Opening Titles & Closing Remarks

John Bethell Title Company, Inc. Announces Purchase of Best Title Company, LLC and the appointment of Dan Stewart as Senior Vice President and Title Counsel

September 12, 2011 ~ John Bethell, President and Owner of John Bethell Title Company, Inc. announced today that the company has purchased the assets of Bloomington based Best Title Company, LLC from Dan Stewart. The purchase will become effective October 1, 2011. Stewart will then join John Bethell Title in the position of Senior Vice President and Title Counsel. Stewart will be primarily responsible for managing the title services team. Julie Vonderschmidt, Stewart?s Closing Processor has also agreed to join John Bethell Title.

?Dan and I have discussed combining our businesses off and on for several years,? said Bethell. ?More recently John Bethell Title has been looking to add a highly experienced title professional to our team. As our leadership team considered what steps to take, it seemed natural to follow up again with Dan, a thirty year veteran of the business. This time, Dan?s goals coincided with ours. Dan and Julie are both great additions to our company.?

Stewart said ?John and I share a common vision of treating customers fairly and providing excellent service for good value. It is more challenging today for one person to do everything it takes to close a transaction. I am thankful that my business has grown, but there are only so many hours in the day. Joining his larger organization will allow me to continue to serve my customer base and to assist his management team in serving our growing market.?

Until October 1st, Best Title will continue to service and close its pending transactions. After October 1st any pending transactions will be closed by John Bethell Title. Post closing services for Best Title?s transactions will also be performed by John Bethell Title.

Dan Stewart and Best Title Company, LLC have been a fixture in Bloomington?s real estate market for over thirty years.

Founded in 1973 and purchased by Bethell in 2002, John Bethell Title Company, Inc. is a leading provider of title insurance and settlement services to the greater Bloomington area. The company operates from one location at 329 South Walnut Street in Bloomington.

John Bethell Title Company, Inc. Completes Purchase of Bloomington Office of Meridan Title

Last Friday evening, June 17th, we completed our purchase of the Bloomington Indiana office of Meridian Title Corporation. All of Meridian?s pending title insurance and closing transactions are being converted and will be closed at John Bethell Title.

Mike Duncan and Rose Henry are now located at our World Headquarters. They will work to ensure that Meridian?s existing client base, especially those with pending transactions, are well taken care of during this transition. Mike?s direct line is 812-245-1061. Rose?s direct line is 812-245-1068. Meridian?s phone, fax and emails are being forwarded to John Bethell Title.

Any required conversions of title insurance commitments and/or closing protection letters will be completed during the coming week. Affected clients will be individually contacted. Closings may be scheduled by contacting Mike, Rose or any other member of the John Bethell Title closing team.

Requests for post closings services on Meridian transactions should be directed to Mike Duncan. Mike will coordinate these requests with Meridian for you.

Sandi Weddle, Meridian?s third employee, has been granted a leave of absence and will not be joining us at this time.

Thank you to everyone who expressed their congratulations and good wishes last week. Especially all of Meridian?s clients who continued to place new orders with us after the purchase was announced. That speaks volumes for how well you regard Mike, Rose and our company. All of us here are looking forward to providing an even greater level of service to you in the coming months.

~John Bethell

John Bethell Title Company, Inc. Announces Purchase of Meridian Title Corporation?s Bloomington Indiana Office

Today, June 13th, we announced that the company has entered into an agreement to purchase the Bloomington Indiana office of Meridian Title Corporation. Meridian?s three employees, Mike Duncan, Rose Henry and Sandi Weddle have accepted positions with John Bethell Title. The transaction will become effective June 17, 2011.

Mike, Rose and Sandy are experienced and highly regarded title professionals. I?m delighted that they?ve chosen to join us. They will fit right in with our great team and allow us to improve upon our market leading service.

Mark T. Myers, Chief Executive Officer of Meridian Title Corporation said, ?Bloomington was our only office in southern Indiana. While considering whether to leave the market we were most concerned about our employee?s well being. As we talked, it was obvious to us that John shared this philosophy. We think this is a win for everyone involved.?

We are also acquiring a great deal of historical land title records. With the addition of Meridian?s back files, we will now have access to prior title work on about 80,000 transactions. These prior files reduce the need for costly and time consuming title searches allowing our customers to close their deals within shorter time frames.

Meridian will continue to close its transactions through June 17, 2011. Beginning June 20th, any pending transactions will be converted and closed at John Bethell Title. Post closings services on Meridian transactions will be coordinated by John Bethell Title.

Meridian Title Corporation is one of Indiana?s largest title insurance agencies with over thirty offices in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. Meridian purchased the then Bloomington Abstract Company in 2003. Bloomington Abstract was founded by the late Martha Sims in the early 1950?s.

Please be assured that taking care of Meridian’s existing clients, especially those with pending transactions, is our number one priority. While a few of the transition logistics still need to be worked out, Mike, Rose and our leadership group have a plan in place to ensure that we meet all of our client’s expectations.

June 20, 2011: We’ve completed our acquisition. Here’s a link for details.

New Indiana Law Eliminates Hidden Real Estate Transfer Fees

Imagine for a moment that you?ve sold your house. While reviewing the settlement statement at your closing you see a charge equal to one percent of the selling price going from you to an investment banker in New York City. ?What the heck is that for?? you demand to know. ?Well?, says the closing agent, ?all the properties in your development are subject to a private transfer fee.?

The closer goes on to explain that the original developer created a covenant that provides that for the next 99 years every time a property in your development is sold, one percent of the sales price must be paid to the developer. The developer then sold this right to receive these payments on your property and every other property in the development to the New York investment banker. The investment banker packaged this stream of future payments along with payments from many other developers and sold them as a security to other investors seeking a steady and somewhat predictable source of income.

Insisting that you didn?t know about this when you bought your property, the closer pulls out a copy of the recorded subdivision covenants and restrictions. ?It?s right here in black and white,? he says, ?on page 47 after the ?no RV?s in the driveway? and right before the ?no chickens in the backyard.??

This doesn?t sound like a closing that I?d want to conduct. ?And I don?t think that I?d want to be the real estate agent that sold them the house, either.

These covenants exist in a number of states and are still legal in about twenty two of them. I am not aware that any such restrictions had yet been created in Monroe County. Fortunately, thanks to a new law passed in Indiana, we won’t have to worry about that any more.

House Bill 1541 was signed into law this week by Governor Daniels. It expressly prohibits these kinds of ?Private Transfer Fees.? The bill was the work of the Indiana Land Title Association and was supported by many other real estate trade groups including the Indiana Realtors Association. This is a victory for the free and unencumbered transfer of real property. These fees are predatory and in many states difficult to find in the public record.

The new law also elimates the risk caused by unscrupulous title companies that do not search for recorded restrictions. Instead, they put general exclusions in their policies to avoid liability for such things.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has proposed a rule that would prohibit any government mortgage agency from participating in a mortgage on properties that are subject to these fees. Hopefully such a ban will go a long way to eliminating these private transfer fees and forcing their purveyors to crawl back under the rock from whence they came.

Recapturing Homestead Real Estate Tax Credits

The Tax Man Cometh!

We conduct over one thousand closings a year. Occasionally we hear the snicker; occasionally we see the wink. Someone thinks they?re sticking it to the man by claiming a homestead exemption on more than one property. Well guess what? The man is all over that now.

Monroe County officials?searched their data base and?discovered about forty individuals who were receiving homestead credits on multiple properties. You?re only entitled to claim one. A gotcha letter was?dispatched to the offending property owners. The County generously recalculated the taxes on the second property.?This corrected amount was then?added to this year?s tax bill?with ten percent penalties. One owner of a high priced property owed an additional ten thousand dollars!

When the property tax caps went into effect a couple of years ago the value of a homestead exemption increased exponentially.? The tax cap is one percent of assessed value for property with a valid homestead exemption.

Without the exemption the cap is two percent. Since most real estate taxes in Monroe County are at or near the cap, the annual value of the exemption is significant.?A homestead property with a two thousand dollar annual tax bill would be four thousand dollars without the exemption. The difference between the two is value of the exemption, in this example its two thousand dollars. Not chump change by any stretch.

With every sale transaction there is a sales disclosure form filed with both the County and the State.?The disclosure? requires the unique portion of the buyer’s social security number if the form is used to apply for the homestead credit, which it almost always is.?This information goes into the state?s computer data base. In this case?Monore County officals searched their own data base for matching names in only Monroe County. The ability exists to search for matching names anywhere in Indiana using the Sales Disclosure Data Base maintained by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.This will?finger the guy who claims homestead exemptions on properties in Bloomington and South Bend.

I can almost hear the snickers turning into moans as property owners find they owe the man a few more thousand dollars of real estate taxes.