As we continue to traverse through the different types of deeds and their meanings, it is important to ask the necessary questions that accompany these subjects. With that said, what are your questions about deeds, and research with www.CourthouseDirect.com? What have you found to be topics and/or subjects that have brought you to question your comprehension of what www.CourthouseDirect.com provides? Feel free to send any questions or correspondence to me directly at Adam@CourthouseDirect.com and we will undoubtedly get you on the path to knowledge within the vast world of deeds and research!
- Adam Villarreal
Deeds in Texas
By: David J. Willis J.D., LL.M.
General Warranty Deed
The term “warranty deed” is loosely used to refer to a deed that contains both express and implied warranties (There is also a “deed without warranties” which is discussed below). A general warranty deed is the preferred form of deed for a buyer because it expressly warrants the entire chain of title, all the way back to the sovereign, and binds the grantor to defend against any title defects, even if those defects were created prior to the grantor´s period of ownership.
Here is a sample general warranty clause: “Grantor binds Grantor and Grantor´s heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns to warrant and forever defend all and singular the Property to Grantee and Grantee´s heirs, executors, administrators, successors, and assigns against every person whomsoever lawfully claiming or to claim the same or any part thereof, except as to the Reservations from Conveyance and the Exceptions to Conveyance and Warranty.”
What are implied warranties? One is the “covenant of seisin” – that the grantor presently owns the property that is conveyed, i.e., he has not previously conveyed it to someone else. Another is the “covenant against encumbrances” which refers to undisclosed liens that diminish the monetary value of the land. Sec. 5.023 of the Texas Property Code spells out these implied warranties. Note that the scope of any warranty may be limited by a “subject to” provision which might state, for example, that the conveyance is being made subject to a boundary dispute involving a certain section of the property. A “subject to” provision of this type protects the grantor against a claim for breach of warranty.
General warranty deeds are common in the sale of residential property.
In last week’s www.CourthouseDirect.com blog we focused on the basic definition of what a deed is, and thanks to David J. Willis we will continue to traverse through the different versions, questions, and definitions of deeds. Now if you’re a novice to the world of deeds (and recording them) it’s important to ackowledge the significance of their role. Deeds showing the legal ownership of real property (houses, condominiums, apartment buildings, etc.) and provide clarity for everything I just mentioned. So we know what a deed is, but must they be recorded to be valid?
No. There is no requirement that a deed be recorded in the county clerk’s real property records in order to be valid – only that it be executed and delivered to the grantee. When this is done, the transfer is fully effective between grantor (seller) and grantee (buyer). Recording merely gives notice to the world of the transfer and, of course, establishes priority in the event an unscrupulous seller gives more than one deed to the property.
Recording makes it easier for title companies to research and insure the chain of title. Title companies insist on recording for this reason. Recording will also inform the taxing authorities where they should send the ad valorem tax bill.
Executing and delivering a deed without immediately recording it can be a useful, inexpensive estate planning device – what this author calls “the deed in the drawer.” If, for example, a parent wants to insure that her property is transferred without probate or other difficulty upon her death, then she could sign a deed now that would be held and not recorded until she passed. This is entirely legal.
One more comment relating to the timing of deeds – the doctrine of “after acquired title.” If I give you a deed today to property that I do not yet own, it of course has no effect; but if I actually acquire that property next week, then the deed I gave you comes to life and the property is yours.
I had the same question when I walked through the doors of www.CourthouseDirect.com, but luckily the knowledge of the President and staff made my pursuit of such information very smooth while I learned the details of our amazing company. Now of course had I never entered into a relationship with www.CourthouseDirect.com I would have never gained the knowledge I have now. It’s with this that I decided to try and research things on my own as if I were never involved with our company. How does one learn the extensive information that our local courthouses provide for us regarding the history of our homes and land?
After doing some internet surfing I discovered a great article written by Attorney David J. Willis J.D., LL.M. and he detailed a myriad of explanations associated with deeds and their multiple versions. So let’s keep these quick and simple. What is a deed?
A deed is a written document that conveys legal title to real property. It is to be distinguished from a promissory note or a real estate lien note which is a promise to pay a sum of money to a lender; and a deed of trust which provides the lender with remedies, including foreclosure, if a borrower defaults on a note (similar to a mortgage in other states). The deed, note, and deed of trust are the three principal documents in most Texas real estate transactions.
There is no “standard form” for a deed, although Texas does have certain rules that apply if a deed is to be valid. For instance, the intent to convey property must be clear from the wording; the property must be sufficiently described; and the deed must be signed and acknowledged by the grantor. Having said this, it is not true that all deeds are created equal. In particular, when it is a grantor’s intention to accomplish a specific objective and limit liability in doing so, the form and wording of a deed can be critically important. Always consult a real estate attorney when contemplating the transfer of property.
This article will briefly describe different types of deeds that are commonly used for different purposes in Texas. For additional information, it is suggested that the reader also consult our related articles, including Co-Ownership of Property in Texas, Deeding Property into an LLC, and Deeding Property to the Lender.
*We will be examining more deeds and their versions in next week’s blog. Stay tuned!*
With Halloween quickly approaching it’s time to take yet another jaunt into the annals of history and venture back into the sordid past of another American courthouse. This tale takes place in Carrollton, Alabama in 1876 amidst the heat of racism and mistrust against local African-American citizens, some whom were freed slaves like the man in this story.
Now let me preface this by saying that the story is some part legend, some part truth, but all exciting in the movie-like storyline which is presented. Despite what may be considered real and/or truth, local Alabamians consider the lore a part of their towns history and acknowledge the folklore as truth. You decide…
What follows is the commonly told story of how the face appeared in the window. For the actual events see the section “Origins of the Story,” below. On November 16, 1876, the people of Carrollton, Alabama watched helplessly as their courthouse burned to the ground. The Pickens County Courthouse had been a source of pride for the people of Carrollton. Their first courthouse had been burned down by invading Union Army troops during the American Civil War, an act that seemed to serve no purpose other than to inflict humiliation on the town. In the difficult days of the Reconstruction, when materials were scarce and money was even scarcer, rebuilding the courthouse seemed to be an impossible task. Yet, through hard work and deep personal sacrifices, the courthouse was somehow rebuilt. It stood as a testament to the perseverance of the town, and a symbol of defiance even in the face of defeat at the hands of the Union soldiers.
Yet, less than twelve years after Union troops had set fire to their first courthouse, the new one burned to a pile of smoldering ruin, apparently the result of a burglary gone wrong. Even as work began on a third courthouse, the townspeople demanded vengeance for the horrible act. Their vengeful eyes finally settled on Henry Wells, a freed slave who lived near the town.
Henry Wells was no angel. He was said to have a horrible temper, and there was no denying he had been involved in several brawls. Rumors went even further; people said he constantly carried a straight razor, and was not afraid to use it. Despite the rumors, however, there was only vague circumstantial evidence against him in the burning of the courthouse.
But it was Alabama in 1878, and Henry Wells was a black man accused of burning down a symbol of town pride. He was charged and arrested on four counts: arson, burglary, carrying a concealed weapon and assault with intent to murder. Ironically, he was taken to the sheriff’s office, located inside the newly completed courthouse, to await trial.
As word spread through the town of Wells’ arrest, the sheriff could sense trouble brewing. The mood of the town seemed as ominous as the dark clouds gathering in the late afternoon sky. As the first few drunken men began heading toward the courthouse, the sheriff took Wells to the high garret of the new courthouse, and told him to keep quiet. But as the angry mob gathered below, Wells’ fear got the best of him. He went to the window, and looked down on the crowd. He yelled defiantly, at the top of his lungs, “I am innocent. If you kill me, I am going to haunt you for the rest of your lives!” Just then, a bolt of lightning struck nearby, flashing the image of Wells’ face, contorted with fear, to the crowd below.
The lynch mob forced its way into the courthouse, and took their victim outside, even as he continued to proclaim his innocence. His cries went in vain, as the mob meted out its drunken vengeance, and dispersed. None of them even considered Wells’ predictions of hauntings as they passed out in a drunken stupor. At least not until the next morning, that is.
Early the next morning, as a member of the lynch mob passed by the courthouse, he happened to glance up at the garret window. He was shocked to see Wells’ face looking down at him, just as it had the night before, when it had been illuminated by the flash of lightning. He rubbed his eyes and cursed his hangover, but when he looked back up, there was Wells. He screamed, and as others arrived, they all remembered Wells prediction. “If you kill me, I am going to haunt you for the rest of your lives!”
The face remains in the courthouse window to this very day. No amount of washing has been able to remove it, and on at least one occasion, it is said that every window pane in the courthouse was broken by a severe hailstorm; every pane, that is, except for the pane from which Wells continues to look down accusingly on the town that put him to death.
Another local version of this story is that while Wells was awaiting trial for being falsely accused of raping a white woman, a lightning storm brewed, and an angry mob gathered below to lynch him, and he told them, “If you lynch me, you will forever see my face.” At this time lightning struck the very window in which he was standing. From that day forward, no amount of washing, or replacing that window, has been able to remove his face.
Origins of the story:
The story of the appearance of the face in the courthouse window seems to be a combination of two actual events, that of the lynching of Nathaniel Pierce, and that of the capture of Henry Wells, who later confessed to burning down the courthouse.
According to the West Alabamian, which was Carrollton’s only newspaper at the time of the events, Nathaniel Pierce was being held for murder when, on September 26, 1877, an armed mob forced their way into the jail where Pierce was being held, took him outside the city, and killed him. There was no indication that Pierce’s lynching had anything to do with the burning of the courthouse.
In fact, the town already suspected Henry Wells and an accomplice, Bill Buckhalter, of the crime. A story in the West Alabamian on December 13, 1876 said that Henry Wells and Bill Buckhalter were suspected of robbing a store on the night the courtroom was burned. The story also reported that stolen merchandise from the store was found in their homes.
Wells’ accomplice, Buckhalter, was finally arrested in January 1878. Buckhalter confessed to the burglary, and blamed Wells for the burning of the courthouse. Wells was caught a few days later. When confronted by the police, he tried to flee, and was shot twice. He confessed to burning the courthouse, and died from his wounds five days later.
Although it is clear that these two events were combined into the commonly told story of how the face appeared in the courthouse window, neither of the two men could be the “face in the window.” In fact, both Pierce and Wells died before the windows were ever installed in the new courthouse. The West Alabamian reported that windows were being installed in the courthouse on February 20, 1878. These windows were the windows in the main courtroom, which were the first windows installed due to a court session due to take place in the middle of March. The garret windows, including the one with the ghostly face, were not installed until weeks after Wells’ death.
In the spirit of October and the upcoming Halloween festivities we are all sure to enjoy, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to combine on of the passions of www.CourthouseDirect.com with something that I personally love: scary stories and haunted places! Now based on the extensive histories of so many courthouses (especially those that hanged offenders), there is no shortage of courthouses to choose from. I myself have never had an encounter with a ghost, spirit, goblin, monster or the like; anything resembling such was quickly identified and dismissed as a drunken person or a family member pulling a prank (or perhaps both combined).
Nonetheless I am a fan of the supernatural and the alleged stories that it brings. As a native Texan I am familiar with a place known to have a “high” level of paranormal activity. It’s dark history and the horrible tragedies this place endured has made it a staple in the Texas paranormal scene and a must-visit for any ghost hunting fan. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the old Nueces County Courthouse…
Built in 1914, the old Nueces County Courthouse has sat unused since 1977. In an article I found dated in 2011, it stated that the City Council was voting to demolish the building despite it being protected from destruction due to a stipulation in a state grant fund. According to the city council, it would cost over $40 million to renovate the abandoned building thus making the demolition far more appealing. But alas the building and all of its creepy history remains intact.
Below is an article written by Mike Baird from 2003 which was featured in the South Texas Paranormal Society newspaper. It details some of the darker sides of the old courthouse history…
(Please also enjoy a fan-made video below!)
Past haunts the old courthouse – Paranormal group gathers tales of lives lost
By Mike Baird Caller-Times October 31, 2003
A skeleton once attended a trial at the old Nueces County Courthouse. The historic building served as a gruesome makeshift morgue during one of the town’s worst tragedies. But on this Halloween night, don’t search for ghosts in the gallows because it was never used.
The South Texas Paranormal Society has found a few ghost _stories in the old courthouse. Here’s an example from the society’s Web site, an account submitted by a former sheriff’s deputy:
“On nights that the moon shined into the cells on the south side you could see the figure of an older woman in old-fashioned clothes sitting on one of the bunks in an unused cell unit. The story goes that she died in the cell back in the early ’40s, before there was a jail crew at night to check on things, and that she came back on these moonlit nights. We also had an intercom system strung through the cell units so we could hear anything going on and sometimes on the one for that area you could hear someone crying. The female inmates would complain about the sobbing keeping them awake. When a jailer and matron would go check, it would stop until they left again. This would happen even when the female section was empty.”
The Web site doesn’t mention the courthouse’s role in the 1919 hurricane. But if spirits of the dead should swarm sites of great despair tonight, those hallowed halls of justice would fill with restless images proclaiming the human tragedy.
The hurricane brought flood waters that buried downtown Corpus Christi. People leashed themselves to cows, or clung to their children and spouses while gripping uprooted telephone poles as they were swept by in the flood.
The courthouse, built in 1914 on a rise, stood alone in the midst of the storm’s chaos. Entire rooftops of houses and buildings became the pontoon islands of citizens riding the torrents of destruction.
Men seeking refuge in the aftermath of the hurricane at the courthouse formed a human chain across Belden Street to scoop the struggling survivors and the dead into the building. The men remained locked arm-in-arm for several hours, sifting oil-slicked bodies and seaweed-entangled survivors from the raging waters that demolished the downtown with 11-foot tidal waves.
Hundreds of bloated and unrecognizable bodies were lined in rows in the courthouse basement – oil-soaked and mutilated.
The official tally was 284 dead, but those who were there said there were many lost and never seen and that the number totaled more than 600. About 2,500 people found solace and safety in the upper floors of the building.
Lucy Caldwell, a teacher from Terrell, wrote an account of the hurricane in a letter to her mother after visiting the courthouse basement morgue: “And, oh, the condition they were in. Arms and legs and heads almost severed, some with all the hair gone, swollen beyond description, and black from oil, hair entangled with seaweed, and bodies so mutilated that identification was impossible.”
The old courthouse hosted several spooky epochs that conjured lingering memories for generations. A local attorney instigated a shock tactic by dragging the skeleton of a murder victim into a courtroom for jurors to see the indentations in its skull. The attorney professed that a ball-peen hammer was used to bludgeon the man.
A hangman’s gallows and two death cells were built with a trap door for hangings, common local practice on previous courthouse grounds. But the state took over the responsibility of carrying out executions before the courthouse gallows could be used, and the room where feet would have danced their last became a kitchen instead.
The first officially sanctioned hangings in Nueces County were on Friday, Aug. 7, 1874. Two men caught by a posse were found guilty of killing four men in a raid on a one-store community called Penascal, on Baffin Bay. The gallows were built extending out from the second-floor balcony of the first courthouse, built before the Civil War, which the county outgrew in the 1870s. It was replaced with The Hollub Courthouse, finished in 1875, only three decades before voters approved a $250,000 bond issue for the third, now “old” courthouse.
County commissioners early this year approved a contract for local architects to design and oversee restoration work on the historical building. Local fundraisers have devoted $749,500 in pledges, and Friends of the Courthouse and the Nueces County Historical Society surrendered $97,000 for the project. More than $650,000 has rolled in since from local contributors.
But the memories of the macabre events that are part of the building’s history will linger as long as the structure survives.
To see the ghostly stories that the South Texas Paranormal Society has dug up on the old courthouse, go to www.angelfire.com/sk2/stparanormal/index.html and click on Nueces County Courthouse.
In this blog that we’ve kept over the last year and beyond, we’ve covered many topics and stories. These blogs have mainly covered the real estate and legal industry thus leaving off a myriad of other industries related to our business at www.CourthouseDirect.com and of course www.CourthouseSquare.com. One industry that I briefly touched on in last week’s blog was related to the Home Inspection field.
We all (or at least I do) consider home inspections to be a necessary evil. The effects of a home inspection can have an effect on a home sale price, and can have a say-so in a variety of financial expenditures when trying to sell or even purchase a home. But let’s step back a moment and consider this from the point of view of the inspector. The home inspector is a usually a self-employed person not under the umbrella of any company aside from their own. Like most independent real estate agents, & appraisers, their leads are self-generated and the lifeblood of their individual business. So how can they generate leads aside from the typical marketing schemes usually employed? You go straight to the business itself!
I was reading a blog by Nick Gromicko on www.NACHI.org website and I found this approach to be so simple and effective. Give it a read and tell us what you think!
Marketing Tip for Inspectors: Hit Up the Neighbors with Your Annual Inspections by Nick Gromicko
Many inspectors recommend that their clients have an annual inspection performed every fall. Seasonal maintenance is extremely important to a home’s top condition, and the best time to have an annual inspection is before the weather turns cold.
In addition to recurring business from repeat customers, inspectors can capitalize on the annual inspection by alerting the client’s neighbors. The neighborhood is really a built-in local market, so inspectors should take advantage of this kind of close-proximity marketing opportunity.
Upon completing an annual inspection, it’s a good idea to mail a letter to all the neighbors asking them if they would like a pre-winter inspection. Include a copy of the testimonial from the client whose inspection you just completed (but be sure to first ask your client for permission to do this).
You can look up the neighboring homes’ addresses on the county assessor’s website, and by matching up the owners’ addresses to the homes’ addresses, you can personalize each letter. (And if some of the homes are rentals, you can still send a letter to the owners and offer an inspection, and suggest that it will minimize and/or pinpoint their own landlord maintenance tasks.)
Here’s a sample letter:
YOUR NEIGHBOR IS A GENIUS!
Dear [Prospect’s Name],
I’m writing to let you know that we performed an annual home inspection for [Client’s Name] on [Client’s Street]. [Client’s Name] has given us permission to send you their enclosed testimonial.
As an InterNACHI member trained and certified in providing top-quality home inspections, I offer my extensive experience to help you keep your home in optimum condition. Before the onset of winter, let me evaluate your home and help you discover any deferred maintenance and other potential issues before they become problems. Winter is the most inconvenient time of year for daily disruptions and costly repairs, which is why I strongly recommend that you have me perform your first annual inspection now.
I’d like to talk to you about our annual inspection service. Please call me on my cell phone at [Your Phone Number] for a free consultation. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
[Your Inspection Company Name]
[Your Phone Number]
[Your Email Address]
[Your Website Address]
Encl. 3: Testimonial, brochure, business card
Annual inspections clustered in the same neighborhoods during the fall can mean big business at a time when new-home builds and purchases are slowing down for the year. Just a little bit of research (and some stamps) can mean the difference between a dip and a drop in revenue.
We’ve all done it; made a decision about something only to regret it after receiving advice or information after the fact. I equate it to buying something only to realize you had a 50% off coupon in your wallet. Sure you could return it and start over, but that’s not always the case or the outcome we could hope for.
As of this writing, my wife and I are concluding the refinance of our home. This month long process has led us to today where we sign the final paperwork. It’s nice to know that we’ll have a better interest rate and payoff our home in a manner that’s financially better for us all while going from a 30 year to a 15 year term. Of course it was a headache getting to this point, what with all the digging up of old documents, our home survey, etc., but at least we had control over these things. The one thing we didn’t have 100% control on was the appraisal.
Appraisals are tricky things. We as home owners are (sentimentally) biased about the value of our home. We know what we put it to it including the subtle nuances that someone on the outside may not be able to notice. We also are aware of any time, efforts and investments put into to the home with regards to remodeling and if it goes unnoticed in an appraisal we are obviously not happy. Our appraisal took place with someone who we found pleasant and efficient. He explained to us that banks typically have someone from within their organization conduct the appraisal. This of course, in my opinion, is far beyond a conflict of interest. If a bank is providing a loan on a home I believe it should be a third party that comes in and appraises the home to make it fair for both parties. Our appraiser explained that this was the way it had been done for decades, but after the housing fallout banks started using in-house appraisers for such dealings. Luckily our appraiser hates banks.
Now that’s not to say that we received a more favorable appraisal but it gave my wife and I peace of mind knowing that we were given a fair and true value of our home. In the days approaching our appraisal my wife and I cleaned vigorously and made the house as presentable as we could. My assignment list which my wife authored grew longer and longer and it was clear that visual appeal was everything. Or so we thought. Yesterday I read a piece about maximizing the value of your home in an appraisal, and just like my first paragraph stated, I wish I could start over. Sure it’s about visual appeal, but there are ways to get to most out of your home in subtle ways that could add value to your home. There are no real mistakes aside from the obvious, but what I read I could’ve used. Take a look…
8 Tips for Raising Your Home Appraisal By: Sharyn Alfonsi
For six months, Jessica and Carl Doerrer’s home in Hackettstown, N.J., has sat on the market.
Despite today’s news that record low interest rates are encouraging more home buyers to finally purchase, in the Doerrers’ case, their house has had no offers.
Now they’re asking for $225,000 even though they bought the house for $325,000 six years ago.
What’s worse? The house was appraised at $190,000. That gap, experts told ABC News, could be a huge problem if the Doerrers get an offer. When it comes to selling or refinancing a home, they say, banks aren’t loaning the difference to any family these days.
“When a bank gets a low appraisal, they often won’t do the loan at all because they feel as though it is overvalued … and they feel at risk,” said Barbara Corcoran, a real estate expert and founder of the Corcoran Group. “So you can implore with the bank that they get a second look but the fact of the matter is it’s rarely turned around.”
ABC News brought in Alice Palmisano, the executive director of Brown Harris Stevens Appraisal and Consulting, to assess the Doerrers’ home.
She pointed out the overgrown yard — “I didn’t bring my machete” — the clutter in the office and the carpet.
After the family removed their furniture, rolled up the rug and cut down the hedges, the Doerrers were still left with seven pages of additional work to do — and just 48 hours to do it.
In the end, the Doerrers spent $1,600 on improvements to their house. Their home was later appraised again and came in at $214,000 — $24,000 more than the previous estimate.
Below are detailed tips Palmisano shared with ABC News:
1. The First Sight. Appraisers can hack off hundreds, even thousands, of dollars from your home’s value just for having an unkempt yard.
2. Small Subliminals. Palmisano said you don’t have to redo the entire kitchen. Adding a new faucet can be considered an update and it adds value.
3. Address the mess. Clutter isn’t just an eyesore; it costs money too. Experts say a clean, clutter-free house can appraise 10 percent higher than the exact same messy home.
4. Out With the Old, In With the New. Palmisano said an old TV can make an
entire room look dated.
5. The Naked Truth. Palmisano said carpet on top of carpet will read like there’s a stain. You don’t want to give the appraiser the impression that you’re hiding something.
6. Remove Excess Furniture. Maximize your space and how it’s perceived. The less furniture you have in a room, the larger the space looks.
7. Everything in Your Home Should Work. If something doesn’t work properly, replace it, fix it or remove it. When people come to see your home — buyers and appraisers — it can be hands on. If there is a knob that is broken or loose, fix it.
8. Show Property in Best Light. If there is a feature in your home that is special, point it out. Keep the door open to a phenomenal closet before the appraiser comes.
For the real estate people in the room, how much of your business is face-to-face and how much of your business is online and electronic? We all know this is a new digital era we’re living in and I know we’re all taking every advantage we can with social media and our electronic devices, but are you getting every ounce possible out of the way you do business?
I ask as I just saw and awesome piece on Inman.com regarding a way for the Real Estate industry to boost their statistics up and transferring said statistics in real leads. For example, you’re reading this right now off of a screen. Not a printout, not in a newspaper, and not in the form of smoke signals or any other antiquated form of communication. Right? Well check out what Terradatum is doing to make reaching future home buyers easier and more productive:
By Chris Smith
The Real Estate Market Data Revolution Will Be Televised
Home buyers and sellers love video. They also love data.
Time to make a baby.Terradatum introduces Market Analysis Videos.
The technology pulls in live MLS data and plugs it into a well designed, easy to understand, less than 90 second video.
Charts, graphs, a professional voiceover and some slick editing help guide the viewer seamlessly through important local market statistics like median asking price, sales price and days on the market.
Every month as the MLS data changes, so do the videos. Automatically.
The undeniable benefits of using video in your marketing, as well as some highlights of the new product are detailed here:
Terradatum Introduces: Industry Smart Videos
Here is a live Video Market Analysis, built in a stand alone player for Prudential Texas Properties.
In this example, @properties has supplemented their current market report pages by adding the videos to them.
Currently this is a broker level offering, an agent version of the tool should be available closer to the holidays.
Huge props to Stephen Schweickart and his team for building a truly innovative and useful product.