Be Sure To Check Out Our Online Classes

Click HERE for a complete list of course descriptions or any of the following individual courses:
Online Classes

Principles of Closing

Principles of Abstracting (National Edition)

Principles of Abstracting (Minnesota Edition)

Title Exam for Title Insurers (Midwest Edition)

Reading and Drawing Legal Descriptions

These classes are all available at

For information on new classes contact me.


The Life Skills Gap

I have always been concerned about what and how we help learners. Do we teach them “by the book,” using specific outlines that are given, or do we consider real life situations when providing educational training. I’ve always thought there was a gap. A young niece of mine and I had a conversation one day about “life” as a college student. She was crammed with the traditional courses, but was badly in need of fundamentals of life having to do with budgeting, access to all those credit-card offers, the realities of living with others and sharing rent (oh yes, you better understand when YOU sign the lease, YOU are on the hook for the rent… etc. She wasn’t getting that in school.

Those conversations always get me to thinking we teach what we are required to teach, but do we make sure to include those “other, not required, but really essential” topics? I hope so! My goal as an educator is to help develop people with a depth of real estate knowledge that guides through the potholes and steers them reach their goals. There are lots of potholes in real estate, so there are many topics to cover. My goal is to fill that Life Skills Gap.

This article was originally published by the Association of American Educators on January 30, 2018 Melissa Pratt is the Professional Programs Manager for the Association of American Educators. In this role, she helps connect AAE members with resources and information to further their craft.

There’s been a lot of debate recently on what students need to know to be “college and career ready.” Typically, the debate centers on how high the standards for math and reading should be, how much social studies and science high school grads should participate in, and whether career and technical education should be given renewed emphasis. What seldom gets mentioned are the many small tasks that are essential to everyday life, but never make it into the curriculum.

We know that skills like filing taxes, saving money, applying for jobs, time management skills, and the like can make or break an individual in their first few years of adulthood, but we seldom give thought to how we should approach these skills. Often, schools assume that students are either being taught these skills at home by their parents or gain them through life experience, but that is not always the case. Both research and anecdotal evidence points to our students having trouble with everyday tasks after they graduate from high school.

Despite this, many are unconvinced that schools should be stepping in to help fill this gap. They point to an already crowded curriculum and wonder what we’d be willing to give up to make room for life skill courses. Others worry that a life skill course would be self-defeating. By taking these skills and removing them from the circumstances where they’d be used and needed, we’d be robbing them of their authenticity and relevance, which we know is essential for students to internalize what they’ve learned.

On the opposite side, proponents of teaching life skills argue that no matter how academically successful a student is, they are set up for failure if they can’t master certain essential skills. This fact is urgent for students who may not have a support structure at home to help them muddle through their first years of adulthood. Some students will be taught these skills at home and gain them through life experience, but not all will.

Educators who have placed a high value on teaching life skills have gone a long way to integrate them into the curriculum. Many schools use their extra-curriculars to teach students these skills and allow students to run and manage newspapers, stores, performance scheduling, and other tasks sometimes conducted by staff. A few schools take things further. Slater High School recently debuted their “Life Academy.” This program, which is designed to teach students skills like research, family planning, legal rights, budgeting, etc., will be conducted on days where there is an early dismissal and a normal class schedule is otherwise impossible.

The inclusion of life skills does not have to lead to a full-fledged rewriting of the curriculum or school structure. Individual teachers can help students acquire life skills by raising awareness of them in the classroom through discussion and the incorporation of certain skills into already planned projects and lessons.


Did you know

E-Notarization has been here for some time
Effective July 1, 2006, the Minnesota Legislature enacted electronic notary legislation pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 358 and 359, allowing electronic notarization to be applied to a document so that the document can be fully processed electronically.
To apply for e-Notarization, applicants must be currently registered as an active Minnesota Notary and have the capability to notarize electronically before requesting authorization to perform electronic notarizations.
Physical presence of a person whose signature is being notarized is still required by law (359.01, subd. 5). And notarizing of any MN mortgage and/or real estate documents requires a Closing Agent License unless you fall under specific exemptions – see MSA 82.641.
Before performing electronic notarial acts, a notary public must register or in the case of a recommission, reregister, the capability to notarize electronically with the Secretary of State. There is no fee for this authorization with the secretary of State
To obtain the authorization to perform electronic notarization, complete the E-Notarization Authorization form and certify that you have proof of the filing of your notary commission with the county.

Distance E- Notarization is Coming
Generally, electronic, or e-signatures, use different methods
• In some cases, the signer can use the mouse on their computer to “write” their signature, like you do when you go to the grocery store and sign for your credit card (where it generally looks nothing like your signature;))
• In other cases, a signer types their name and choses their e-signature from an assortment of a type-sets (Script, Monotype, Bradley Hand, etc.)
• In other cases yet, the signer carefully writes his/her signature and takes a photo (likely with their cell phone) and creates a .jpg file that they can use to accurately represent their signature.
• In some cases, signers hold up their Drivers’ Licenses and other Identifying information for the notary to review
• in other cases, like the US Post Office, you must put in a credit card with identifying information
• Yet again, some systems require that you answer information as to the make of your vehicle, previous addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. that likely come from credit reporting companies.
• Will the audio/visual session have to be taped and maintained in the notaries file to be legal?
• Can the notary keep a log instead? There is much to be worked out.
You can see examples of what’s coming in distance notarization at such places as
• Signix
• Safedocs
• DocVerify

Distance notarization laws are currently in effect in only two states -Virginia and Montana. In these states the signer and the notary communicate online. Documents are electronically signed and notarized with the signing parties and notary meeting with audio and video communications similar to “facetime” or “go-to-meeting.” Here, the signer of the document might physically be in New York City and the notary physically in Virginia, MN.

But these state laws vary significantly. In Virginia a notary can perform a remote apostille for a signer that is located anywhere in the world. Montana allows distance notarization only for Montana property where the affiant is a permanent Montana resident.

As industries like closing, title insuring, mortgage lending, etc. are nationwide, dealing with various laws could be challenging. In response to that, The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) are working on distance online notarization with a task force, as are ALTA, the Minnesota Land Title Association, the MN Bar Assoc., Mortgage Bankers Association, MISMO, and others. Hopefully they can come together, soon, with a clear solution that will fit us all.

Acting Director Mulvaney Calls for Evidence and Public Comment on CFPB Functions

Seeks Public Input on Ways to Better Fulfill Statutory Obligations
JAN 17, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today announced that it is issuing a call for evidence to ensure the Bureau is fulfilling its proper and appropriate functions to best protect consumers. In coming weeks, the Bureau will be publishing in the Federal Register a series of Requests for Information (RFIs) seeking comment on enforcement, supervision, rulemaking, market monitoring, and education activities. These RFIs will provide an opportunity for the public to submit feedback and suggest ways to improve outcomes for both consumers and covered entities.

“In this New Year, and under new leadership, it is natural for the Bureau to critically examine its policies and practices to ensure they align with the Bureau’s statutory mandate. Moving forward, the Bureau will consistently seek out constructive feedback and welcome ideas for improvement,” said Bureau Acting Director Mick Mulvaney. “Much can be done to facilitate greater consumer choice and efficient markets, while vigorously enforcing consumer financial law in a way that guarantees due process. I look forward to receiving public comments in response to this call for evidence and encourage all interested parties to participate.”

The first RFI issued by the Bureau will seek public comment on Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs), which are issued during an enforcement investigation. Comments received in response to this RFI will help the Bureau evaluate existing CID processes and procedures, and to determine whether any changes are warranted.

Carver County Requires Subsurface Sewage Treatment System Form

Effective January 1, 2018, Carver County requires on all sales a Subsurface Sewage System Treatment Form along with the certificate of real estate value, to be presented to the county auditor’s office. While I think it’s a good idea to handle such things at the time of sale, I am reminded of the problems we had a few years ago, where some recorders were refusing to record deeds without Septic Systems being in compliance.

So along with the law as to what is recordable, MSA 507.24, there is also a law stating that a deed cannot be kept from recording for lack of this document.

RECORDING LAW STATUTE MSA115.55 (7) (c) excerpt

Individual Sewage Treatment System (ISTS) Law
New or replacement ISTS systems; local ordinances:

A local unit of government may not adopt and enforce ordinances or rules affecting new or replacement Individual Sewage System Treatments that are more restrictive than the agency’s rules.

Jeanne Comment: This law was enacted because a few small municipalities enacted local ordinances to stop the recording of documents when sewer systems were not up to local standards. While a good idea in concept, abstractors, title companies, attorneys and banks do not search local ordinances when searching title, so that when a loan closed and the documents were unrecordable for extensive periods of time, the lenders interests were not secured and lenders threatened NOT to place any mortgage loans in those locales. Accordingly, the bar association, in conjunction with the Minnesota land title Assoc. succeeded in passing a law to negate the local ISTS ordinances. It is the author’s opinion that anytime a local unit of government attempts to adopt or enforce an ordinance or rule, when its effect is to prevent or delay recording with the county recorder or registrar of titles, of a deed or other instrument that is otherwise entitled to be recorded, either the law will be expanded, or another law passed to prevent the same problem.

Don’t Believe Those Online e-Notarize Ads

Webcam Nptary Ad

In Minnesota and other states, electronic notarization (e-Notarization) is moving fast. But DO NOT BELIEVE THE ADS. It is complicated. Each state has its own laws, rules, and especially its own legal terminology.

In Minnesota, a notary may perform electronic notarial acts when the affiant (person signing and swearing to a true statement) physically appears before the approved e-notary and the notary is physically in the State of Minnesota at that time. The notary must have specifically applied for and been approved by the state to use that method. The e-Notarization includes all the elements of a paper document notarization except the notary uses a digital signature and seal to the document (a graphic image) instead of an ink stamp. NO webcams!

Many people confuse e-Notarization with I will refer to as webcam notarization, believing they are the same. Webcam notarization involves live, real time audio-visual technology on the Internet, and (depending on state law) the person signing a document or electronic record appears before a notary public from a different physical location. The requirement of the “presence” of a signer is satisfied via the live audio/video connection not physical location. Each state has its own rules here, and in some cases the notary must maintain a physical audio/video of the webcam notary for a period of years. The audio/video is property of the notary and NOT that of the company the notary may work for.

Documents notarized in states allowing webcams ARE legal and recordable in Minnesota. They just can’t be performed in Minnesota. And remember, with a few exceptions, those who are notarizing real estate documents in Minnesota, such as deeds and mortgages require a Closing Agent License in addition to their e-notary commission, and there is a potential $10,000 fine per transaction for notarizing such documents without the license.

eClosing and buying a home: Technology’s role in closing on a mortgage


Technology is transforming everything; it is changing the way we communicate, the way we access goods and services, and even the way we purchase homes. Soon, more and more consumers may increasingly find themselves being offered technology that allows them to access, sign, and submit mortgage closing documents online. We believe that “eClosing” can leverage technology in the mortgage closing process by providing consumers with more time to review closing disclosures and transform the way consumers relate to the overwhelming process of closing on a home.

When we asked consumers what they felt were the biggest issues associated with closing on a home loan, the most common statements we heard were:

There is a lot paperwork to review at closing
I’m having trouble knowing who can answer my question
The whole process is painful and overwhelming
The main goal of our research into the use of eClosing has been to better understand how technology could help reduce the prevalence of these issues.

Our interest in helping consumers solve their most challenging mortgage closing issues led us launch a four-month pilot in 2015 to explore the costs and benefits of eClosing. At the conclusion of the pilot, we found that borrowers who participated in an eClosing generally reported higher measures of understanding the process, increased efficiency, and a higher perception of being “in control” of their closing experience, compared to borrowers who closed on their home loan just using paper disclosures.

While eClosing is promising, it is not yet universally available to consumers or standardized. Our first publication about this subject, “Mortgage closings today,” highlighted the most frequently cited obstacles preventing lenders from adopting eClosing technologies:

1. Different state laws and requirements

2. Concerns about the defensibility of eSignatures in court

3. Lack of standardization for closing

4. Required coordination across many players

5. Different standards for Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) requirements

6. Not enough counties that record mortgage documents electronically

7. Time and cost of changing processes and policies to accommodate eClosings within companies

Learn more about about our 2015 pilot or prior research. And for tips on how to navigate the mortgage closing process, see our resources below.

Where we are today
Two years after publishing the pilot results, lending institutions, technology innovators, and state and local governments have made strides to respond to these challenges and provide more digital solutions for consumers.

Some encouraging updates:

A commonly stated obstacle to wider adoption of eClosing had been that many counties in the U.S. did not allow electronic recording (eRecording) of mortgage documents such as the Security Instrument (also known as Deed of Trust, or Deed). Encouragingly, almost 80 percent of the American population now lives in counties that allow eRecording. This compares with only 65 percent in 2014, representing a 23 percent increase in three years.
Government-Sponsored Entities (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) have dedicated teams that are working closely with companies to build their eClosing capabilities.
State and local collaboration to promote the adoption of eClosing has increased. For example, North Carolina recently launched a pilot establishing a statewide eClosing system. More information is available in the North Carolina Secretary of State eClosing Pilot video .
Our Transforming the Closing Process video provides an overview of the Consumer Bureau’s vision for how technology can be utilized to streamline the closing process for consumers. We believe that eClosing technology has the potential to transform the closing experience for consumers by creating a process that is more manageable. Technology can help facilitate the opportunity for consumers to review their documents at home before closing, while providing them with educational resources to help them navigate the process. Interactive features, such as live chats, progress statuses, and definitions for confusing terms, can also guide the consumer through the mortgage closing process and answer questions as they arise. Of course, whether a person gets their mortgage closing documents in person or with eClosing, it is important to read all of the documents and to ask questions about anything that is hard to understand or that does not match what you expected or were promised.

CFPB’s resources
We encourage lenders, technology vendors, real estate agents, and settlement providers to take advantage of the resources available on our Owning a Home tool by integrating them into their technology systems.

Homebuyers can learn more about the home buying and the mortgage shopping process with the following resources:

Steps for home buyers
These four steps provide critical information about each phase of buying a home:

Prepare to shop
Explore loan choices
Compare loan offers
Get ready to close
Closing forms
Our downloadable guide to closing forms will help you review some of the key forms consumers receive during their mortgage closing, such as the Promissory Note and Security Instrument.

The Closing Disclosure Explainer
Our Closing Disclosure Explainer tool is designed to double-check that the details about your loan are correct on the disclosure form.

The closing checklist
This downloadable step-by-step guide walks you through what to expect during the closing process. It has helpful tips on what to do and what to look out for before, during, and after closing.

National Association of Realtors on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – What it means for Americans

Tax Reform Bill December 2017

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) worked throughout the tax reform process to preserve the existing tax benefits of homeownership and real estate investment, as well as to ensure real estate professionals would benefit from proposed tax cuts. Many of the changes reflected in the final bill were the result of the engagement of NAR and its members.

The report states that the results were mixed. The exclusion for capital gains on the sale of a home, and mortgage interest rate deductions on homes and second homes was saved, but incentives pertaining to real estate for individuals was overall altered negatively. Significant incentives for large investors were included, helping their tax situation.

The article includes these categories and can be viewed here NAR Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Major Provisions Affecting Current and Prospective Homeowners
Major Provisions Affecting Commercial Real Estate
Major Provisions Affecting Real Estate Professionals
Appendix 1 – Examples of How the Deduction for Qualified Business Income May Affect Various Real Estate Professionals
Appendix 2 – Examples of How The New Law Will Affect the Tax Incentives of Owning a Home

CFPB Announces New HMDA Tool

CFPB Regulatory Implementation Team
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The Bureau is pleased to announce the launch of the HMDA Check Digit Tool and Rate Spread Calculator. The CFPB provides the new Rate Spread Calculator for use with data collected in or after 2018. The Check Digit Tool and Rate Spread Calculator will remain available to financial institutions throughout the 2018 collection period and thereafter to support calculation of data field values required for reporting HMDA data.

Check out the tools here:

We encourage financial institutions to direct any questions or feedback on using these tools to [email protected]

HUD Releases Guide to Help Struggling Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure

Press Relelase
December 20, 2017

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today released the Homeowners Guide to Success as part of a public-private partnership between federal agencies and industry partners. The guide provides homeowners with information on the critical first steps to take if they are at risk of missing a mortgage payment or facing foreclosure.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, “This guide arms consumers with easy to understand, reliable information about the assistance available to help them keep their homes. Valuable information like this can make a tremendous difference in the lives of homeowners who may be faced with foreclosure.”

This guide ensures homeowners will have resources at their fingertips and will be ready and responsible for the next steps. The guide also covers the value of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. They are on the front lines providing resources to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. These HUD-approved housing counseling agencies offer free assistance to consumers and help borrowers find housing counselors and avoid scams.

As families recover from the recent hurricanes and are more likely to be targeted by scams, a HUD-approved housing counselor can assist them through the process of purchasing or keeping a home. Independent research shows that borrowers working with a HUD-approved housing counseling agency are more likely to avoid foreclosure than borrowers who do not seek housing counseling.

“Steering consumers away from fraudulent schemes is especially important when they are already facing the difficult situation of not being able to make their mortgage payment,” said Sarah Gerecke, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Housing Counseling at HUD.

As part of the partnership between HUD, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, the Treasury Department, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Mortgage Bankers Association, and housing counseling agencies, the guide will be available on federal agency and industry partner websites

Reimagining Land Records and GIS

An event, “Reimagine Land Records – Join the Conversation” orchestrated by the Legislative Committee of the Minnesota State Bar Association, Real Property Section, took place on October 20th. In attendance were an assortment of County Recorders and other County Officials, Land Surveyors, Abstractors, Attorneys, GIS Specialists, Teachers, Land Records Information Systems (LIS) Software Companies and Title Companies.

The session started out with a slide as to what constitutes land records and it was broken down three general categories and who maintains the records and uses them.

Objects (Improvements – roads, physical easements, buildings, etc.
Land Rights (Ownership, estates, government rights, liens, easements, restrictions, etc.)
People (Title, liens that tie to people, etc.)

Discussion revolved around Layers of Information needed by land title specialists and how they can be mixed and used by all most effectively. We all have a stake in this – Homeland Security; FEMA; DOT; Federal, State and local authorities; and hundreds of other entities. My takeaway of the future from the event is as follows:


In the not too distant future, we will feel light-years ahead of today. For those of us who remember typing abstracts on electric typewriters, and getting fax machines in the office, it is truly amazing. Even those who daily toil creating and printing documents, watching people sign, making copies of the signed documents, preparing them for delivery back to the lender and to the respective counties, cutting checks, etc. will see an amazing change.

THERE WILL BE NO PAPER. Documents and closings will be “Born Digital.” They will be created in a secure electronic commerce cyber-system, and emailed to the client through a secure web portal. The closer, a licensed, e-sign notary (perhaps hundreds of miles away from the clients,) will see the clients using a web-cam, review their drivers licenses against the online faces, and e-sign their notary as the clients click through, and e-sign the mortgage, deeds, and other documents.

NO PERSONAL HANDSHAKES when meeting, no paper, no file folders, no copies, no notary stamps or checks, just cyberspace. If owners need information, it will all reside in the cloud, or on their computer or flash drive.


The digitally signed documents will then be electronically submitted back to the lender, with digital copies for the title company, and of course an e-signed digital copy will go directly to the appropriate county (with e-fees) where the documents will move though departments to verify, and reside digitally.

Someday, when the owner takes a future home equity line or sells the property, a title searcher will simply go to a computer to look up the digital documents in cyberspace. But there will be only one place to look up all needed information for each piece of real estate.

A Geographic Information System, accessed by a PIN number (a smart number that ties to Sec- Twp-Rng-1/4 -1/4 and parcel) will open up a Pandora’s Box of information. We will be able to access anything you can imagine about real estate – the physical properties of buildings; terrain; topography; zoning; ownership rights, title and interests; roads; utilities; flood information; zoning; Homeland security; layer after layer.

Records from the – Treasurer, Auditor and Assessor that include current and delinquent taxes (Green Acres, etc.); type of property (single family 3BR, 3BA, 2 story, 2300 sq ft….home); Register of Deeds and Registrar office information (with the ownership, restrictions, easements, mortgages, etc.); District Court files (showing judgments, divorces and court filings against the owners); Death and Probate Court documents; Health and Human Services information (maps of wells and lien information); Federal District Court filings; Dept. of Transportation (updates on roads and widening of streets); Department of Natural Resources; Wind farms; Detailed utility information; FEMA flood maps; City zoning data; Trash bills; Photos of the property with GIS overlays and on and on.

And the records will solve problems besides title searches for many – FEMA, 911, DOT, Homeland Security, Minnegasco, Xcel, public utilities, – when a hurricane or tornado blows through, FEMA can overlay the GIS of the hurricane and know the owners names and rough amount of damage to the property. 911 will have better access to helping people,, because they will estimate number of people impacted, where the nearest hospitals are, and fastest routes to get people there. The DOT will estimate road damage will know where to concentrate their efforts. Gas and electric companies will know where the gas and power are out, and how to proceed as quickly and effectively as possible to make needed repairs.

It’s hard to believe, but the pieces are already there, it’s just (just???) that all the pieces need to be joined into one access point. The future of GIS is coming and it will be interesting.

Info On Home Closing

Home Closing 101: An Educational Initiative of the American Land Title Association