Amid New York City’s Rampant Deed Theft, One Victim Wins

Residential units in New York City

Brooklyn property values are going up. And there are plenty of opportunists looking to steal deeds. In the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn in New York City, Dairus Griffiths just triumphed over those opportunists.

In the past decade, Brooklyn has lost many of its Black and Hispanic residents, as gentrification reshapes the district. Serial fraudsters and their limited liability companies aren’t making life any easier for longtime residents. They scour public records for the most vulnerable and indebted homeowners.

Deed cheats use the shell company structure to blur the identities of holders. The manipulators lie to their targets; they forge deeds; and they move houses from one LLC to the next. Identifying and charging these manipulators becomes very hard to do.

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Adding Climate Data to Real Estate Listings: New Realities for Homeowners?

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Redfin Adds Climate Data to Real Estate Listings

A storm that could threaten a million homes would have been rare a generation ago. Not anymore. Today’s hurricanes gather their power over warming ocean and gulf waters. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, creating heavier rains. At the same time, dry areas of the country are hotter, and losing moisture. And that increases the risks for heat waves, droughts or wildfires.

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The Real Estate Industry Weighs in on Vaccines

Closing Discounts for Vaccinated Borrowers, and Other Stories

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A year and a half has passed since the major 2020 workplace interruptions. And here we are. Still grappling with the health and economic threats from Covid — especially its delta variant.

The Biden administration wants fully vaccinated adults to receive a Covid-19 booster shot as soon as scientists give the go-ahead. And, as announced in a presidential address to the nation on September 9, a vaccine mandate now applies to some two-thirds of all U.S. employees — those employed by businesses with a workforce of 100+.

As expected, the directive is drawing scrutiny and controversy. Yet the National Association of Manufacturers calls vaccines an economic imperative. Amazon has voiced support for the mandate. Facebook and Microsoft say they already require the vaccines for their office staff.

Among the growing number of entities requiring staff vaccinations are Saks Fifth Avenue, the New York Stock Exchange as well as several major banks, the City of New Orleans (for all public events), CNN and Fox News, Twitter, Google, Uber and Lyft, Tyson Foods, Walt Disney and United Airlines. Recent polls show 52% percent of U.S. workers support vaccine mandates, with 29% strongly opposed.

Vaccine requirement decisions have also entered the real estate sphere. Here, we review some notable news from the industry.

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Protecting the Value in Home Equity

Private and Public Solutions to the Risks of Market Declines

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In general, the value of a home tends to go up. Yet when home values are already very high, we remember that housing markets do decline at times and in specific areas. This is of special concern for the owner who has borrowed heavily on a house — as many perfectly reasonable buyers do.

Say you buy a house or condo when the market is brisk and competitive. Then, after you own it a little while, say the prices in your area start to weaken. In some cases, this could mean your place is barely valued at the amount you owe on the mortgage. Or it could mean you’ll lose money if you need to sell.

While this is not the usual case, some owners might nevertheless wonder if there are any means of protecting their home equity from an economic downturn.

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Illinois Property Taxes Are Ridiculous. A 2021 Change Helps Some Seniors, But Cook County Assessment Scandals Add to Challenges

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Property taxes are a test of strength for most homeowners. For people on fixed incomes, rises in property values — and thus taxes — can be dastardly. Now, imagine people on fixed incomes who just happen to live in Illinois.

Illinois ranks #2, after New Jersey, for highest property taxes in the nation, according to a recent WalletHub analysis. The Illinois homeowner shells out an average of $5,000 in property taxes on a $217,500 house. That means people in Illinois pay double what the average homeowner pays in property taxes nationwide.

Some seniors can’t pay it, and have no way to earn the extra income. For them, there is a little extra relief coming this year — perhaps just enough to keep some of the most cash-strapped homeowners in their homes. More on this below.

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Transforming Real Estate Law: Nationwide, a Quest for Racial Fairness Gains Ground

Racial fairness is undergoing significant progress in real estate law this year — particularly in the area of confronting offensive deed restrictions. In some notable updates for 2021-2022, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and Texas are confronting tackling race-based covenants in deeds. Parallel provisions are already available in a handful of states, including Florida, Maryland, Utah, and Washington.

And, in what might be a nationwide first, the state of Oregon is prohibiting the practice of writing “love letters” to sellers in order to win in the home-buying arena.

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Start Spreading the News: Blockchain Deed Recording Comes to New York City

New York City’s Department of Finance is trying out blockchain. Can the technology make recording and keeping deeds a better process? The test run, handled by Medici Land Governance (MLG), will find out whether the method will work in a massive city, the company stated in August 2021. MLG is owned by Overstock.com — an early adopter of blockchain in the retail sphere. Its blockchain recording system is proven to be tamper-resistant and easily searched.

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Texans Welcome New Guidance for Quitclaim Deeds

Adverse Possession Also Clarified

Congrats to Texas, where the government just gave a boost to the quitclaim deed! People who receive their homes through recorded quitclaim deeds will now be on firmer ground in the Lone Star State. Here’s what you need to know.

Strengthening the Chain of Title for Texas Property

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In May, a bill was signed into law to amend Chapter 13 of the Texas Property Code, to take effect on Sep. 1, 2021. From now on, using a quitclaim deed to transfer title from one owner to the next will be easier. Title companies will be able to consider buyers who accepted and recorded quitclaims as bona fide purchasers after four years. Texas formally set a four-year statute of limitations for competing claims.

Once a quitclaim deed is recorded in the property’s county, a later purchaser or lender has good-faith protection, as long as the party has no knowledge of other unrecorded claims on the property. What does this mean for buyers of real estate with a quitclaim in the chain of title? The buyer can legally claim good faith purchaser status.

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Hold On, Maine Seniors. Property Tax Relief Is Coming

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Maine will cover property taxes for homeowners aged 65+ who have annual incomes under 40K. Thousands of homeowners — most of Maine’s residents who receive Social Security benefits — will be eligible for the benefit. The provision, LD 1638, takes effect on Oct. 18, 2021. There is a catch for these eligible owners, though.

Here’s the story.

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Winning Bids: New Ways to Finance Cash Offers

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Buying a home in a competitive market? The best way to get the one you want is to put a good deal of money down on the house, and make an all-cash offer. A cash offer can avoid bidding wars and win the day.  

Of course, not everyone has the cash on hand to pay for a house. Some buyers might wait until they have a full loan approval to make their offers. Others might get a boost from friends or relatives willing to advance the cash.

Today, there’s an additional option available that doesn’t require a buyer to fork over the cash. If you qualify for a home loan, chances are you can also get a loan to let you make your seller a “cash offer” as well. That is, you can finance your cash offer.

Here, we take a closer look at the various routes. Depending on the situation, one could lead to a winning deal for you.

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