Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Double Dipping Is Not Just Poor Manners

If you double dip your nacho chip at a party, that's a breach of etiquette. If you double dip on your Principal Residence Exemption, well, that's a breach of law. Over the last three years, more than 33,000 Michigan homeowners have been caught double dipping (Ms. Manners is aghast). State officials estimate that cheaters cost Michigan a tax shortfall of about $20 million per year. To qualify for the Michigan Principal Residence Exemption, a homeowner must:

Be a Michigan resident.

Own the home and live in it as a principal residence.

File an affidavit with the local assessor by May 1 of the tax year.

Not rent the property.

Not claim any other property as exempt.

Promise never to dunk their carrot stick back into the vegetable dip after taking a bite (OK, I made this one up. Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention).

In addition, a married couple must file separate income taxes and actually live apart most of the time in order for each to claim a homestead exemption.

Monday, June 28, 2010

How To Start A Signing Service (Or Maybe How NOT To Start A Signing Service)

There seems to be more than a few new signing services that have popped up lately. Maybe they've arrived to fill the void left by those that have gone out of business or stopped paying their signing agents. If you've recently started a signing service or plan on starting one, may I make a few suggestions?

What's in a Name? - It's amazing how many companies have the same or similar names. Maybe it would be wise to put some thought into the name and do some research. If Acme Signing Service, Acme Closers, Acme National, and Acme Notaries already exist, I'm thinking you probably shouldn't name your company Acme. Especially if one or more of the other companies has had payment or service issues.

A Capital Idea - If a signing agent does their job, they should get paid. They don't get paid only if you get paid, they don't get paid after you deal with whatever unexpected emergency has arisen, and they don't get paid only after they make a lot of noise. If you want to start a signing service, you should have sufficient starting capital to pay your signing agents.

Less is More - Do you want to scare off even the best signing agents? Then by all means, make your notary closers sign a seven page contract detailing every obligation they're required to meet (with of course no obligation on your end), every legal disclaimer possible, and every error that's going to get them punished, dumped, or flogged. Instead of having us sign that pseudo-legal contract that you lifted from another signing service, just take the time to find good closers that you can trust. Let's build a working relationship from the start instead of an adversarial relationship.

You Don't Know Me at All - You want documentation? Sure. E & O, bond, proof of commission? OK. Resume, references, background check? I've got that. But do you really know what you're getting? None of that tells you what you really need to know. A great closer is knowledgeable. A great closer is personable. A great closer is confident. A great closer knows how to connect with people. Do you really want to know if a closer will represent your company and your clients in a positive and professional manner? Call us. Talk to us. Ask us questions. Then maybe you'll know.

You Get What You Pay For - Anybody can be the cheapest. Do you really want to succeed in the long run? Then forget cheap. Low-ball signing services are failing. They're losing clients. They're struggling to pay their closers. Their reputations are damaged beyond repair. No decent closers will work for them. It's a losing model. Instead, be the best. Offer a quality service. Offer something that your competitors don't. Hire the best, pay a fair fee, be knowledgeable about the entire process, be available, communicate, be easy to work with, and above all have integrity.

Any other suggestions?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

No More Mobile Office

When you spend a lot of your work day in your car, your car becomes your office. Maybe you check your emails or send text messages as you drive. Not smart, I know. Still, many of us do it. But starting later this week, if you text and drive or email and drive in Michigan, get ready to be ticketed. The Michigan ban on texting while driving takes effect Thursday, July 1st.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another Record Low

Mortgage rates hit another low. The average rate for 30-year fixed loans fell to 4.69 percent, the lowest level on records dating to 1971.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

$100 Million Mortgage Fraud Ring Busted

A Detroit crime ring has been accused of arranging approximately 500 fraudulent sales and loans totaling more than $100 million, in a scheme that the FBI calls "the largest mortgage fraud we have seen in terms of the number of properties that were involved and the money that was stolen."

The money was allegedly used to fund extravagant lifestyles, including hot rod cars, international travel, palace style homes, and a helicopter. The money was also supposedly used to fund the Choppers Lounge in Flint, Michigan and the Tryst Nightclub in Canton, Michigan (which happens to be right down the street).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

That Would Be Nice

Earlier this year, thousands of people rushed to take advantage of the homebuyer credit, an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers and $6,500 credit for current homeowners buying a primary residence. But many who qualify might not close before the June 30th deadline (an estimated 55,000 to 75,000 according to the National Association of Realtors), meaning they could miss out on receiving credits worth thousands of dollars. Fortunately, Congress is considering an extension of the homebuyer credit.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Interstate Recognition Of Notarial Acts

On April 27th, 2010, the House of Representatives passed the Interstate Recognition of Notarial Acts bill of 2009. The bill requires any Federal or State court to recognize any notarization made by a notary public licensed by a State other than the State where the court is located when such notarization occurs in or affects interstate commerce. A similar bill was introduced in 2007. The original bill arose out of a Michigan court case where a trial court refused to accept an unauthenticated notarized document from another state. However, the Michigan Supreme Court subsequently overturned the ruling, stating that by law, the court should have accepted and given full faith and credit to the act of another state's official. That ruling made the 2007 act unnecessary.

The National Association of Secretaries of States strongly oppose this bill. NASS (rightfully I believe) argues that the act is unnecessary given that three existing acts (The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, and The Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act), combined with state notary laws, the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Full Faith and Credit Clause already address these issues.

Simply put, current laws are already in place recognizing out of state notarial acts. There's no need to fix a problem that doesn't exist.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things Must Be Tough For Some Notary Listing Sites

Notary signing agents have seen a blitz of emails recently from various notary listing sites. They tout themselves as being the best, or being different than other sites. Their marketing campaign consists of sending the same email over and over again, week after week, month after month (a special shout out to The Notary Phone Book, who sometimes email me several times a week, week after week, and completely ignore any requests to remove me from their email list). For a fee of $xx, you can list your services with them, where you'll proceed to get loads of business from title companies and signing services. Yeah, right.

Before investing your marketing dollars on these sites, do some research. Ask other notaries, read the forums, find out which sites really produce a return on your investment. Use Google to check common search terms and see if these sites come up on the first page or two. Check their Google rankings and Alexa rankings. Many of these sites make impressive claims, but offer no real value. Their sites are cheesy, produce little or no traffic (other than the curious peeks they get when they send out their spam emails), and are rarely, if ever, used by title companies or signing services.

The tried and true listing sites still produce the best results. For my money, Notary Rotary, 123 Notary, Go Get Notary, and (dare I say) the NNA's Signing Agent site have always given me the best return.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The New HUD Settlement Statement

By now, many of us are starting to see the new HUD-1 Settlement Statement for loans originating on or after January 1st, 2010. In order to provide borrowers with key documentation regarding their loan, the new HUD-1 includes information not previous provided on a Settlement Statement...

Continued at Go Get Notary...