By Camille Gillies

With the Tampa real estate market starting to bounce back and more people considering buying or selling a home, now may be a good time to brush up on your knowledge of the title business.

If you’ve ever purchased property, chances are pretty good you’ve bought title insurance. That’s because most lenders require buyers to purchase title insurance as security for any real estate investment. But, do you really know what title insurance covers, or what a title company does?

One expert on the subject is Anthony Fowkes, owner of Anchor Title Services, LLC, which is headquartered in the Cory Lake Isles Professional Center on Cross Creek Blvd. A licensed title agent who started Anchor Title eight years ago, Tony says the title industry is not well understood.

“Most people probably don’t understand what we do,” Tony explains. “Basically, we are a non-interested third party between the bank, the buyer and the seller. We specialize in researching, delivering and recording closing documents, preparing settlement costs and closing statements, disbursing settlement funds and providing title insurance.”

Unlike homeowners or flood insurance policies that show up in your mailbox for renewal every year, title insurance for your home is a one-time premium, and rather than protect against hazards such as hurricanes and fires that may befall your home in the future, title insurance protects against loss from hazards that potentially already exist.

When purchasing a home, you are actually purchasing the title to the property, and that title may be limited by rights and claims asserted by others. Problems can arise when deeds, wills and trusts contain improper wording or incorrect names; outstanding mortgages and judgments exist, or the seller didn’t pay his taxes and there’s a lien against the property; or there are easements that must allow construction of a road or a utility line; pending legal action against the property could affect the purchaser; or incorrect notary acknowledgments are discovered.

How do you know whether any of these issues are associated with your real estate purchase? The title company does a search of public land records and when title problems are uncovered by the search, they try to resolve them.

Unfortunately, hidden hazards may emerge after closing: a forged signature on the deed prevents the buyer from taking ownership; an unknown heir of a previous owner claims ownership of the property; instruments were executed under an expired or a fabricated power of attorney; or mistakes were made in the public records.

These hazards can be as costly to a homeowner as any natural disaster — which is where title insurance comes into play. The title insurer pays for defending an attack on the title and will either “clear” or perfect the title or pay valid claims – all included in that one-time charge you pay at closing.

A Standard Of Excellence

Anchor Title had no claims last year and was recognized by its underwriter, Stewart Title Insurance, with Stewart’s 2012 Foundation of Excellence Award and its 2012 Pacesetter Award for Anchor’s high volume of business.

“We conduct business all over Florida,” Tony says. “Because we have many locations, we can make closings very convenient for our customers. If you’re refinancing your current residence, we will even come to your home. We also work with an attorney on short sales, if our clients need that type of expertise.”

Tony adds, “Many of the area’s top lenders and Realtors use our services. Anchor also handles numerous for-sale-by-owner transactions. Our relationships with people are very important to us. We strive to be accessible to our clients, giving out our cell phone numbers and always having someone available to answer and return phone calls. It also helps that our staff is multilingual.”

One of the big things that Tony says separates Anchor from its competition is that, “We’re more modern. We’ve streamlined our technology to speed up the process so we have the ability to quickly access anything we need for our clients.”

Among the lenders on Anchor’s client list is Meriam Ibrahim, a senior mortgage banker with Chase Bank in Tampa. A top producer with eight years of experience, Ibrahim says the service she has received from Anchor Title has been “phenomenal” and that the title company’s people are the main reason.

“I give them a file and they run with it,”Meriam raves. “They offer amazing customer service. It’s the individuals themselves who set the company apart from other title companies. I’ve used them for several years and find them far superior to the national title companies I’ve used.”

In the real estate community, Christy Ianuzi, a Realtor with Prudential Tropical Realty in Tampa, says the team at Anchor Title is personable and professional.

“They care when there’s a problem and try to figure out a way to make things work,” Christy says. “They make sure the job gets done and when you need a closing to happen, they find a way to do it. We use them as much as possible.”

 

A Look At The Market

Working closely with the real estate and mortgage industries, Tony has keen insight into the Tampa Bay area real estate market – and the signs of life he says he is witnessing may pleasantly surprise you.

He says that Tampa’s inventory, or the amount of time it takes to sell all of the properties currently on the market, is “drastically low,” which is driving home prices higher. In fact, he says inventory overall in the Tampa Bay area, including New Tampa and Wesley Chapel, is at just 3.4 months, down from its high of 18.9 months of inventory.

“The deals are not really out there now,” he remarks, noting that recently he’s seen some homes get five offers the first day they are on the market — and some sellers even receive above-list-price and cash offers.

“Hedge funds are investing in the Tampa market and are buying homes with full-price cash offers. The hedge funds, first-time homebuyers and international investors are the ones driving the (Tampa Bay-area) market.”

He adds that financing is getting a little easier because confidence in the market has strengthened, adding, “There are tighter (financing) guidelines (now), but they are loosening.”

Tony gains perspective on the industry at home as well, as his wife Lindsey is a Realtor with Prudential Realty. The couple lives in Cory Lake Isles with their daughters, ages 5 and 2.

Tony moved to Tampa in 2003 after graduating from West Virginia University in Morgantown with a Bachelor’s degree in criminology and anthropology. He worked in sales and eventually decided to pursue a career in the title industry and open his own business. He says he is proud of his knowledgeable staff at Anchor Title, which includes agency manager Arlette Soler, who has 13 years of title experience, and post-closing manager Nahybi Amaya.

Anchor Title’s main office is located at 10347 Cross Creek Blvd, Suite B, in the Cory Lake Professional Center. For more info, call 907-7333 or visit AnchorTitleServices.net.

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