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 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!

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.

Mar 10 | 2016

Certified Resale Home gets a makeover and a new partner!

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15-075E-CRH_FB_profile_v2The launch of Certified Resale Home last year was the culmination of significant customer insight and feedback and a result of our drive to fill a gap in the current process with an innovative solution. In fact, by leveraging core competencies of process optimization and risk management, FCT has been delivering innovative real estate solutions for the past 25 years: our mission is and has always been to make financial transactions simple and secure. But what really sets us apart from the competition is our ability to provide exceptional customer experiences. With that at the forefront of our strategy to redefine the current approach to home inspections, we set about making the following changes to Certified Resale Home based on customer need:

  • $20,000 worth of coverage — We’ve upped the maximum coverage from $11, 500 to $20,000 to ensure we’re providing the best warranty coverage possible for the main systems in a home.
  • Removal of previous capped limits – Now an owner can determine how to allocate the limit based on the extent of repair and replacement necessary.
  • Optional extra swimming pool equipment and septic tank system coverage  — For a few dollars more owners can now get greater peace of mind protection for these additional systems.
  • A simplified warranty coverage document — With an easy-to-read, visually appealing design that uses straightforward language and no fine print, we’re aiming to make our coverage simpler to understand and completely transparent.

We are also very pleased to announce that as of February 11, 2016, Certified Resale Home has been available to homeowners through an exclusive partnership with Re/Max Niagara Realty Ltd.  With offices in Niagara Falls, St Catharines and Fort Erie, Re/Max Niagara Realty has joined forces with FCT to bring the unique benefits of Certified Resale Home to these new markets, including:

  • Differentiating the property from other listings;
  • Promoting greater buyer confidence; and
  • Helping the owner sell their home faster.

If you are a homeowner in any of these new markets and you are looking to list your home for sale, we invite you to reach out to your local Re/Max Niagara Realtor to start a conversation about putting the benefits of Certified Resale Home to work for you. For more information on the program, please visit http://niagararemax.thecertifiedresalehome.ca/.

Warranty Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited
Oct 5 | 2015

Today’s real estate forecast: cloud-y

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smart-house_smallYou say you barely remember, way back in (say) 2008, when that “cloud thing” first hit?

Let EXPERT/ease refresh your memory: In 2008, boxes of software began to disappear. CDs became obsolete as software began to move to the Web. We now download what we need and upgrade automatically – all from some planet far, far away.  Desktop software became more and more “app-like”—and you, dear user, communicated with your software (at least while installing and updating) in a whole new way.

Now, all that cloud infrastructure (where the magic lives) is about to go nova in the form of IoT – The Internet of Things. IoT gives machines the ability to communicate with each other, independent of human presence. This is going to change our relationships with our homes as much as connected sensors have made vehicles smarter.

GE, telecommunications companies, Adobe, and Cisco, among other tech giants, are doubling down on this massive opportunity. As EXPERT/ease has noted before, by 2020, an estimated 40 billion devices (many of them simple sensors) will be “connected” over the cloud. The IoT is turning the connected machines around us into one huge brain. And hundreds of millions of those sensors are going to be within meters of you, whenever you’re at home. And they’re going to make the buying, selling and marketing of homes—especially on mobile phones—so much more compelling and convenient.

Real estate is a billion dollar business full of early adopters. The industry’s first mobile customers were home inspectors, mortgage brokers and real estate agents on the go. In the United States, there is a research lab called the Reach Accelerator, run by the National Association of Realtors. The lab is dedicated entirely to connecting tech companies with real estate entrepreneurs and financial specialists in order to incubating new technology.

One example:  IoT ‘soft locks’ are eliminating the time-wasting and profit-shrinking issues, such as missing the cable guy or coordinating with a home inspector.  ‘Soft locks’ are mobile apps that are triggered in proximity to a home for sale, generating secure, time-limited ‘keys’ to open a house.  No more missed key handoff appointments…imagine that. Right now, you can use the August Smart Lock App to manage who gets in and out of homes. The IoT even works via Bluetooth when power or WIFI are out. Pretty cool.

IoT devices that measure energy consumption will add value to homes by sharing data details about other applications that affect saleability—like a sensor that cues you to increase ambient natural light quality in a kitchen or great room…and thus increase viewability, desirability and asking price.

And it’s smart business. Realtors in savvy markets are already recommending triple pane glass, because they have an IoT app that calculates energy savings on the fly, right there, chatting with the prospective buyer.

Nice touch, sharing ROI data with a client, in the room. Impressive.

Fostering relationships between real estate and mortgage professionals and their customers past, present and future—the heartbeat of our business—is truly about to go nova.

Can mobile real estate transactions be too far off? Let’s see.

Stay tuned as EXPERT/ease follows developments. Live and be well.

Aug 17 | 2015

Certified Resale Home: 5 reasons it’s a game changer

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certified resale homeWhen selling your home, you must present the most saleable property possible to set it apart in today’s competitive market. One way to do this is to ensure you get a pre-listing home inspection. A home inspection report will reveal the current condition of your house with specific evaluations of more than 400 items, and will help you enhance its value and marketability.

Most problems in a house are minor and can be rectified easily and inexpensively; chipped paint, doors or windows that stick, an air conditioner that wheezes, a filter that is dirty, etc. Such shortcomings are overlooked by sellers who have lived with them for years, but they are focused on by buyers and buyers’ home inspectors. If the perceived problems do not derail the sale, they nevertheless provide grounds for price negotiation if they don’t derail the sale altogether.

Not only does the pre-listing home inspection enable you to attend to problems before the house is put on the market, it also removes any questions, for you and home buyers, about the condition of your home. Buyers are positively influenced by a professionally produced home inspection report, which improves the speed, price, and likelihood of a sale.

Some home sellers elect not to correct every defect reflected in the inspection report. Instead, they acknowledge the defects to buyers and explain that the asking price has been adjusted to reflect the estimated cost of repairs. Such candor tends to shorten negotiation time because buyers have fewer objections that could thwart a sale. By focusing on the condition of your property, you are less likely to overlook a defect or material fact for which you later could be held liable.

Despite the value of a home inspection, and a pre-listing home inspection in particular, there are certain things that a home inspector is not able to determine.

For example:

  • If the roof is snow-covered, wet, too high or too steep to mount, a proper assessment will not be possible
  • In some cases, the foundation cannot be inspected from the interior or exterior because of finished conditions, vegetation or deck construction
  • In nearly all cases, air conditioners cannot be tested in winter conditions since the condenser can be damaged
  • In rare cases, the power or natural gas may be turned off in which cases the furnace and air conditioner cannot be operated and tested

Thankfully, a new and innovative service has recently launched which addresses these limitations. FCT’s Certified Resale Home program combines a professional pre-listing home inspection with an 18-month transferable warranty that protects both the homeowner and homebuyer from specific areas of the home that either could not be inspected, or were deemed to be in serviceable condition at the time of the inspection but fail at a later date.

Certified Resale Home from FCT allows you to:

  • Get detailed information on your home before it’s listed and avoid surprises that can lead to a renegotiation (or even kill your deal)
  • Attract more buyers by offering more transparent information
  • Utilize the warranty to keep your home saleable while it’s listed and minimize buyer anxiety by transferring the warranty to them upon closing
  • Differentiate your home and make it stand out with a unique product
  • Ultimately get a better offer and sell your home faster

Overall, a pre-listing home inspection will reduce stress and negotiation because it puts you in a position of strength as an informed seller.

If you are a homeowner considering selling, visit www.thecertifiedresalehome.ca. All pre-listing home inspections are fulfilled by AmeriSpec® Inspection Services.

Warranty Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited

Aug 6 | 2015

Real estate: it’s sociology, folks – Part II

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lovehouse_smallAttachment is one powerful emotion: when a 2001 study took a hard look at attachment to home, neighbourhood and city, guess which attachments were strongest?

To house and city—and not to neighbourhood. And women are often more deeply attached than men, with physical setting bubbling up all sorts of emotions, themselves in turned tied to social status and, of course, simply how we feel about ourselves at the time we decide to relocate or just move.

We cue ourselves through a haze of biases: in reading housing advertising (another space ripe for disruption, likely via mobile video), we respond very differently to ‘well-cared-for’ than ‘granite countertops’ or ‘landscape design.’

Even more so, the more specific an advertising cue is (‘Sub-Zero’ trumps ‘frost-free’), the bigger the aspirational lift. None of this, of course, is captured in people’s thinking about price: the influence is all on the emotional side.

One of the most compelling studies on real estate purchasing behaviours examined ‘feeling at home’ as a prime driver of purchase decisions—and discovered a complex set of behaviours, very close to relationship factors in dating and marriage, because ‘feeling at home’ isn’t about sense of place so much as it’s about…care.

Feeling cared for is a huge cue—but one EXPERT/ease has never heard mentioned in purchase decision research. Not once.

This cue, which encompasses emotional values sociologists have identified like ‘welcoming,’ drives the deepest triggers of all, when we ‘fall in love with’ a house. These cues and feelings are often very difficult to put into words but suggests that there’s far more going on in people’s hearts when they visit a house than in their heads.

‘Emotional intelligence,’ stock-in-trade for successful real estate professionals, bubbles up the importance of hope..And research shows hope represents something like a 15% premium on asking price.

In other words, we’ll pay 15% over asking price to address our emotional belief that our finances will improve when we buy this particular house.

This perception—we’ve all felt it—says the object of our desire is ‘the place to be.’

Price effects of anxiety (‘We need a place by July 15th for Dave’s new job.’) are significant. And we’ve all had friends offer prices in bidding wars comprised of phone numbers and birthdates. That’s as much psychology as sociality: feelings affect not just what we believe but how we express those feelings socially.

So too housing prices.

Finally, sociality means we’re open to what sociologists term the ‘materialization of home’—an experience we first had as kids, playing Monopoly.  Homeowners are investors; their investment belief systems are influenced by their personal experience of factors like deposit insurance to fading memories of the Great Depression, perhaps modulated by the sub-prime mess of 2008.

Here’s a take-home for an election year: politicians are at their peril in intervening in the mortgage market.

Why? Because what legislation or regulation ever addressed the real estate market’s deep triggering behaviours: a need for independence, a sense of autonomy and the incentives of self-improvement?

Another bias? You bet.

Looking ahead, COMPASSpoint, the successor to EXPERT/ease’s well-received year-end wrap on the 2014 mortgage and real estate markets, is already in the making.

We’re looking for insights and contributions. If you’d like to participate in what’s become a marketplace must-read, email us at info@expertease.ca. We’d love to hear from you.

Aug 4 | 2015

Real estate: it’s sociology, folks — Part I

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socialstatus_smallReal estate is rarely studied as a consumer behaviour; perhaps that’s because culturally real estate is so closely linked to what sociologists call social status signals—how we think we cue others about our own status.  Im buying a house. Youre not. That makes my status (temporarily) higher than yours.

Over time, as we’ve seen in July and August’s EXPERT/ease newsletters, we’ve simplified the heck out of real estate transactions, convincing ourselves that the emotional, human complexities of the intersection of money meets dreams is all about the numbers.

It ain’t necessarily so.

Housing buyers simply aren’t laptops: the social and emotional ‘determinants’ (sociologist-speak for behavioural stuff that matters) really do determine how and why people buy the way they do.

One obvious example: relocation. Relocation drives all manner of real estate market behaviours, but also we want to think of ourselves as upwardly mobile, even if our move is much more about a change in family structure (new child, divorce, death, job relocation etc.). First the dissatisfaction, then the urge to move.

Orthodox real estate statistics simply don’t apply here: consumers want not just better house quality but better neighbourhood quality as well—not a “quant.”

This aspirational strategy (we see more, we want more) has been measured against search intensity (how many properties have you looked at? Since when?), how many opportune properties are queued up for you to vet (‘arrival rate’) and the rate at which you accept those opportunities.

The decision-making game is ripe for analysis. As we’ve seen in earlier blogposts, San Francisco is already humming with mobile real estate apps and data capture platforms that Silicon Valley will deploy soon, to disrupt old buying practices.

Stay tuned: things are going to get way more interesting and fast, not least because mapping and location technologies now are so inexpensive to “hack” that app developers (like Uber’s software people) simply stitch together multiple apps to make a new one. And those new apps are targeting real estate behavioural data because thats where the money is.

Very soon, databases will be correlating housing wealth with location preferences and migration flows; this data will transform perceptions of market possibilities.

Will real estate become more like an Airbnb experience, the online player that is disrupting the real estate market big time . . .or a TripAdvisor experience? Who knows. But change is coming and fast.

Get ready for an interesting ride.

Jul 8 | 2015

It’s time for British Columbia to see the value of title insurance

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house_foundation_smallWe are taught early on that saving money always makes good sense. But what makes more sense to you: saving a few hundred dollars on your home purchase by opting out of a title insurance policy, or saving $80,000 to re-pour your foundation? Hmmm, let’s think about that one for a minute…

A story out of British Columbia recently caught my interest. It is a contentious tale about a couple in Langley that has taken issue with the township after having to move the entire foundation of their dream home as the original was situated on their neighbour’s property.

Frankly, this type of story frustrates me as there is a very simple solution: having your client purchase a  homeowner title insurance policy along with the lender policy. I have personally approved claim payments for more than $80,000 in situations similar to the one that this Langley couple is facing. In fact, one of the risks covered by a homeowner’s title insurance policy is the risk that the homeowner will be forced to remove or remedy any of their existing structures because they encroach onto their neighbour’s land. This is exactly what happened to the Pett family.

In other provinces, both the owner and the lender are title insured in approximately 90% of all residential real estate purchase transactions. The lender policy protects the validity, enforceability and priority of the lender’s mortgage on the title; the homeowner policy protects the homeowner against losses associated with title fraud, survey and title issues/defects, as well as challenges against their ownership. Title insurance is unlike traditional insurance products — it does not just cover things that may happen in the future (e.g. title fraud), but also, title defects that have already occurred in the past, prior to purchasing the home, like this situation where the foundation was poured on the neighbour’s property.

However, in British Columbia (B.C.) it is less likely that the homeowner will obtain a title insurance policy —often there is only a lender’s title insurance policy in place. But for a relatively modest extra one-time premium (in some cases as little as $50) a homeowner can enjoy the benefits of a title insurance policy when purchased in conjunction with a lender policy. Yet for some reason, many legal professionals and homeowners still think title insurance is simply for lenders.

In many provinces, including Ontario, licensed legal professionals must discuss all options to protect a homeowner’s interest in title. This is not the case in BC and as such, B.C. consumers continue to be shortchanged when it comes to making informed decisions to protect their interests. While FCT has made significant progress concerning the education and awareness of title insurance in right across the country, clearly more remains to be done.

Let’s hope that the word continues to get out and we won’t see another situation like this one in Langley any time soon.