors and created a title insurance industry in Canada. Lawyers use title insurance regularly and, in some parts of the country, almost without exception. Banks and mortgage lenders rely on it. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners have it. One might conclude that it is well understood. But, raise the subject at a backyard barbecue or cocktail party and you’re likely to get blank stares and a bit of mumbling.

What’s more, it’s not easy for the average person to become informed. Lawyers get it. But who has regular, easy access to a lawyer? Insurance brokers can’t help — they don’t sell it. Even the Internet provides no current interactive Canadian source for such information. So, where does one turn for answers? Right here!

FCT is pleased to introduce “The FCT Blog,” a new forum to foster interactive discussion around all things title insurance – and the one place where all your title insurance questions will find informed answers from the industry experts. In the beginning, we will focus on what it is, what it covers, how it is acquired and how claims work. We are open to your questions and plan to address those topics most interesting to you in future posts.

Looking more broadly, FCT recognizes that title insurance is one of many products and services supporting a vibrant housing industry. Through our interaction with buyers, sellers, realtors, lawyers, lenders and appraisers, FCT has built significant expertise and developed unique insights related to our mutual marketplace. As our blog evolves, we plan to share our insights, observations and opinion to build understanding of our evolving marketplace, the changes and impacts we see and the emerging opportunities for innovation and growth. What an opportunity for important dialogue!

So, welcome. We look forward to hearing what you think and how we can serve you better with this exciting, new endeavour.