October 2017 Newsblog



That was sarcasm, yes. Whoever said that our legislators could write a bill that is not in some way, shape or form, clear and concise? SB 2 will bring much woe to the escrow, title, real estate industry as well as California’s County Recorder Association.

The Bill has just been signed into law and task forces and working groups have already been set up to delve into the morass of issues that we will all be facing when the new law kicks in.

The “simple” summarization of the bill is as follows: Starting Jan 1, 2018, any document that is being recorded will be charged an additional $75.00 per document, per parcel of land, up to a maximum of $225.00 per transaction.

There is an exemption, though: A Deed transferring a residential property to a new owner that will be owner occupied and that has a Documentary Transfer Tax imposed on it is exempt. Doesn’t sound too bad? It’s the other documents that have to pay, for instance, a Quitclaim deed with no transfer tax, a Release of a lien, a Deed of Trust to secure a loan, a Grant Deed that is for commercial property, vacant land or income property, etc. etc. Some escrow transactions could have 4 or 5 documents that need to be recorded, and not all at the same time. How do we charge?

But nothing is ever “simple” when you have legislative bills.  The bill has certain wordings on it which could lead to different interpretations depending on who is looking at it.

The onus of determining the interpretation and whether to impose and collect the surcharge falls on the County Recorder’s offices statewide. Unfortunately, we have 58 counties and probably 56 of them have different rules, regulations and methods of interpreting the law.

So when your Escrow Officer gives you an estimate closing statement, it truly will be an “estimate” because recording costs could change as the documents hit the recorder’s office.

What is the goal of this legislation? Affordable housing. Or at least the intent is that the funds collected will go towards building affordable housing. Only time and the state government will tell.

Nothing is ever easy, and you ask why escrow people drink?


That was a pun, my friends. It seems like for better or worse, Bitcoin is going mainstream. Sort of. We hear of transactions using Bitcoin, and our response is, “Oh yeah?”, thinking that these are transactions that only the techies would think of initiating. But apparently, this type of currency is really catching on and when real estate is purchased this way then everyone sits up and takes notice.

The latest bitcoin real estate transaction is in Texas and according to that article, there was an older transaction, in 2014, in Northern California.

Being I am an escrow officer who handles real estate transactions and under heavy state and federal regulations to protect the consumers and their money, my question would then be: if the Buyer and Seller agree to such a transaction and there is a 3rd party service who converts the bitcoin to normal U.S. dollars, is someone escrowing that 3rd party service?

What protective measures do they have to protect the two parties? And do we, as the Escrow Holder, need to have something in place to protect all parties also?

Sometimes our policies and procedures just can’t change fast enough to catch up with changes in technology.


Talk about a “What the heck?” moment! Reuters published this article about an investigation conducted on the matter of a few stuck toilets. The blockage, apparently, was caused by the dumping of euro banknotes down the toilet at 3 places – a bank and 3 restaurants near the bank.

This is a literal take on “flushing money down the drain”. With tongue in cheek the article says, “there was no immediate reason to think it was dirty money”. Ha! Ha! Oh. Is this “fake news”? No, it’s Reuters so it’s gotta be true.


This whole Equifax hacking is already giving a lot of people indigestion, particularly if they have, oh, a few financial transactions here and there, like shopping on line, transfer funds on line, borrow money, and do deposits on line.

From a cyber security company called Cybercecurity (yes, that is the correct spelling of their company), here are a few tips that we can all practice immediately, no matter if we are taking Pepto Bismol or not.

Among all the articles and blogs that I constantly read about fraud and cyber security, I have run across another firm which brought up the potential risks of changing authentication from passwords to fingerprints or iris scan.

Information on fingerprints and iris scans, they remind us, also have to be stored somewhere and that can also be subject to hack. Unlike passwords, however, which could be changed after a hack, fingerprints and iris scans are permanent. What if someone hacks into this database, steals the fingerprints, gets all the entire identity information of the person and then uses that fingerprint to implicate the person in a crime?

That is something that did not even cross my mind, but think about it. It could happen! How scary is that!


I seriously think I should have a monthly “Wells Fargo – What Were They Thinking” Section. This month the scoop from the New York Post is that a whistleblower in the Beverly Hills branch blew the whistle on the branch practice of recommending their clients take on a higher rate in order to avoid paying for extension fees due to delays.

For example: “I will save you the $1,000 extension penalty but will give a slightly higher rate by .125%” … which we all know over the life of a 30 year loan could be thousands and thousands of additional interest to be paid. Seriously? Beverly Hills branch. Their clients should probably be pretty savant in financial matters. Do they really fall for this?

On the other hand, the news today is that Wells Fargo will be refunding some homeowners who were charged mortgage extension rate lock fees improperly if it was a Lender caused delay. These are for loans from 9/2013 to 2/2017.

One has to wonder if the review of these improper procedures and refund would have been forthcoming if Wells Fargo were not under extreme scrutiny right now.


Finally, for those of you who are like me, Chinese and living in an Asian populated community, here is something for our consumption. Any articles showing population facts of my race is always of interest to me. Our nation is so racially and culturally diverse, it’s always good to know where my race stands in relation to the population as a whole.


And the funnies for the month – Signs to live and laugh by:

Seen in the office: “Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday please bring it back or further steps will be taken.”

Seen in the office: “After tea break, staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board.”

Seen at a laundromat: “Automatic Washing Machine: please remove all your clothes when the light goes out.”

Seen at a farmer’s field: “The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.”

Happy October! It’s approximately 48 days to the Thanksgiving long weekend holiday!