Minnesota Considers New Ag Tax Credit for Farmers

Author Comment:  In spite of Green Acre taxes, Minnesota Farmers face heavy real estate taxes on farmland, causing them to vote against independent school district referendums. So look for a new tax search to follow along with deferred Green Acre and Open Space  Taxes.   Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is working to help resolve this. 

Daily Globe | January 20, 2017

Smith called the current situation a perfect storm. Farmers are suffering from low commodity prices, high land values and, for many, crushing health care costs. The prospect of their property taxes increasing by hundreds or thousands of dollars sent many to the polls in November to vote down building bond referendums like the one for ISD 518.

“The farm economy has been struggling for the past few years. Rising property tax bills are not what’s needed across the state,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner David Frederickson. Noting that property taxes have increased by 114 percent for Minnesota farmers in the past decade, Frederickson said a majority of levy referendums in rural Minnesota failed in 2016, while the majority of levy referendums posed to city dwellers passed.

Read More on this

ALTA Announces National Notary Association as Elite Provider


Editor Comment: It’s great to have the NNA join forces with ALTA, as there is certainly a need for signing agents. Just remember, in Minnesota, all signing agents must be both licensed notaries with the Minnesota Secretary of State, and licensed Closing Agents with the Minnesota Dept of Commerce

ALTA press release

January 16, 2017

The American Land Title Association (ALTA) has announced that the National Notary Association (NNA) has been named an ALTA Elite Provider.

ALTA’s Elite Provider Program is comprised of premier service providers committed to offering comprehensive benefits to the title insurance and settlement services industry. Elite Providers promote the highest industry standards and provide effective solutions for ALTA members’ critical needs.

“I’m pleased to have the National Notary Association join our growing ALTA Elite Provider program,” said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “We are constantly working to provide our members with the resources to find businesses with a proven track record of trusted products and services. The Elite Provider program requires our technology and service providers to promote higher standards across the industry.”

The National Notary Association offers an annual certification product for Notary Signing Agents. It includes a background screening that meets Signing Professionals Workgroup (SPW) standards as well as a comprehensive exam testing their knowledge of the mortgage signing process. The NNA also offers continuing education courses, notary errors and omissions insurance products and online verification of the Notary Signing Agent’s background screening status.

The National Notary Association offers ALTA members 25% off of a subscription to the NDA Data Exchange which synchronizes key data verification points from the Notary Signing Agent’s profile at SigningAgent.com with individual vendor management platforms. Subscribers have access to real time profile updates of all Notary Signing Agents who are background screened and certified by the NNA.

For more information about the program or to apply, please visit ALTA’s Elite Provider website.

Black Knight: Home Equity Picture Continues to Improve

Press release

  • One million ​homes returned to positive equity positions over the first three quarters of 2016; national negative equity rate is now 4.4 percent
  • Homes in the bottom 20 percent by price are nine times more likely to be underwater than those in top 20 percent
  • There are now over 39 million borrowers with tappable equity, meaning they have current combined loan-to-value (CLTV) ratios of less than 80 percent
  • $4.6 trillion in total tappable equity equates to an average of nearly $118,000 available per borrower, marking the highest market total and highest average per borrower since 2006
  • The top 10 metropolitan areas contain 50 percent of the nation’s tappable equity, with California accounting for nearly 40 percent

The Data and Analytics division of Black Knight Financial Services, Inc.has released its latest Mortgage Monitor Report, based on data as of the end of November 2016. In the first three quarters of 2016, as home prices continued to appreciate, one million previously underwater homeowners returned to positive equity positions, while tappable equity totals continued to rise. This month, Black Knight looked at the extent and impact of these changes on the market. As Black Knight Data & Analytics Executive Vice President Ben Graboske explained, there is a distinct geographical component at work, with regard to both the negative and tappable equity sides of the equation.

“The negative equity situation has improved substantially since the height of the great recession,” said Graboske. “There are now just 2.2 million homeowners left in negative equity positions, a full one million fewer than at the start of 2016. Whereas negative home equity was once a widespread national problem – with roughly 30 percent of all homeowners being underwater on their mortgages at the end of 2010 – it has now become much more of a localized issue. By and large, the majority of states have negative equity rates below the national average of 4.4 percent. There are, though, some pockets where homeowners continue to struggle. Three states in particular stand out: Nevada, Missouri and New Jersey, all of which have negative equity rates more than twice the national average. Atlantic City leads the nation, with 23 percent of its borrowers underwater, followed by St. Louis at 20 percent. We also see that lower-priced homes – those in the bottom 20 percent of prices in their communities – are nine times more likely to be underwater than those in the top 20 percent.

“On the other hand, we’ve also seen a steady increase in the number of borrowers with tappable equity in their homes, meaning they have current combined loan-to-value (CLTV) ratios of less than 80 percent. There are now some 39 million such borrowers, with a total of $4.6 trillion in available, lendable equity. That works out to an average of about $118,000 per borrower, making for the highest market total and highest average per borrower we’ve seen since 2006. Even though the total equity tapped via first lien refinances hit a seven-year high of more than $70 billion over the first three quarters of 2016, that means less than two percent of available equity has been tapped so far this year. That equity also continues to be accessed safely, with the resulting average post-cash out LTV of 66 percent at near 10-year lows and the average credit score above 750. Much like the negative equity situation, tappable equity is geographically concentrated as well, although in different areas. The top 10 metropolitan areas contain half of all available lendable equity, and California alone accounts for nearly 40 percent, despite having only 16 percent of the nation’s mortgages.”

Black Knight also looked at the impact of the rising interest rate environment on how – and if – borrowers tap into their available equity. The share of tappable equity held by borrowers with a first lien interest rate above the average 30-year fixed rate dropped from 73 percent in October to just 33 percent as of Dec. 29, 2016. Historically, borrowers with interest rates above par have been both more likely to tap into equity and more likely to refinance their entire first lien to do so (and getting a better first lien interest rate in the process). Likewise, borrowers with interest rates below par have been less likely to tap into equity, and more likely to use a second lien when they do. This suggests that HELOC lending may become a more attractive vehicle for tapping equity for the borrowers holding two-thirds of the nation’s tappable equity with interest rates below par.​

As was reported in Black Knight’s most recent First Look release, other key results include:

​Total U.S. loan delinquency rate: ​ 4.46%
​Month-over-month change in delinquency rate: ​ 2.55%
​Total U.S. foreclosure pre-sale inventory rate: ​ 0.98%
​Month-over-month change in foreclosure pre​-sale inventory rate: ​ -1.35%
​States with highest percentage of non-current* loans: ​MS, LA, NJ, AL, WV
​States with the lowest percentage of non-current* loans: ​ ID, MT, MN, CO, ND
​States with highest percentage of seriously delinquent** loans: ​ MS, LA, AL, AR, TN
*Non-current totals combine foreclosures and delinquencies as a percent of active loans in that state.
**Seriously delinquent loans are those past-due 90 days or more.
Totals are extrapolated based on Black Knight Financial Services’ loan-level database of mortgage assets.

About the Mortgage Monitor​

The Data & Analytics division of Black Knight Financial Services manages the nation’s leading repository of loan-level residential mortgage data and performance information on the majority of the overall market, including tens of millions of loans across the spectrum of credit products and more than 160 million historical records. The company’s research experts carefully analyze this data to produce a summary supplemented by dozens of charts and graphs that reflect trend and point-in-time observations for the monthly Mortgage Monitor Report. To review the full report, visit: http://www.bkfs.com/CorporateInformation/NewsRoom/Pages/Mortgage-Monitor.aspx

ALTA Scam Alert

Scam Alert: ALTA Mailing Database

ALTA is informing its members about fraudulent emails coming from marketing firms indicating that they are selling contact information for companies listed in ALTA’s database.

The email scam asks if the recipient would like to acquire an ALTA list. This scam claims it includes lists for title insurance companies and title abstractors. Mailing list scams try to snag unsuspecting businesses with offers of lists of potential new clients.

ALTA has not provided its list to these companies. Lists can only be legally acquired after ALTA approves marketing pieces that are to be physically mailed to offices. ALTA prohibits anyone other than the association from calling and emailing companies on the ALTA membership list for marketing purposes.

ALTA is reaching out to the domain registrars to alert them of the abuse. This type of advertising violates the federal Lanham Act. ALTA also plans to report the fraudulent domains to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center.

To protect yourself, do not open attachments or click links included in suspicious email. You should also not respond or even “unsubscribe” to messages that seem suspicious.

Here’s an example of the fraudulent email:

Posted by ALTA Blog at 12:37:38 PM in CybersecurityGeneral


Mortgage Bankers Assoc. Cuts 2017 Forecast

MBA Cuts 2017 Q1 Origination Forecast

MBA Forecast

Following the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise rates a quarter point, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) lowered its origination forecast for the first quarter of 2017.

“We have adjusted the path of interest rates upwards a bit more quickly in 2017 reflecting the fact that the recent rate increase following the election has been sustained,” the MBA reported.

The total volume of one- to four-family mortgage loan originations is expected to reach $352 billion in the first quarter, according to the MBA’s December Mortgage Finance Forecast. This is down from the $365 billion in first-quarter volume the MBA had predicted in November. The lower forecast remains higher than the $350 billion in origination volume recorded in the first quarter of 2016.

The biggest drop off will be experienced in the refinance channel as rates have moved higher, forcing a more rapid decrease in an already slow refinance market. The MBA reported that refinance volume is now expected to reach $140 billion in the first quarter, down from the November forecast of $145 billion. The MBA also projected that purchase origination volume will total $212 billion, down from its prediction of $220 billion last month.

“We still forecast $1.10 trillion in purchase mortgage originations during 2017, an 11 percent increase from 2016,” the MBA reported. “Strong household formation coupled with further job growth, rising wages, and continuing home price appreciation will drive growth in purchase originations in the coming years.”

California Man Gets Two Years in Title Theft Scheme


press release


Daniel Deaibes was sentenced recently to 24 months for his role in a scheme to steal title to Southern California homes and then “sell” the properties to unsuspecting buyers – before the buyers realized who the true owners were.

From September 2012 through their arrest in November 2014, Deaibes and his co-conspirators, including co-defendants Mazen Alzoubi and Mohamed Daoud, fraudulently sold or attempted to sell at least 15 homes worth more than $3.6 million that actually never belonged to them. On at least 10 occasions, they were successful—earning illicit proceeds of nearly $2.2 million.

Deaibes pleaded guilty in March 2015 to participating in the fraud and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant. As part of this plea, Deaibes admitted that he used aliases to deceive escrow and title officers into believing that he was “John Moran,” and that he was the true owner of property that was being marketed for sale. In fact, “John Moran” did not exist, and Deaibes and his co-conspirators planned to fraudulently sell the properties, divert the proceeds to their own bank accounts, and then quickly disburse the money overseas. On at least three occasions, Deaibes, posing as “Moran” and presenting a fake driver’s license, appeared before notaries to sign title documents and property deeds.

To make it appear that they owned these properties, the co-conspirators generated forged deeds that made it appear the true property owner had sold his or her home to a sham real estate “investment” business the co-conspirators controlled. They forged the true owners’ signatures on the deeds, and used forged notary stamps to make them appear legitimate. In reality, though, the true owners were entirely unaware of the pretend sales. Once the fraudulent documents were recorded in the chain of title, Alzoubi (using aliases and stolen identities) listed the properties for sale, posing to buyers, escrow companies, and title officers as the new owner. In this way, the co-conspirators collected all the proceeds of the sale, and the true owners were left with nothing.

Alzoubi, the ringleader of the fraudulent scheme, assumed multiple fake identities to keep the scheme going. He also posed as real people, pretending on one occasion that he was an attorney for one of the true owners. (Unbeknownst to Alzoubi at the time, he was talking to an undercover federal agent.) As a result of his greater role in the scheme, Alzoubi was charged with, and in January 2016 pleaded guilty to, aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison in addition to his sentence for the fraud and money laundering. His sentencing is scheduled for November 7, 2016, at 9:00 am, before Judge Bashant.

Mohamed Daoud also pleaded guilty, in July 2015, admitting that he helped Alzoubi launder the proceeds of the scheme. They used Daoud’s company, “Norway LLC,” to pretend to acquire title to some of the properties. Daoud received approximately $270,000 in proceeds. In December 2015, before he was sentenced, Daoud fled the country and is now a fugitive.

Most of the properties the co-conspirators “sold” were post-foreclosure properties owned by banks or institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are governmentsponsored enterprises with a mission to provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the United States housing and mortgage markets. As part of this mission, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase residential mortgages in the secondary market, enabling lenders to replenish their funds to finance additional single family loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can become the property owners if they own the mortgage loan at the time a home is foreclosed.

“Schemes like this one undermine the public’s confidence in their most personal and important investment, their homes,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “I am committed to prosecuting people who continue to prey on the victims of the devastating mortgage meltdown, and sending those criminals to prison.”

“This scheme was designed to literally rip home ownership right out of the hands of innocent victims, and for those victims the costs were far greater than a title to a house,” said Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge, Western Region. “This scheme is callous and the perpetrators deserve the punishment set out for them. FHFA-OIG remains committed to our relentless pursuit of individuals who try to profit from the aftermath of the housing crisis.” “

Fraud targeting a family’s home, the heart of a family’s financial investment, has a ripple effect through our nation’s economy,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum. “The FBI is committed to investigate and uncover schemes by those who defraud homeowners.”

In addition to his jail sentence, Deaibes was ordered to pay $1,819,591 in restitution to the victims of the fraud.


I’m Proud to Be An American

It’s been a tough election. Regardless of your political persuasion, half of the US population is now in turmoil over the election results.  Remember, we are a strong nation and our peaceful transition with new leadership is a testament to who we are. Let us be open-minded and look for the good. Let us accept the outcome and work together for the public good to keep this “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We owe it to ourselves, our founding fathers, our fellow Americans, our posterity, and our role in the world as a good leader.   As a reminder of who we are here’s a great short video by Lee Greenwood.


CFPB Updates Use of Service Providers

On October 31st, the CFPB issued updates to lenders  on use of Service Providers. This appears to allow a bit more flexibility for the lender to handle day to day affairs with its Servie Providers and is good news for title companies, abstracting and closing companies.  The update states:

“The Bureau is reissuing its guidance on service providers, formerly titled CFPB Bulletin 2012-03, Service Providers to clarify that the depth and formality of the risk management program for service providers may vary depending upon the service being performed—its size, scope, complexity, importance and potential for consumer harm—and the performance of the service provider in carrying out its activities in compliance with Federal consumer financial laws and regulations. This amendment is needed to clarify that supervised entities have flexibility and to allow appropriate risk management.”

Lenders continue to be advised to:

take steps to review Service Providers and should include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting thorough due diligence to verify that the service provider understands and is capable of complying with Federal consumer financial law;
  • Requesting and reviewing the service provider’s policies, procedures, internal controls, and training materials to ensure that the service provider conducts appropriate training and oversight of employees or agents that have consumer contact or compliance responsibilities;
  • Including in the contract with the service provider clear expectations about compliance, as well as appropriate and enforceable consequences for violating any compliance-related responsibilities, including engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices;
  • Establishing internal controls and on-going monitoring to determine whether the service provider is complying with Federal consumer financial law; and
  • Taking prompt action to address fully any problems identified through the monitoring process, including terminating the relationship where appropriate.

For more information pertaining to the responsibilities of a supervised bank or nonbank that has business arrangements with service providers, please review the CFPB’s Supervision and Examination Manual: Compliance Management Review and Unfair, Deceptive, and Abusive Acts or Practices.[3]




Court Rules Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Structure Is Unconstitutional

Excellent Article in The Atlantic today on the CFPB

After a spate of recent activity which has included introducing long-awaited regulations for payday lenders and prepaid cards and a nearly $200 million fraud settlement from Wells Fargo, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau must now face a new challenge—more oversight.

On Tuesday, a Washington, D.C. circuit court found the structure of the CFPB to be unconstitutional. More specifically, the court took issue with the inability for other arms of the government to review or rebuke the Bureau’s judgements or actions and the unilateral power imbued in the CFPB’s director—currently Richard Corday.

The judgement states:

The Director enjoys significantly more unilateral power than any single member of any other independent agency. By “unilateral power,” we mean power that is not checked by the President or by other colleagues. Indeed, other than the President, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire United States Government, at least when measured in terms of unilateral power.

The court then goes on to proclaim that the director of the CFPB is given more power and autonomy than the speaker of the house, senate majority leader, or even a Supreme Court justice.

Read entire article at The Atlantic

Mobile Notary Advisory from the MN Department of Commerce

Mobile Notaries and Real Estate Transactions
An Advisory from the Minnesota Department of Commerce

What Is a Mobile Notary?
“Mobile Notary” is not a term recognized under Minnesota law. Rather, it is a term of art used in the title insurance and real estate closing industries. In these industries, “mobile notaries” are notaries public typically hired as independent contractors on a case-by-case basis by title insurance companies, real estate closing companies, real estate signing companies and similar businesses. They meet with mortgage borrowers (or the buyers or sellers of residential real estate) to obtain signatures on various documents needed to complete the closing of a real estate-related transaction.

What Mobile Notaries May Do
A properly commissioned notary public is vested with certain powers and responsibilities that are more fully described in Chapters 357, 358 and 359 of the Minnesota Statutes. See Minn. Stat. §§ 357.17, 358.41 to 358.50 and 359.01 to 359.12.
What Mobile Notaries Should Not Do
The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently conducted an audit of the services provided by people who advertised and identified themselves as “mobile notaries” in Minnesota. Based on the audit results, the Department learned that many mobile notaries are engaged in activities that exceed the scope of their notary commission and/or require a real estate closing agent license.
Therefore, the Commerce Department is cautioning notaries public that the following are some activities that may require a real estate closing license:
– Obtaining or charging fees to obtain signatures on documents that do not require notarization and which are purely real estate closing documents, including HUD-1 Settlement Statements and notices of loan rescission rights. Compare Minn. Stat. §§ 357.17, 359.04 and 82.55, subd. 4.
– Receiving or taking temporary possession of funds paid by the borrower to fund and close the transaction. Compare Minn. Stat. §§ 359.04 and 82.55, subd. 4 and 26.
– Providing any explanation to the borrowers (or buyers or sellers) about the various documents that are being signed. Compare Minn. Stat. §§ 359.04 and 82.55, subd. 4.
 Charging fees for services that are not contemplated or authorized by Minn. Stat. §
357.17. For example, the Commerce Department survey found that mobile notaries
routinely charge fees for travel and for printing documents.

What This Means for You as a Mobile Notary
While it is within the authorized power of a commissioned notary public to take and certify
acknowledgments of deeds and mortgages, they may be exceeding the scope of their notary
commissions and engaging in unlicensed activities as real estate closing agents by providing
services incident to the sale or loan of residential real estate. Compare Minn. Stat. §§ 359.04
and 82.55, subd. 4.

Subject to limited exceptions, persons acting as real estate closing agents in Minnesota must
first obtain a real estate closing agent license. See Minn. Stat. § 82.641.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has not taken the position that all mobile notaries
must be licensed real estate closing agents. Some mobile notaries are limiting their services
and fees to those authorized by law and/or are exempt from the licensing requirement based
on Minn. Stat. § 82.641, subd. 6.

However, the Commerce Department cautions mobile notaries that they should not provide
services or charge fees that exceed the scope of their notary commission and/or constitute
activities requiring a real estate closing agent license unless they first obtain a real estate
closing agent license from the Department of Commerce.

Info On Home Closing

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