Make Your Customer the First Line of Defense

Cyber fraud is unhinged and has hit an epic level in real estate transactions.  Wire fraud activity increased 480% last year in the title industry alone and cyber crime is estimated to reach $2T by the end of 2019.  To put this in perspective, only eight countries in the world are expected to have GDP above $2T this year.

Cyber criminals are successfully using phishing scams to gain access to the email accounts of trusted parties in a transaction (agents, lenders and title providers) to introduce last minute changes to the funding process so that the buyer and/or seller will transfer funds to fraudulent company accounts.  Most customers are easily tricked and nearly defenseless from these sophisticated acts of crime.

What’s the solution?  It’s a layered approach that must include transforming our clients from fraud targets into strong allies who can help prevent fraud. 

I will be speaking at an engaging ALTA ONE session this October in Miami, Florida titled "Make Your Customers the First Line of Defense" where we will dive deep into the following topics:

  • Improving internet hygiene;
  • Layering security to lower risk profiles;
  • Seeing fraud before it starts;
  • Do’s and Don’ts for communication; and
  • Things that will “never happen” during a transaction

With the help of our customers, we can reduce fraud and turn our focus back to creating a great closing experience.  Each participant will leave with a Top 10 Fraud Prevention Tips that can be shared with all agents, lenders, buyers and sellers to protect against fraud.

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Transaction Fraud Continues to Escalate - Protect Yourself and Your Client!

Cyber fraud is unhinged and has hit an epic level in real estate transactions.  We saw a significant change in the level of sophistication and precision last summer and it has only gotten worse.  Wire fraud activity increased 480% last year in the title industry alone and cyber crime is estimated to reach $2T by the end of 2019.  To put this in perspective, only eight countries in the world are expected to have GDP above $2T this year.

Cyber criminals are successfully using phishing scams to gain access to the accounts of representatives in a transaction (agents, lenders and title providers) to introduce a last minute change to the funding process andmanipulate the transfer of buyer and seller funds to fraudulent company accounts.  Here's a link to the first lawsuit filed in Colorado by a couple who lost over $272K in a recent wire fraud (I promise it's a good link).  The couple named the real estate brokerage, lender and title company - this is the first case of its kind nationally and is being closely watched to see how the courts will assign fault (if any) for failing to educate and keep the couple safe from fraud.

Last Friday the CFPB took a historical step in releasing a Consumer Warning on its blog warning consumers of mortgage closing scams that are rippling across the country.  It includes a great summary of how the fraud starts, how clients are harmed and practical fraud prevention tips. Other federal agencies have issued similar releases such has the Federal Trade CommissionFinCEN and the FBI

We recently published a set of recommended best practices that can be found at: Sun Title Data Security Best Practice Tips

We are leading a national webinar that will be held on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 from 2-3pm EST.  We will be speaking with Matthew Froning, an expert in cyber security and best practices.  Please take the time to register for this webinar.

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Running for a cause

The Sun Title Team is excited to participate in the 39th annual Fifth Third River Bank Run to raise money and awareness for the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC) of Kent County.

The CAC's mission is to assess and support child victims of suspected assault, and educating children and the community to prevent such assaults. Here is a little video about the beginnings of the CAC.


Each participant on our River Bank Run team is encouraged to do their very best to raise at least $100.00 towards the CAC. It is our hope that through raising awareness about this wonderful community resource, we will help tell the CAC story, heal the pain, and halt the cycle of child sexual assault.  Below is a breakdown of how important each donation is to the CAC and how our team is helping so MANY children in the Grand Rapids area:

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Warmer weather begs for city exploration

The weather is finally warming up and it's got us reflecting on the many wonderful things West Michigan has to offer. We love this video by Experience Grand Rapids, depicting the charming treasures of the city.
From the freshly brewed pour-overs at the many coffeehouses to the stop-you-in-your-tracks art pieces hanging in galleries and stores, we just can't get enough of this beautiful city.
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Grand Rapids: Home of Community and Collaboration

As a West Michigan native, I can’t help but be grateful for all the great things happening in the area.  Our best kept secret is now a national spotlight which, I believe, will continue to drive the West Michigan economy forward.  Here’s a great video that Kristopher Larson and his team at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. put together, highlighting the many great assets, accolades and attractions of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Go West Michigan!

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How to Sell Your Home: Tips and Strategies You Must Know


With home prices rising more than 10% on average last year and inventory levels at historical lows, this is a great year to sell your home and maximize your value. The current turnaround in housing is being attributed to a number of factors:

The unemployment rate in the United States has fallen from its recent high of over 10% in the fall of 2009 to just over 6% the spring of this year
Consumer confidence in the U.S. rose to a six year high this spring as people reported feeling more optimistic about the country's economic outlook going forward
Interest rates on home mortgages remain near historical lows and many loan programs still remain open for borrowers who have limited resources to put down
Housing inventory in the U.S. has fallen from an average of 13 months of supply in 2010 to just over 4 months of supply this spring

Given the brighter economic climate and lower unemployment, more people are looking to purchase and sell properties. The Great Recession deferred many life plans for people who are now feeling confident enough to make them a reality including the purchase of new homes or second vacation/retirement homes. The low interest rate environment provides buyer's with great purchasing power. In fact, for every 1% of mortgage interest rate reduction, the buyer's purchasing power goes up over 10%. Buyers who are mindful of this are looking to purchase sooner rather than later given the Federal Reserve's tapering of its bond purchases in recent months which will likely trigger a higher mortgage interest rate environment in the future.

In addition to the low interest rates, housing inventory has fallen sharply since 2010 creating a high demand for properties in desirable areas. We continue to hear stories from Realtors® who have received multiple offers on properties within hours of it hitting their multiple listing service (MLS) and many properties are selling above the original asking price.

All of these unique factors create a compelling reason to sell your house this year. If you are going to sell, be prepared to have it under contract quickly and close within 30 to 60 days. The timing needs to work for you and your needs and many sellers have been caught off guard by how fast the house sold. Most buyers require full possession of the property upon closing so having a post-sale game plan is critical before you list. If you have the resources, you may consider finding and securing your new home before listing your current home so that the dates of closing and possession line up – moving once is always better than moving twice!

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How to Sell Your Home: Determine Your Home's Value

Knowing the value of your home is critical before offering for sale. There are several ways to determine the value of your home. Online resources such as Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com and Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) will provide you with an estimate of the value of your home or your local market overall. Here are the links to these calculators:

Trulia: http://www.trulia.com/sell?ts=trulia&tscamp=home_page_module
Zillow: http://www.zillow.com/ (click on "Zestimate" on the "Find your home" search box)
Realtor.com: http://www.realtor.com/home-values/?source=web
FHFA: http://www.fhfa.gov/DataTools/Tools/Pages/HPI-Calculator.aspx

Once you have a starting point from these online resources you may want to take it a step further and obtain a value based on the up-to-date transaction history that an appraiser will use to value the property for the new buyer. The best way to do this without spending money is to obtain a comparative market analysis ("CMA") from a licensed Realtor® in your area. A CMA will identify all the homes that were listed, sold and withdrawn from the multiple listing service in your area within the past 6 months. Based on the size and condition of your home, it will give you an accurate estimate of what your home is worth at the present time. Without this, you may underprice your home and leave money on the table for the buyer or overprice your home and render the buyer unable to fulfill on the contract because the home appraised for lower than the agreed upon purchase price.
With the actual value of your home in hand, you should determine if you will walk out of the closing with money or if you will be required to bring money to the closing – and in what amount. To start, you should request a "payoff" from each lender currently holding a mortgage on your property. This can be done at any time and there is typically no fee. In addition to your payoffs, you must calculate Realtor® commissions, closing costs, title insurance, recording fees, property tax pro-rations and any tax or fee by the county or state to transfer the property to the new buyer (often referred to as a transfer tax). After you've accounted for all the fees and costs, you will know exactly what you will receive or be required to pay at the closing. This is commonly referred to as the Seller "net" number and a good Realtor®, title company or escrow company should be able to provide you with a "Seller Net Sheet" prior to listing your property for sale.
These techniques will put you in the driver's seat before listing your property for sale. Knowing the real value of your home and what you are likely to "net" at the closing will prevent surprises down the road and will allow you to plan your next exciting chapter in life!

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How to Sell Your Home: How to Find and Hire the "Get It Done" Agent

If you are considering selling your home, finding the right real estate agent is critical. You want to find the "Get It Done" agent in your area – the type of agent who lives and breathes real estate and has an intimate knowledge not just of your neighborhood but also with the surrounding community. This agent will leverage his or her knowledge and expertise to maximize the sales price and educate prospective buyers on why your home and community is the right place for them. Finding the Get It Done agent takes a little investment on your part but the payoff is huge. You deserve a high level of service, investment and communication from the agent representing your most valuable asset – your home. When you hire an agent they become a unique contractual extension of you so you need to make sure the fit is right.

Before making the decision to list you home with a Realtor, ask your friends, family and neighbors for agent recommendations. This is the best starting point to develop a roster of potential agent candidates. Title companies and lenders are another great source because they work with agents on a daily basis. Once you've assembled the list, look them up online and see how strong their presence is. Are they visible and do they appear to be active? Narrow your list to those with a strong online presence and history of working with homeowners in your neighborhood.
Once you've created the short list of candidates, interview at least three of them before making your decision. Treat this like an interview and let them know you are interviewing other agents and have them prepared to answer the following five questions:

1. What's Your Story? Ask the Realtor why they are in the real estate business and what their path was to get there. Some have a passion for property and helping people reach their goals. They are continually improving, evolving and learning the craft. Others are not as engaged and may have found themselves in the industry for other reasons. You want to make sure the agent you hire is passionate and excited about what they do and eager to represent you with the sale of your home.

2. Are You an Expert in My Neighborhood? You want to hire a Realtor that is an expert in your neighborhood and the type of property you have. Ask the agent to give you a list of properties sold within your area over the past 6 months. Also ask him or her about the happenings in the surrounding community to make sure they are in touch with current events. If you have a unique property such as waterfront, high-rise condominium or a large parcel with acreage, you should ask the agent about their expertise in selling properties that share the unique attributes of your property. If it seems like they are playing outside of their area of expertise, move on quickly. You do not want your home to be the first of its type the agent lists.

3. Who Have You Represented Recently? A Get It Done agent should be able to provide you with at least 10 references of homeowners he or she represented in the past 6 months. Have the agent summarize the transaction before you call. What was the listing price? Ultimate selling price? Days on the market? Concessions? Any unique issues that came up during the transaction? This type of transaction summary will allow for a more informed conversation with the reference when you call – and you must call!

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5 reasons to move to West Michigan

Numerous publications and entities find congruence in the fact there's a lot to like about West Michigan. From beer to beaches, West Michigan's many indelible qualities are well on display.

Lonely Planet, the world's most successful travel publisher, declared Grand Rapids & Lake Michigan's Gold Coast as the number one travel destination in the United States for 2014. Well, what's better than a West Michigan visit? West Michigan residency. For those looking to make a move, here are five reasons why West Michigan should be on your radar.

1. Raising a family

Young families will be happy to hear that West Michigan is an ideal spot to nurture and grow young minds. In fact, Grand Rapids, the second largest city in the state, often appears on Forbes Magazine's list of best places to raise a family—and was even ranked number one in 2012. Grand Rapids boasts the highest percentage of homeowners in the country at 77 percent. Forbes also cited lower crime rates and short commute times. As someone who moved from Detroit to Grand Rapids, the minuscule of rush hour traffic on US-131 is like open highway compared to I-696 and I-75.

2. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

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The Pros and Cons of Winter Real Estate

Traditional wisdom has told us that selling a home in the winter isn't worth the effort, but that may not necessarily always be the case.

The following tips can help you make the decision if selling your home during the winter months is a good option.

There is less competition on both sides

From a buyer's perspective, winter still remains a great season to purchase. In fact, your offer may actually carry more weight due to fewer buyers searching. As for sellers, fewer homes on the market during the winter means that buyers may gravitate more toward your house. It's simple economics — lower housing inventory levels result in higher demand for those that are listed.

Winter buyers and sellers are more motivated

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Other Locations

ionia-office-small Ionia:
331 West Main Street
Ionia, MI 48846
Phone: (616) 522-9311
Fax: (616) 458-9300 
gville 1 Grandville:
4600 Ivanrest Avenue SW
Grandville, MI 49418
Phone: (616) 551-2668
Fax: (616) 458-9300
  Grand Haven
732 Washington Ave.
Grand Haven, MI 49417
Phone: (616) 935-7950
Fax: (616) 458-9300
  Big Rapids
115 S. Michigan Ave.
Big Rapids, MI 49307
Phone: (231) 598-9540
Fax: (231) 683-4711

Rockford (Downtown):
124 Courtland Street NE
Rockford, MI 49341
Phone: (616) 951-7032
Fax: (616) 458-9300 

kzoo 1  Kalamazoo:
925 S. Burdick
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Phone: (269) 888-1100
Fax: (616) 458-9300

Michigan’s Leading Real Estate Transaction and Title Services Company
Sun Title provides real estate title insurance, escrow, closing and settlement services

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