CLOSE IT! House of the Week: A High-Rise Available in Chinatown

Looking for a high-rise pad to make into a man or woman cave in the District? Well look no further because we have found the perfect condo at The Lafayette at Penn Quarter which lists for $465,000. This one-bedroom, one-bathroom spans over 700 square feet with granite kitchen counter tops and panoramic views from your bedroom balcony. You're also super close to the National Mall should you want to go for a jog or a bike ride while the sun is rising or setting overlooking historic views. Don’t forget, as of October 1, 2017, you could qualify for the DC First-Time Homebuyer Recordation Tax Reduction and Federal Title & Escrow Company will help you submit your application!   

Assuming a homebuyer puts down 20 percent, their cash-to-close would be $106,695 and monthly mortgage payments would be approximately $1,358. However, for a complete picture of what your cash-to-close figures would be, including seller’s net proceeds from the sale and such, view the Close It! Web version or download the free Close It! iOS app

Feel free to tell your real estate agent that you want to use Federal Title & Escrow Company for settlement and save up to $750 on closing costs by ordering services online. Always remember, it’s your choice in selecting a settlement company when it’s time to close. 

CLOSE IT! House of the Week: A family home located in the residences at Adam's Row

View this stunning townhome in Northeast, D.C., which lists for $575,000. The detached townhome has four bedrooms and three in a half bathrooms perfect for a family of four or five. It spans over 1,786 square feet and has four levels of living space to include a large master suite with a balcony, three additional spacious bedrooms perfect for children, modernized bathrooms, and a beautiful kitchen to enjoy Sunday family dinners. Plus a basement!

Assuming a homebuyer puts down five percent, their cash- to-close would be $45,148.02 and monthly mortgage payments would be approximately $2,348.95. However, for a complete picture of what your cash-to-close figures would be, including seller’s net proceeds from the sale and such, view the Close It! Web version or download the free Close It! iOS app

Feel free to tell your real estate agent that you want to use Federal Title & Escrow Company for settlement and save up to $750 on closing costs by ordering services online. Always remember, it’s your choice in selecting a settlement company when it’s time to close. 

Send EMDs Electronically and Securely Now!

It's official - realtors and home buyers can NOW send earnest money deposits electronically and securely to Federal Title & Escrow Company with ZOCCAM!

This is a leading banking application for smart phones that deposits and transfers escrow money instantly, any time, day or night- from your pocket!

Simply take a picture of the front and back of your earnest money deposit check, select Federal Title & Escrow Company's escrow account, confirm the information to be accurate, then select send. The agent and home buyer will be immediately notified that the escrow money deposit was received.     

This is a game changer for agents and home buyers because it saves time, money, and is hassle free with just a simple click of an app on your smart phone. Oh and it's FREE, SAFE, and SECURE!

ZOCCAM doesn’t contain or hold any financial account information, and all content is encrypted and sent using state-of-the-art security techniques that ensure every client’s non-public personal information is protected. 

View this short ZOCCAM demonstration, download the app, and begin to use today! 

***Please note, when a license number is requested in the below instructions, please use 88888888 in the meantime, while the app is being modified. *** 

  • View the step-by-step instructions for agents here
  • View the step-by-step instructions for home buyers here

What is two-factor authentication, and why is it important for your real estate business?

We’ve noticed an uptick in agent email addresses that have been compromised by cyber criminals with the intent of defrauding home buyers, sellers and title companies – and most agents are totally unaware when we tell them.

The emails we’ve received of late are generally inquiries about wire transfers of seller proceeds. The sender is hoping the recipient (in this particular scam, title companies) will fall for a request to wire funds to their “client’s” account. If the victim is duped and sends funds, the fraudsters will quickly clear the account making it virtually impossible to recover the funds.

Reports of wire fraud scams have come in from all over the country and have cost the industry millions, if not billions, of dollars over the past several years.

These emails inquiring about wire transfers don’t come from the agent’s legitimate email account either, which is why the agent is often unaware any cyber hacking has occurred. Instead, the emails come from phony email accounts that look almost identical to the agent’s legit email account that was hacked – perhaps an extra letter, hyphen or dash is the only difference.

By the time the title company receives one of these phony email inquiries, the real estate agent’s legitimate email account has already been compromised along with all the contents of the inbox. Information pertaining to upcoming closings, specific property addresses, names and email addresses of other parties in the transaction are all used to bait the wire-fraud trap.

Needless to say real estate professionals must do all they can to protect their inboxes and the interests of their buyers and sellers, and email accounts have proved a particularly vulnerable area for attack. That’s where 2-factor authentication comes in handy.

What is two-factor authentication?

Pretty much like it sounds, two-factor authentication creates a second layer of security that a user must clear to gain access to the account. A classic example is the ATM card. To take money out, the individual must know their pin code (password) AND be in possession of the bank card that’s linked with the account that matches their pin. Having one or the other is not enough.

Two-factor authentication works very similarly with email, and many major email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo! Mail offer the option. To configure, a user goes to account settings, ticks the box to enable two-factor authentication and enters her mobile phone number. There’s an option to receive a verification code by phone or text. Enter the verification code to configure two-factor authentication with that mobile device.

From then on, any time the user logs into her account she must also enter a unique code to gain entry. It might seem like a hassle, but it increases email security significantly.

Even if an individual’s username and password are compromised – maybe they accidentally downloaded malware from a spam email or used public, unsecured WiFi to access their email – the criminals cannot gain access unless they also possess the specific mobile device that was configured with the email account.

The two most common two-factor authentication methods rely on text messages and/or mobile applications to produce the code.

With text message, a user logs into her email account with username and password and then receives a text message on her phone that contains the unique six-digit code. Once she successfully enters the code at the email login, she unlocks the second layer of security and gains access to her account.

A second method is similar to the SMS approach but instead relies on a free smart phone app, such as Authenticator by Google, which produces a new six-digit code every 30 seconds. A user logs into her email account with username and password and then opens the app to obtain the unique six-digit that unlocks the account.

With both methods, the user must have knowledge of their username / password AND possess a specific device that’s configured with the email account. Knowledge of the username / password makes one factor, and possession of a specific device makes two factors.

Catching up with the First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Amendment Act of 2015

Catching up with the First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Amendment Act of 2015

First-time buyers and real estate pros in the District of Columbia awaiting word on the status of the First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Amendment Act of 2015 can expect to hear a response from the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser this week.

A final version of the bill that would amend the District of Columbia Deed Recordation Tax Act was transmitted to the Mayor’s office Feb. 2, and a response is due by Feb. 16.

The revised transfer tax rule would retroactively go into effect Oct. 1, 2016, according to the final bill, provided the measure is approved by the Mayor and passes the 30-day congressional review period.

As we previously reported, the bill will create a new transfer tax rate of 0.725% for homebuyers who have never purchased a house, condo or share in a cooperative unit in the District of Columbia. The current transfer tax rate for D.C. homebuyers is 1.1 percent on purchases of $399,999 or less and 1.45 percent on purchases of $400,000 or more.

The median home price in the region soared to a record high of $446,000 last summer, the Washington Post reported.

When we checked in last April with the bill known as B21-0417, or the First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Act of 2015, it was under committee review and awaiting scheduling for a mark-up. That happened last November.

After a first reading of the of the bill was delivered Dec. 3, 2016, Councilwoman Elissa Silverman (D-At Large) was the only one to vote against the measure, later telling Washington City Paper that because the bill did not specify income limits, the tax break would benefit a homebuyer in Ward 3 five times more than a homebuyer in Ward 8, rendering the benefit "regressive."

Councilwoman Silverman was not the only individual to express this sentiment. The lack of an income restriction has been a concern of the bill’s critics all along.

During testimonies that took place about a year ago, a representative from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute said the city would negatively impact its Housing Production Trust Fund, which has produced or preserved more than 8,000 affordable homes since its inception in 2002.

“Rather than provide a new tax benefit for all first-time homebuyers, DCFPI recommends that policymakers review the city’s current deed tax assistance to low- and moderate-income homebuyers and make adjustments if they appear warranted,” said DCFPI Housing Policy Associate Claire Zippel in her testimony last February.

The city regularly alters the income and purchase price restrictions on its popular D.C. Tax Abatement program, and the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue most recently increased the income and purchase price limitations at the end of last year.

However, the income-restriction concern in regards to B21-0417 was addressed Dec. 13, 2016 when Councilwoman Anita Bonds (D-At Large) introduced an amendment that added two eligibility requirements, an income limit of 180 percent of the area median income as well as proof of District residency.

The median income in D.C. in 2015 was $109,200 annually, so buyers earning up to $196,564 could potentially qualify for transfer tax relief.

The amendment also created a lifespan of four years after the program’s implementation date, at which point the Mayor must submit a report to City Council that reviews the benefits or impact of the tax relief program on homeownership rates.

With the Bonds amendment in place, Council voted unanimously in favor of the First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Amendment Act of 2015 on Dec. 20, 2016.

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  • What's title insurance?

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