Real Estate fun

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.

SCOTUS Caricature is Priceless

We all know the US Supreme Court makes the most important rulings in the US.   But we rarely hear more than a few clips with roughly drawn caricatures.

Here, Comedian John Oliver does an unforgettable, hilarious caricature of the US Supreme court in action.  The actual audio clips from a recent hearings add video of various hounds for the likes of each Supreme Court Justice.  A must see.  I may bring new meaning and a greater interest in listening and watching SCOTUS rulings in action.

Watch the video HERE

US supreme CourtSupreme Court HoundsScaliaScalia houndGinsburgChief Justice Ginsburg


Hysterical Spoof of Court Deposition from County Recorder

Word for Word Deposition from County Recorder's Office

Word for Word Deposition from County Recorder’s Office

A MUST SEE!  I laughed all the way through this spoof (although VERBATIM) from the American Bar Association Journal-  refering to the NY Times video.  See VIDEO

A deposition that got sidetracked in a lengthy debate over the meaning of photocopy machines has been immortalized in a new performance series by the New York Times.  The series “transforms verbatim (word for word)” legal transcripts into dramatic, and often comedic, performances,” the New York Times explains in the debut episode.


Abstractors and Title Examiners – are we Smarter than the Average Bear?

How many squares are there in the picture below?

Thanks to David Bloys, Title Guy out of Texas (posted on Source of Title) for this fun exercise.  David says that 96%  of the people who took this test failed it.  Well, as what I consider a reasonable title abstractor and examiner, I found it fun.  Didn’t take long. See if you can come up with the right answer.  If you want the number (or the answer by 1/4 1/4 of the public land survey) just contact me or feel free to post it!

How many Squares in this Pic

Can Closings be made “Less Painful”? the CFPB Asks

The CFPB is asking for Closers to help make the process less troublesome for the consumer. They have specific questions and I think we have many specific answers.  Read on and give them your thoughts!

WASHINGTON – Jan. 7, 2014 – The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants a “more streamlined, efficient” closing process, and it’s accepting suggestions on how to do it.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act) created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB.)  It works “to give consumers the information they need to understand the terms of their agreements with financial companies” and “make regulations and guidance as clear and streamlined as possible.”

According to a proposal seeking comments published in the Federal Register, CFPB is looking for information on “pain points” a buyer faces in a mortgage closing. It wants suggestions on how to alleviate that pain through market innovations or technology, such as increased use of electronic signatures or paperless processes.

Consumers, real estate agents and anyone involved in the mortgage closing process is invited to submit suggestions.

Suggestions sent to CFPB should include “Docket No. CFPB-2013-0036.” Comments can be submitted electronically at, or mailed to:

Monica Jackson
Office of the Executive Secretary
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
1700 G Street NW.
Washington, DC 20552

Questions CFPB hopes to answer

1. What are common problems or issues consumers face at closing? What parts of the closing process do consumers find confusing or overwhelming?

2. Are there specific parts of the closing process that borrowers find particularly helpful?

3. What do consumers remember about closing as related to the overall mortgage/home-buying process? What do consumers remember about closing?

4. How long does the closing process usually take? Do borrowers feel that the time at the closing table was an appropriate amount of time? Is it too long? Too short? Just right?

5. How empowered do consumers seem to feel at closing? Did they come to closing with questions? Did they review the forms beforehand? Did they know that they can request their documents in advance? Did they negotiate?

6. What, if anything, have you found helps consumers understand the terms of the loan?

Errors and changes at closing
7. What are some common errors you have seen at closing? How are these errors detected, if at all? Tell us about errors that were detected after closing.

8. What changes, diverging from what was originally presented at closing, often surprise consumers at closing? How do consumers react to changes at closing?

Other parties at closing
9. How, if at all, do consumers typically seek advice during closing? In person? By phone? Online?

10. Where and to whom do consumers turn for advice during closing? Whom do they typically trust?

Closing documents
11. What documents do borrowers usually remember seeing? What documents they remember signing?

12. What documents do consumers find particularly confusing?

Closers Can Relate to the Judges Wit in Divorce Case

Having closed a number of homes where husbands and wives were in the middle of a contentious divorce or separation, I know all real estate closers and title insurance closers have their fanciful divorce stories. For me – from the wife who refuses to have the husband declared dead – even though the husband  “went out for cigarettes” more than thirty years ago, to the husband who brings his soon-to-be wife to closing only to sit  across from his soon-to-be ex-wife.  But this judge made good fun of the over-the-top feud between husband and wife. Go Judge   See Story Here.

We have met the enemy and it is Powerpoint

A very interesting article on misuse of PowerPoint in getting the “point” across in the  NYTimes. While PowerPoint can be a helpful and effective tool in learning, it can also be a mind numbing experience. Granted, this author uses it fairly extensively for learning with the intent of retention and humor; but I hope that I never put someone to sleep with it, or stop them from thinking outside the PPT box.   It is my hope that together with the discussions and books used, PPT will make a better experience. I hope to never be known as a “chicken hypnotist.”  But after this article, be it known I will be watching students for a dazed look of confusion or boredom.  After reading the NY Times article. What do you think about the power of PPT?

I Want to Brag Just a Little.

It is rare for me to take off my “title hat” and talk about something personal on my blog, but today I feel like bragging…  Just a little. My daughter, Kristen, and her husband Lonnie have just set off the on their dream trip around the world.  They both worked very hard the last two years and saved enough money to pay for the trip.  In spite of the economy, they started off just before Christmas for their world adventure.

I am afraid for them.  They were in Denver the day of the plane crash at the Denver Airport. They’re going to Thailand, which has been in chaos over the last month.  Our only means of communication will be an occasional e-mail, and their blog. But, I am proud of them. I watch the blog with interest and amazement.  Kristen’s words and pictures put me right there with her in Melbourne, Australia. 

Kristen and Kangaroo in Australia

Kristen and Kangaroo in Australia

But a Here is an excerpt from the Kristen and Lonnie great adventure blog. Follow along, if you like.


“The night we dedicated to the Penguin march, which has surpassed the Sydney opera house as the OZ’s most popular tourist destination. Every evening the penguins leave the ocean for their seaside homes. So everyone gathers in a man made amphitheater to watch the funny critters scurry up the beach. This being the holiday season, there were 3800 people in attendance to watch nearly 2000 fat birds waddle up the beach. We arrived three hours early to get beach side seats. After the sun sets the birds leave the protection of the ocean. The first few birds scout out the beach then return with their frightened comrades. Imagine, after days out in the ocean you arrive home. As soon as you leave the water you are hit with stadium lights and 3800 fans staring down on you. It must be a daunting task for the world’s smallest penguins. None the less they persevere. They begin waddling towards shore in small numbers and then attack the beach in groups of 20-60 birds running as fast as their fat bellies and little legs will allow. Viewing my first wild penguin gave me a warm giggly feeling I haven’t had since Christmas ’84. The audience giggles and points as the little doodles scurry in and out of the ocean. Trying to build up the courage to brave the spotlight and reach their little love dens. It was an absolute riot.
We are now making plans for seeing fireworks in Federation Square tonight for the new years. We will be some of the first on the planet to venture into 2009. Over 500,000 people are expected downtown. About 1/8 the population!”

Why did the chicken cross the road? Clean & fun Political Humor

I’m not sure where this came from, but it crossed my e-mail and is worth repeating.   It is a hysterical read in these political times!

Why did the chicken cross the road?

   BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for change! The chicken wanted change!
   JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.
   SARAH PALIN: That road the liberal media claim that chicken crossed? Well that is the Road to Nowhere, and I told Congress "Thanks but nothanks" to that.  So there isn't any road for that chicken to cross and any reporter who says otherwise ought to be fired.
  HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One! that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road.. But then, this really isn't about me.
   GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.
  DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?
 COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.
 BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is our definition of chicken?
  AL GORE: I invented the chicken.
 JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not fItor it now, and will remain against it.
 AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.
   DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by nottaking on his current problems before adding new problems.
  OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.
  ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.
  NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.
 PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.
 MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.
 DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad?  Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.
 ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die .   In the rain.  Alone.
 JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth? That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, myfriends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay,too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like
'the other side.' That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.
 GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.
 BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.
 ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.
 JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.
 BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. 
 ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did theroad move beneath the chicken?
 COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Brainpower – How do you Rate?

Life can be funny sometimes. I read lots of articles every day about education, brainpower, how people learn. And I read about what is new in real estate, title insurance, the law, etc. Anyone who knows me, knows how I believe you can NEVER learn enough, and you can only get ahead by putting out the energy to constantly learn what is new. Here is A Great Article on the Importance of Education that proves the point.

Related to that, I also read today, an article that shows MPLS/ St.Paul ranks 7th in metro brain power in the U.S. from BizJournals Well, being from Minnesota, I thought that must mean me until I took this very short and very simple test. It took me WAY TOO LONG to get these right. I was incredulous that I could not get something so simple right. Guess I am not so smart afterall. ;/

Try it – how did YOU do?

Info On Home Closing

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