At this time of Thanksgiving we pause to count our blessings.
The freedom of this great country in which we live. Its opportunity for achievement. The friendship and confidence you have shown in us. For all of these things we are deeply thankful.

Our best wishes to you and your family. Have a memorable and safe Thanksgiving!
On behalf of the entire Virginia Title Center Team,

Patti Dickerson
Director of Marketing & Communications
VTC Logo
November 2013
Title Notes E-Blast


Escrow Accounts - Follow the Money 

ALTA Best Practice #2  

courtesy of Investors Title - CFPB Notice  


Ever since Mark Felt, the Watergate scandal informant, met Woodward and Bernstein in a dark parking garage and uttered the phrase, "Follow the Money," these three words have defined how to investigate any and all suspicious activity. However, this iconic message has roots that are much older than the Watergate scandal. After all, it took an IRS audit to catch Al Capone. Following the money can reveal both an indiscretion and a legitimate mistake, whether capturing a notorious gangster or merely balancing a personal checking account. A settlement provider follows the client money to ensure that it is not misplaced or misappropriated. When the money is in the escrow account it is the clients' money, but, if the money goes missing, the settlement provider is responsible.  


 Read more  


Workplace Coach: Adapting to Change is Key to Business Survival

written by Maureen Moriarty, special to Seattle Post-Intelligencer

DARWIN'S WORDS, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change," are highly relevant for today's business climate. Thriving in today's complex, dynamic and turbulent marketplace will require new adaptive approaches.


Ever wondered why some organizations embrace change, making it through tough times, while others fail? The answer lies in their resiliency.


A resilient organization is one that can effectively innovate, adapt and perform in the face of adversity (not just in good times). Resilient organizations often bounce back even stronger when stressed versus being flattened by their own inability to change.


Adaptive and resilient organizations have several characteristics in common:

  • Clear, unrelenting focus around purpose and goals.
  • Flexibility and openness to new approaches, roles and ways of getting work done.
  • A climate of learning, creativity and a proactive approach to finding opportunities to improve (even when stressed).
  • Trust, cooperation and open communication.
  • Senior leaders open to employees' input and influence.

In contrast, rigid, bureaucratic organizations with choking politics, "red tape" and a control-oriented leadership mentality will often fail to adapt effectively when faced with hardships. In general, the greater the bureaucracy, the greater the difficulty responding to challenges, like trying to turn the Titanic around to miss the iceberg. Rigid bureaucracy is frequently the biggest impediment to agility. Words like, "It's always been done this way," or, "not in my job description" can stop needed responsiveness and innovation in its tracks.


Leadership is key to improving any organization's resiliency. Though creating a resilient organization won't happen overnight, here are some guidelines:

  • Don't lose sight of core competencies. Address these questions: What are the business/team "strengths" and strategic advantages? What is working in your favor that you can build on? How can the team leverage the fundamentals that make your team and business strong?
  • Examine work processes and the "big picture" to encourage responsiveness in the face of changing conditions. How and where does communication flow (or not)? Are there bottlenecks? What does it take to get a decision? Is there duplication? Are we burdening people with too much information or checkoffs? Focus on simplifying and "clearing the path."
  • Empower those on the "front line" to do the right thing for customers (they are a valuable asset in these troubled times) and the business. Experienced, motivated employees can make it happen as long as the business hasn't burdened them with onerous approval processes or red tape that gets in their way. A responsibility of management is to make sure employees have the information and materials they need (in a timely manner) to do their jobs.
  • Nurture and sustain a workplace culture that supports agility. Being able to seize opportunities and adapt quickly in this uncertain economy may mean the difference between success or failure. Not being able to change course quickly was the end of the Titanic. Reward risk takers, out-of-the-box thinkers and those who "get it done." Be on the lookout for analysis paralysis.
  • Hire for adaptability so you can redirect roles if necessary. Re-examine work that employees are doing while identifying their strengths and skills. Is it work that still makes sense? This may require employees to cross train, share resources or assume other duties as required.
  • Foster organizational learning. Treat errors as learning opportunities. It's OK to be wrong and change course as long as we learn from the past to create a preferred future. Don't expect things to work perfectly when innovating (studies show it often takes a second or third try for the best solution).
  • Nurture and sustain creativity. Poorly managed brainstorming stifles creativity. Leaders often blow it by tainting the well, offering their own ideas first. Make it safe for people to offer ideas in an open, nonjudgmental atmosphere. Encourage wild ideas. Don't allow the naysayers to stymie or silence those with ideas.
  • Establish outlets for people to process the stress of change. Wise leaders will respond with empathy and listening to understand the challenges and concerns of their people. 

Investors Title Company Announces Third Quarter 2013 Results 

Investors Title Company today announced its results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2013. Net income attributable to the Company increased 74.7% to $5,515,798, or $2.66 per diluted share, compared with $3,158,185, or $1.50 per diluted share, for the prior year quarter.


Revenues increased 4.1% to $33,605,239 versus the prior year quarter, primarily due to a 4.9% increase in net premiums written. The premium growth reflects higher levels of purchase transactions, as well as increases in average home values in many parts of the nation, driven by improvement in the overall economy. Refinance volume continued its downward trend, reflecting a rising interest rate environment over the course of 2013.


Operating expenses decreased 8.1% to $25,328,716 versus the prior year quarter due to lower claims expense, partially offset by increases in other expense categories. The provision for claims includes a reduction in the reserves for claims of approximately $2,400,000 reflecting a change in estimate related to certain actuarial assumptions that stems from improved claims experience in recent post-recession policy years. The increase in payroll expense was largely driven by higher staffing levels to support ongoing software development, and increased benefits and incentive compensation. Other operating expenses were higher than the prior year quarter mostly due to volume increases or changes in the mix of business.


For the nine months ended September 30, 2013, net income attributable to the Company increased 62.4% to $12,898,203 or $6.19 per diluted share, compared with $7,939,812, or $3.74 per diluted share, for the prior year period. Revenues increased 16.6% to $94,146,912 and operating expenses increased 8.3% to $75,248,921 versus the prior year period. Results for the first nine months of the year have been shaped predominantly by the same factors that affected the third quarter.


Chairman J. Allen Fine added, "We were pleased to see a continuation in the third quarter of recent increases in the volume of home sales as well as general increases in home prices. Despite moderation in refinance activity, these factors contributed to an all-time high level of revenue for the quarter. Earnings were impacted favorably by changes to actuarial assumptions reflecting improved claims experience in recent years. We continue to focus on enhancing our competitive strengths and capitalizing on opportunities to profitably expand our market presence." 

The Importance of Proper Notary Acknowledgment
by Gina Webster, Manager
Settlement Services and Agency Operations Support
Investors Title Insurance Company
The notary public has a very important role in the closing ceremony. They are responsible for verifying the accuracy of signatures on important documents such as deeds and deeds of trust and certifying that the parties signing the documents have proven their identity. This is typically done by having the parties sign the documents in the presence of the notary, after showing the notary an acceptable form of identification such as a driver's license or a passport, which bears the person's photo and signature. The notary then affixes their seal on the document which indicates that the signatures are valid to the best of their knowledge.

Each state has specific notary rules and procedures and any notary acknowledgements should be made in accordance with local law. The Settlement Agent is required to understand their particular state's notary requirements. The Settlement Agent is also responsible for ensuring that each document is notarized properly prior to recording.

Below are some general guidelines to follow when reviewing documents for proper notarization:
  1. Make sure that the notary properly completed and signed the acknowledgement
  2. Make sure that any required seal, stamp, and commission expiration are affixed
  3. Make sure that all necessary signatures are obtained and notarized (multiple owners)
  4. Make sure that the correct entity's signature was acknowledged and the proper acknowledgement was used (i.e. trust, POA, etc.)
It is important to note that a document can be deemed void because of a problem with how it was notarized, and even a seemingly trivial error can potentially lead to millions in losses. While the format of acknowledgements in each state may vary, below are some examples of commonly used acknowledgements that evidence their proper completion.

If you have any question regarding the validity of a notary acknowledgement please contact Brandy Wimer, Virginia Title Center's Settlement Services Manager (1.800.468.5811).
5 Career Lessons to Learn from Superman
by Anita Bruzzese, syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today
courtesy of The Fast Track, posted 11.14.2013

He stands 6 foot 3 inches, weighs 235 pounds, has blue eyes and black hair.  His biceps bulge, his abs are rock hard and he fights the baddest of the bad on a daily basis.


For a guy celebrating his 75th anniversary - and who still makes the ladies swoon - that's not too shabby.


Superman burst onto the scene in 1938 as a superhero in Detective Comics. Clad in his trademark boots, cape and body suit, there's been no stopping him since. (Check out this cool video on his anniversary.)


He's appeared in comics, on radio, on television, in the movies and video games. The "S" that adorns his chest is a widely recognized personal brand. His career has survived villainous attempts to derail it, and there is never a lack of demand for his talents and skills.


So, what can we learn from the guy who has inspired us and continues to have a thriving career three-quarters of a decade after he landed on the pages of our imagination?

Here are some ways that the Man of Steel has stayed in the lead of the superhero pack:

  1. He maintains personal appearances. You're not going to see Superman fight Lex Luthor in a pair of Uggs and pajama pants. Wrinkled khakis while saving the world? Forget it. This is a guy who values the power of appearances, and he keeps those boots shined, the cape ironed and the biceps buffed.  It's estimated that people make judgments about you based on your appearance within about six seconds of meeting you. Superman knows how to make an entrance.
  2. Change doesn't daunt him.  Superman knows he has to change with the times, and his persona has reflected the different moods of a nation going through various wars, upheavals and cultural shifts.  He embraces differences and leads through example by treating everyone fairly and with respect.
  3. He maintains his moral compass. Corrupt leaders make great headlines, but lousy bosses. Superman has drawn his line in the sand and never crosses it. Can you say the same about your career? Or, have you succumbed to office politics, bottom-line pressures or other factors that have you breaking a personal and professional moral code of conduct? Maybe it's time to take a page from Superman's book and figure out what you stand for - and stick with it.
  4. He knows how to market his skills. OK, so leaping over tall buildings with a single bound and being able to fly are not skills everyone can emulate, but you have to admit the guy knows how to make others appreciate him. He's not afraid to offers his skills to a wide range of industries, and isn't afraid to take risks. Being able to always demonstrate your value is critical throughout a career. You don't see Superman resting on his laurels from 1954, do you? The guy is as viable in the marketplace today as he was when Harry S. Truman was president.
  5. He knows his weak spots.  One word: Kryptonite. You're not going to see Superman embrace Kryptonite, but instead find ways to work around it. How many times have you found yourself making the same mistake over and over because you keep embracing your Kryptonite? If you're a lousy writer, for example, then get some help before you write another crappy report that has the boss screaming for your dismissal.

We've all grown up with Superman, and maybe we take the guy for granted because he's been around for so long. But it's that longevity that we shouldn't take for granted - and instead see it as an opportunity to learn from one of the greatest careers around.


What has Superman taught you? Let us know. 



"We are so excited at Valley Bank that you have hired Kay Slusher as your new Settlement Processor.


I recently had the privilege of working with Kay on a transaction and was very impressed with her knowledge, efficiencies and communication skills. The transaction was completely seamless. We had our title work almost as soon as we ordered it - no last minute push to get it in.

Cyndi Beach Stultz
VP, Mortgage Loan Officer
Valley Bank
Roanoke, VA


The same went for the Settlement Statement. She was great about working not only with my investor and my borrower but also with me - keeping me in the loop every step of the way.   

At the settlement table, she was clear and concise with my client - providing just the right amount of information needed.  And, she submitted her documentation to the investor immediately after closing allowing them to issue a funding number right away.


I love that she is willing to come to our office for closing. From our standpoint, this is a stellar hire for Virginia Title Center and I wanted to take the time to congratulate you.  I look forward to working with VTC and Kay again in the very near future.


Good job everyone!" 



Visit the VTC testimonials page on our website to view additional client comments.

provided by Gail Duffy, Title Services Manager, Virginia Title Center 


Unsure about the impact of federal tax liens on the title insurability of a property in a purchase transaction? Read on!


Receiving notice that your client, or the client of the co-op agent, has a federal tax lien filed against him can give you that sick feeling in your stomach. It's the kind of thing that doesn't generally come up until well into the deal, after the title search has been done and examined. By that time, you've invested a lot of time, effort and money into the deal, and you're understandably upset that something may derail it. Notice of a federal tax lien is typically filed in the public records of the county of residence of the delinquent taxpayer. As soon as it is filed, it becomes a lien against all property the taxpayer owns in that county, including his principal residence. If the taxpayer attempts to sell or refinance his property, the tax lien will serve as a cloud on the title and will generally have to be discharged by paying it at or before closing.


More about Federal Tax Liens:  If any person liable to pay any tax neglects or refuses to pay the tax after demand, the amount, including any interest, additional amount, addition to tax, or assessable penalty, together with any costs that may accrue in addition thereto shall be a lien in favor of the United States upon all property and rights to property, whether real or personal, belonging to such person.

Although state tax liens and judgments against only one spouse do not attach to entireties' property, federal tax liens against only one spouse are considered a lien against property owned by the taxpayer as tenants by the entirety with his or her spouse. The government can foreclose a tax lien against one (1) spouse who holds an interest in entireties' property.

Period of Duration: Unless another date is specifically fixed by law, the lien imposed by section 6321 shall arise at the time the assessment is made and shall continue until the liability for the amount so assessed or a judgment against the taxpayer unenforceable by reason of lapse of time.

In essence, the period of existence of a valid lien is from the date the assessment of liability is formally made to the date the amount assessed is satisfied or becomes unenforceable by lapse of time.  


The Ominbus Reconciliation Budget Act of 1990 (H.R. 5835) became effective November 5, 1990. This Act extended the time that federal tax lien notices are effective (from six years and thirty days to ten years and thirty days). Under this Act, the federal tax lien notice is effective for a period of ten (10) years and (30) thirty days after assessment, unless prior to expiration of this period of limitations, the lien is properly refiled within the time allowed by law. The refiling continues the federal tax lien notice for an additional ten (10) year period. The refiling must occur within the last year that the original filing is effective. Alternately, if the assessment is properly and timely reduced to a judgment, the lien continues during the period in which the judgment is enforceable. There appears to be no federal period of limitations on enforceability of a judgment for taxes.


Underwriting properties with federal tax lien: All federal tax liens against only one (1) spouse on property owned as tenants by the entirety must be satisfied or released, and an appropriate requirement made on the title insurance commitment. 


Federal Tax Liens Relative to Foreclosures of Deeds of Trust: If property is foreclosed thirty (30) days after a federal tax lien is placed on the property, the IRS must receive twenty-five (25) days notice of the foreclosure sale. Failure to give proper notice leaves the IRS lien in force. Upon proper notice, the IRS has a redemption period of 120 days after the date of sale to redeem the property to satisfy the lien. 


For more information on the impact of federal tax liens on property, please contact Gail Duffy at 1.800.468.5811 or by e-mail  

Gail Duffy, Operations Manager & Title Insurance Underwriter
Gail Duffy, Operations Manager & Title Insurance Underwriter
Gail has worked in the real estate industry for over 17 years in many areas including title insurance, settlement/closing services and mortgage processing in the Roanoke Valley and New River Valley areas.

In addition to underwriting,  Gail is responsible for managing the daily operations in the office and assisting our clients with any special needs or requests they have to ensure a high level of service delivery.  She is also a frequent contributor to the VTC e-news.

Gail resides in Roanoke with her husband and son. In her spare time, Gail enjoys traveling, several forms of exercise & cooking.


You can say hello to Gail by e-mail or call her at 800.468.5811.


Click here to view information about other members of the VTC team.

How Do You Use There, They're and Their?  

These three words cause some of the most common grammar problems as they are commonly misspelled or used wrong. Their usage can be difficult to understand. Welcome to the easiest way to learn how to use there, they're, and their!     


If you want to learn how to tell the difference between there, they're, and their, then look at the definitions and examples below. The differences between There vs. Their, There vs. They're, and They're vs. Their can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Or worse, it can make a sentence completely meaningless due to not following English grammar rules. 

There: Use there to refer to a physical or abstract place. Usually, if you can replace there with here in the same sentence, and it still makes sense, then you are using it correctly.


Examples: "There is an old haunted house."   "We are going over there to eat."


They're: Use they're as a contraction for they are. Usually, if you can replace they're with they are in the same sentence, and it still makes sense, then you are using it correctly.

Examples: "They're coming over for dinner."  "I wonder who they're talking to."

Their: Use their to show possession, commonly followed by a noun. Usually, if you can replace their with our in the same sentence, and it still makes sense, then you are using it correctly.

Examples: "Their dog is pretty awesome."  "Have you seen their new store?"     


Did you know that Land title insurance is an American innovation? It was first developed in the 1870's in answer to a long series of land ownership failures involving forged records, inaccurate record searches and similar problems. 


Did you know the name of the first title insurance company was The Law Property Assurance and Trust Society formed in Pennsylvania? 


Did you know title insurers are regulated by the state and maintain statutory reserves to protect their policy holders?


Did you know that titles abstracts were originally performed by a "conveyancer"? 


Did you know that unlike other forms of insurance, a policy of title insurance requires only one premium to keep your property fully protected for as long as you own it? The policy even protects your heirs, should you die.


Did you know that a deed does not prove that the seller is the owner of the property? A deed can only convey whatever interest it's maker has, and that interest might be defective. 


Did you know that Ben Franklin laid the groundwork for the model and concept of insurance as we know it today? 


Did you know that tile insurance emphasizes prevention rather than assumption of risk?
Make sure to ask a qualified title agent questions before selling, buying or refinancing. 

The Top 10 Rules of Business Email Etiquette

Reprinted from RingCentral Connect, a blog for business


Most of the world's email traffic comes from the corporate sector, according to technology market research firm The Radicati Group. How important are these emails? According to a separate report by cloud-based email management company Mimecast, 61% of emails received at professional email accounts are non-essential.


No wonder professionals often complain about the size of their inboxes - we're all sending/receiving many emails daily, and only one in three emails received is viewed as essential for work.


Are you guilty of adding to your co-workers' email clutter by sending spam and/or non-work related emails? Or possibly you send work-relevant emails that are misinterpreted as non-essential? Whatever the case, email is a major form of business communications - so if you want your emails to be read and regarded with credibility, be sure you are adhering to basic email etiquette.


Below are our top ten rules of business email etiquette. Which one resonates with you the most?  

Which email etiquette pointers should be added to the list?


  1. Refrain from emotionally-charged emails.
    Avoid sending emails when you're feeling any type of negative emotion, e.g., anger, irritation, frustration. Emotionally-charged emails almost always include words and phrases that will make you look unprofessional and irrational. Before you send off that email rant or reply to an email that angers you, try cooling off by taking a walk. Or, write an uncensored draft that you never actually send. Remember that all emails are forwardable, so before sending that incendiary email, ask yourself if you want your email to be viewed by everybody, including your supervisor and executives.
  2. Make the email subject line count.
    The subject line is arguably the most prominent part of an email - the subject line can determine whether or not your email will be opened/read. Take the time to write a meaningful subject line, one that is brief and relevant to the content of your email. Be sure to correct misspellings and typos, which will make you look sloppy and vulnerable to spam filters.
  3. Resist the Reply All button.
    When someone sends an email to multiple recipients, the assumption is that everybody on that thread is directly or peripherally involved in the particular subject matter. If you have additional data points and/or questions relevant to the subject matter, then the Reply All option is okay. However, if you have a comment/question relevant only to the sender or a few people on the recipient list, then remove all but the relevant people from the email reply. And if you have something completely meaningless to add, e.g., "LOL" or "me too!", don't even bother sending the email.
  4. Understand the To and CC fields.
    The recipients listed in the To field are the direct addressees of your email. These are the people to whom you are writing directly.  CC, which stands for "carbon copy" or even "courtesy copy," is for anyone you want to keep in the loop but are not addressing directly in the email. The person(s) in the CC field is being sent a copy of your email as an FYI. Commonly, people CC their supervisors to let them know an email has been sent/an action has been taken or to provide a record of communications. The general rule of thumb is that recipients in the To field are expected to reply or follow up to the email, while those in the CC field do not.
  5. Call out additions to the To or CC fields.
    If you're replying to an email and you add recipients to the thread (either in the To or CC field), be sure to call this out at the beginning of your email reply, e.g., "+1 [Name]" or "adding [Name]." This is a courteous alert to your recipient(s) that additional people have been added to the conversation.
  6. Use the BCC field sparingly.
    BCC stands for "blind carbon copy." Recipients in this field cannot see one another's email addresses. Use it primarily for sending an email to multiple recipients who don't know one another (note: if you are introducing recipients to one another, then use the To field so everybody's email is visible). Don't use the BCC field to secretly loop in additional, unknown recipients.
  7. Limit back and forth exchanges.
    If you find yourself in a back and forth email exchange, make an effort to talk in person instead. While email is a powerful communications tool, it can be misinterpreted and downright inefficient. Resolve the back and forth emails by picking up the phone or meeting with the recipient in person.
  8. Zip up and reference those attachments.
    Most corporate email accounts have a maximum message size that prevents recipients from downloading files that are too big. If you're sending attachments over 5MBs, use compression tools to decrease the size of the files. Also, remember to reference the attachment(s) in the body of your email so readers know to download the file(s).
  9. Emailing an article link? Summarize.
    If you're recommending that your colleagues read an article you email to them, be sure to provide some context. Be sure your email subject line indicates you're sending an article, and include the article's title or topic matter, e.g., Article: Email Etiquette. In the body of the email, provide a short summary - from as brief as a one-sentence description to a more detailed one with bullet points.
  10. Keep it brief.
    We're all guilty of sending lengthy emails. And it's true that now and then, lengthy emails are appropriate. But for the most part, we should all keep it brief. Long emails take more time to read - and everybody is pressed for time. Most people delay reading long emails. It's easier to consume smaller bits of information, especially on mobile devices. So make your emails count, and keep them brief!


**Remember to offer your borrowers Owners' Coverage on their most valuable investment. It's a one time premium with a lifetime of security. In addition, they will receive a reduced premium rate when they obtain it simultaneously with your Lender's Coverage.**

What Topics Are On Your Mind?

Virginia Title Center wants to provide you with pertinent information in future E-Blasts and Webinars. What questions are on your mind regarding the real estate and mortgage lending industry? What Hot Topics would you like to receive greater insights and clarity? Send Patti your thoughts.
Patti L. Dickerson                                      
Director of Marketing & Communications
Virginia Title Center, LLC
"where going the extra mile
     is nothing extra at all..."

Give Patti a call today!
 "A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue,
but the parent of all the other virtues." 
 - Cicero -
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