What is Title?

Title is the legal ownership to a piece of property. Title is also considered evidence of possession of a property.

What is escrow?

Simply put, escrow is a deposit of funds in an account held by a third-party to a transaction. Title companies or attorney offices are the major escrow account third-parties used in real estate transactions. All funds are deposited in escrow at a title company and then dispersed according to the escrow instructions. In a real estate sale, the escrow instructions are the HUD Settlement Statement or the Closing Disclosure Statement.

What are Recording Fees?

Recording Fees are county fees and taxes that are required on every sale. When a real estate property is sold, a Deed needs to be recorded. When a buyer purchases a property using a mortgage, then recording fees and taxes are also due to the county. Both the recording fees and taxes must be collected by Sapphire Title Company and then paid directly to the county.

What are E-Recording Fees?

E-Recording is shorthand for Electronic Recording. About 20 years ago, every title company needed to mail in the original deed to the county where the property lies for recording. The county would then mail it back to the title company, who would then forward the original “stamped” recorded deed to the owner. Since the technology boom, counties have become more tech-savvy and have allowed for e-recording. E-recording typically costs $5 per document to be recorded. The $5 fee is convenient to both sellers and buyers in the real estate sale because it cuts down the costs and time to mail the documents back and forth from the county.  A typical turn-around time for a “manual” or “mailed” recording ranges from 7 to 14 days. E-recording typically allows for the county to record within 24-72 hours.

Example Breakdown of Fees:

Recording fees are based off the number of pages in the recordable document. A special warranty deed is typically 2 or 3 pages and generally costs about $27.00 to record. The taxes (known as documentary state taxes) on the Deed are based off the amount the property was sold for. So, if the property was sold for $100,000.00, the taxes would be $700.00.  Taxes are determined by rounding up the sales price to the nearest hundred and multiplying that amount by $0.007 (or $7 for every $100). The same formula is used for mortgages. Typically mortgages range from 18-26 pages or about $150.00 to $225.00 to record. If the mortgage is for $100,000, the documentary stamp taxes would also be $700.00. One difference between mortgage and deed recordings is an additional tax known as intangible taxes. Intangible taxes are collected on every mortgage recording except credit union lender mortgagees or other exempt lender banks. Intangible taxes are determined by rounding up the loan dollar amount to the nearest hundred and multiplying that amount by $0.002 (or $2 for every $100).

The combination of the deed recording fees, the deed’s taxes, the mortgage’s recording fees, the mortgage’s documentary taxes, the mortgage’s intangible taxes (if not exempt), and the e-recording fees total the recording fees.

What are Intangible Taxes? What are Transfer Taxes?

Intangible taxes are imposed by the State of Florida on obligations for payment of money which are secured by mortgages or other liens, as defined by §199.133 Fla. Stat. It is a nonrecurring tax on the note or debt instrument.

Transfer taxes are commonly referred to as documentary stamp taxes in Florida. These are imposed by states, counties, and cities on the title of real property from one person to another within that jurisdiction. Transfer taxes are often confusing to first time homebuyers because they are a combination of a few taxes.

Why do I need a Survey?

Surveys are always suggested and are used to determine if there are any encroachments on the property you own or wish to purchase. A survey details the structures (otherwise known as the improvements) and the boundaries of the property. Generally, on real estate sales involving a lender, the lender will require the Alta Form 9 insurance endorsement. If the lender requires the title company to issue this endorsement, then a survey will be required. Note, however, in most cases, a survey is good for 7-10 years and can be recertified and is often a much less expensive option than ordering a new survey, which can add between $300 and $500 to your closing costs.


Our Staff Goes Above and Beyond in Philanthropy

school drive 3For the month of July, the staff  held a Back to School drive for St. Peter Claver Elementary School.  The staff brought in items from toddler clothes to backpacks filled with glue, paper, crayons, pencils, pens, folders, hand soap, markers, and much more.  Each of the fifty backpacks were filled with the donated items along with an inspirational note.  We even had donations left over to give to the teachers to help replenish their stock throughout the year.  The staff was rewarded for their donations with an ice cream social.

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Property Owners Rejoice: Major Estoppel Win Against Associations

June 15, 2017

A three-year legal battle came to an end on April 28th, when HB483, estoppel reform legislation, cleared its final legislative hurdle. An estoppel certificate or letter is required on each real estate closing involving a homeowner’s or condominium association and is intended to provide a full breakdown of expected and delinquent dues or assessments, special assessments, late fees, and violations.estoppel letter

As of yesterday, June 14, 2017, when Governor Rick Scott signed this into law, property owners with homeowners or condominium associations now can rest easy with mandatory caps on estoppel costs. In the past, associations were charging hundreds of dollars for estoppels which hiked up loan amounts, closing costs, and frustrations with everyone involved in the closing. In addition, title companies, realtors, brokers, closing agents, and mortgage brokers can now provide more accurate quotes to their customers.

The law goes into effect on July 1st and requires estoppel certificates to be provided within 10 days of the initial request and be valid for a minimum of 30 days. For owners who are current on their dues, the estoppel fee cap is $250. For owners who are delinquent on their dues, an additional fee of $150 can be charged. For rush estoppels, the fee cap is $100 for rush deliveries within 3 days.

For an example Estoppel Certification, please see Sapphire Title & Escrow’s Guidelines


By Jennifer Lima-Smith, Esquire

Partner, Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A.

The Second District Court of Appeals issued a decision on September 2, 2016 in the case of Ballantrae Homeowners Association v. Federal National Mortgage Association (2D15-1025 and 2D15-1026). The case involves a consolidated appeal from final summary judgments entered by the trial court in favor of Federal National Mortgage Association otherwise known as “Fannie Mae.” The District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of Fannie Mae.picture3


The background facts indicate there are two properties governed by the Associations Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. Each property was encumbered by a recorded first mortgage and also by the homeowner’s association lien for unpaid assessments. The borrowers on both properties defaulted on their mortgages. The servicers of the loans initiated foreclosure proceedings. Neither foreclosure case included the HOA as a party to the action as a defendant. Final judgments were entered in favor of Fannie Mae and were sold to Fannie Mae. Subsequently, an estoppel of the assessments due was sought by Fannie Mae. The amounts due to the association was challenged. Fannie Mae requested a declaratory and injunctive relief on the amounts due and stated their responsibility was limited to the assessments accrued after it acquired title to the properties. The trial court examined the Declarations and concluded Fannie Mae was only liable for the unpaid assessments after it acquired title and the HOA was ordered to provide an estoppel letter reflecting the reduction.

The appellate court distinguished other appellate case decisions and examined the language of the Declarations. The appellate court determined the Declaration’s subordination verbiage contained provisions to subordinating the assessment lien to the 1st mortgage but it did not contain wording specifically limiting or eliminating the subsequent owner’s liability for unpaid assessments. The reviewing court examined the law and found that it is well established under common law, the foreclosure of a senior mortgage extinguishes that of a junior mortgage listed in the final judgment. However, it is also well established that where a junior lienholder is not made a party to the foreclosure brought by the senior mortgage holder, “the lien of the junior mortgagee is unaffected by the judgment.” Abdoney v. York, 903 So.2d 981, 983 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005); See also, Willoughby Estates v. Bankunited, No. 2014AP000015, 2015 WL 5472506 at *2 (Fla. 15th Cir. Ct. June 23, 2015). At foreclosure therefore, the association’s lien rights were not adjudicated and the assessments liens remained intact. The appellate court concluded, the sale was held and the junior lienholders had no opportunity to bid or stir up others to benefit from a surplus.

The court stated the only remedies available to Fannie Mae are to move to compel redemption or filing a new action to re-foreclose. The association can defend itself in the same manner as if the foreclosure never happened. The court also stated that Fannie Mae’s actions for declaratory and injunctive relief are not recognized methods for removing the lien of an omitted junior lienor.

It is always a good idea to consult with your foreclosure and real estate counsel if there are any questions.


The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – FinCen GTO

Miami Dade 2


This past January 2016, The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), which is a division of the U.S. Department of Treasury, issued a Geographic Targeting Order (“GTO) which will impact sales of residential property throughout Florida’s Southeast. The January GTO applies to the sale of residential property located in Miami-Dade County for $1,000,000 or more, closing on or after March 1, 2016, through August 27, 2016, where the buyer is a legal entity and the purchase is made without a bank loan. This GTO was extended on July 22, 2016 to include Palm Beach and Broward counties, and also includes transaction when a personal or business check is used for any portion of the purchase price. The July 22, 2016 GTO commences with closings on or after August 28, 2016 through February 23, 2017.

All offices and agents of various title insurance underwriters are now required to collect and report information respecting certain real property purchases which meet all of the following parameters: (1) Sale of residential property located in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach or Broward County; (2) Sale completed on or after August 28, 2016, through February 23, 2017; (3) Sales price of $1,000,000 or more; (4) The buyer is a legal entity, such as a limited liability company, corporation, partnership, or similar business entity but not a trust; (5) Purchase is made without a bank loan or other similar form of external financing (financing by a financial institution that is required to have an anti-money laundering policy); and (6) Purchase price is paid, in whole or in part, with cash, cashier check, certified check, travelers check, money order in any form, personal or business check. This does not include a sale where the purchase price is paid entirely by wire transfer.

It’s important to note that title insurance commitments for a transaction which falls under the GTO must contain specific language found in Schedule B-1 of the GTO. Furthermore, these transactions must be reported to FinCEN by filing a FinCEN Form 8300 within 30 days after closing and a representative of the buying entity must complete, and have notarized, a Supporting FinCEN GTO Affidavit. Carefully following the requirements of the January and July GTOs will ensure your organization completes all Southeast Florida closings without incident.


By Chris Pavlidis, Esquire

Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A.