First-time homebuyers target of grant deed requests

By Robb Hicken/ chief storyteller

When a first-time home buyer complained about one more fee, Laurie Burchfield, agent with Coldwell Bankers Tomlinson Group in Eagle, was disturbed.

“Document Retrieval Department calls or sends a message that the new owners – whose deeds have just been recorded – owe $85 for a Grant Deed and if they don’t pay they will be charged a $35 late fee,” she says.

Unfortunately, Burchfield’s buyers aren’t the only ones receiving this call. The Better Business Bureau has received complaints about businesses purporting to be selling grant deeds to homeowners in the area.

Document Retrieval Department, giving a Boise address, is sending homeowners notices recommending they get a copy of their deed “now” for a fee of $85 to $100, if they do not already have the important document. The notice comes with instructions to fax consumers’ credit card information or to use the provided return envelope with a check, but the business lists an addresses of UPS stores or post office, not an actual office location.

Boise’s TitleOne legal counsel Cameron McFaddan says this isn’t the first instance where possible fraud against homebuyers has occurred in the area.

When someone buys a home, and records it through a title company, all the paperwork needed in Idaho is completed, he says.

“There are no extra documents, they receive them all,” McFaddan says.

Grant, Warranty and Quit Claim deeds are typically documents issued at the time of closing, he says. Title companies routinely issue a legal copy to the buyer, and there are no other recording fees.

“The state title association discussed this recently and have made it part of the closing process to tell homebuyers about the possibility of these calls,” he says.

Burchfield said it was a good reminder to her when the title company disclosed these problems.

State Finance Department investigator Anthony Polidori has begun efforts to track this company down. He explains it this way.

A grant deed is used in some states for the sale or transfer of property between two people. Both people are required to sign, by law, and this is the official document. Some jurisdictions use a warranty deed to transfer real property instead. Idaho is one of nine states that recognize community property that requires a warranty deed.

This means property is an asset of the community, and that spouses or partners jointly own it.

“The fine print homebuyers often overlook states that these businesses are not affiliated with any government agency,” said Dale Dixon, CEO for Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River Region. “Homeowners can obtain records from the county recorder’s office instead of being duped by retrieval businesses.”

Homebuyers should be suspicious of invoices from retrieval businesses charging excessive fees for deeds, Polidori says. He advises to ignore these business offers and go directly to the county to get a certified copy of their deed.

BBB warns never give out credit card information or checks to unsolicited businesses offering their services.

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