Author Archives: Hallmark Abstract Service

About Hallmark Abstract Service

Hallmark Abstract Service provides title insurance for residential and commercial real estate transactions in New York State and nationwide, underwriting through Chicago Title. HAS opened its doors in 2008 with two primary goals in mind! Number one was to create a title insurance company that would provide our clients with a superior finished product while affording them a seamless and stress-free process. Number two was to make the experience of working with Hallmark Abstract Service as easy and as pleasurable as obtaining title insurance for a real estate transaction could possibly be! From the sheer number of satisfied clients who keep coming back to Hallmark Abstract Service for their title insurance needs, I believe that we have accomplished our goals in the past, and we will continue striving to improve on them in the future! My Background In 1980 I earned an undergraduate degree in economics followed in 1984 by an MBA in finance with a concentration in the tax-exempt market. With this focus on the municipal market I became a municipal bond analyst at Shearson/Lehman Brothers tasked with following both general obligation issuers on the city and state level as well as housing bonds secured by mortgage pools. This experience at Shearson/Lehman Brothers followed by stints at PaineWebber and Citigroup provided a broad framework of understanding concerning the mechanics of mortgage debt in terms of prepayment experience, mortgage quality and the expected duration of a portfolio. Leaving Wall Street I started Exeter Commercial which funded commercial mortgage loans. Title insurance was a critical part of the underwriting and closing process. At the peak of the financial crisis, I recognized both an opportunity and need as many title firms, for a variety of reasons, closed their doors. Out of this, Hallmark Abstract Service was born.

Hallmark Abstract Service On AM 970’s ‘Blue Collar Buzz’ Speaking About The Heroes To Heroes Foundation (Audio)

Hallmark Abstract Service President Michael Haltman appears on AM 970 The Answer

April 25th Hallmark Abstract President Michael Haltman appeared on an AM 970 The Answer segment of ‘Blue Collar Buzz’!

Also serving as the combat veterans 501(c)(3) Heroes To Heroes Foundation Board Chair, Michael and ‘Blue Collar Buzz’ co-hosts Joe Maniscalco and Bill Hohlfeld discussed the upcoming June 15th Heroes To Heroes 2017 Charity Golf Outing, being held this year at the historic Saint Andrews Golf Club in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York, just north of New York City (https://heroestoheroes.org/2017-golf-classic/),

In addition they spoke about the non-denominational mission of Heroes To Heroes and the way in which the program utilizes spirituality to address the needs of U.S.combat veterans who are suffering with PTSD, moral injury and traumatic brain injury.

Heroes To Heroes Foundation, led by Founder Judy Schaffer, strives to do its part to reverse the incredibly tragic statistic of 20 veterans a day committing suicide!

AM970 The Answer’s Blue Collar Buzz and Heroes To Heroes Foundation Board Chair Michael Haltman

If you have any questions about the Heroes To Heroes Foundation or the organizations 2017 Charity Golf Outing on June 15th, contact Michael Haltman at info@hallmarkabstractllc.com or (516) 741-4723.

To Register as a golfer or to learn more about the sponsorship opportunities, visit the Heroes To Heroes Foundation website here, https://heroestoheroes.org/2017-golf-classic/.

Related Article

Heroes To Heroes Foundation – Because 20 Veterans A Day In The United States Commit Suicide!

Title Insurance: What Do You Know About The Underwriter Protecting Your Investment? (New York)

caveat emptor

When a buyer purchases residential or commercial real estate in New York, or is refinancing an existing mortgage, they will be acquiring title insurance along with it*!

While title insurance will be protecting the owner against financial loss for what is likely their most valuable asset by ensuring that they have good and clear title to the property, most of these consumers will know little about who it is that is ultimately backing the policy.

In other words, who is the title insurance underwriter and what is its financial strength.

When consumers buy insurance of any kind they hope (and pray) that when the time comes for a claim to be paid, the company backing the policy is stable enough and has claims paying ability substantial enough to make good on it.

If the underwriter has limited policyholders surplus and a substantial and valid claim comes in, will the insurance company pay that claim in a timely way or will it put the policyholder through a painful and extended process?

For anyone who has gone through a homeowners policy claim after damage or perhaps a claim for the loss of valuable personal property, you know that payment can sometimes take time.

Questioning the details of the claim, contesting the claim or worse, litigating the claim with the hope of delaying and potentially denying responsibility for payment can sometimes be part of the insurance industry playbook.

That said, it therefore behooves the insurance-buying consumer to concentrate on companies that possess substantial claims paying ability to, at the very least, try and mitigate a great deal of the problem.

In title insurance, when dealing with an abstractor, it’s also important to work with a company that has a low experience of claims. After all, if there is no claim, then much of the above discussion becomes moot.

Some Examples Of Financial Strength

In the New York State title insurance arena the great majority of underwriters adhere to the premium structure established under the TIRSA Rate Manual, while a small number do not.

The companies that do not follow TIRSA will typically offer rates, often through online purchases, below TIRSA.

So does this mean that these lower-priced company alternatives provide similar service and protection to the consumer as those companies that follow TIRSA?

You make the call!

Below are three companies rated for financial strength by Demotech. Chicago Title Insurance Company is a member of the Fidelity National Title Group (member TIRSA) while the other two are online title insurance providers (non-TIRSA).

Pay particular attention to the financial strength indicators.

title insurance caveat emptor title insurance you get what you pay for title insurance compare apples to apples

Title Insurance And What The Consumer Should Consider

  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?

And remember, the purchaser of real estate or the refinancer of a mortgage has the RIGHT to choose the provider of their title insurance!

*Unless it’s an all-cash purchase in which case purchasing title insurance, while highly recommended, is optional.

Related Article

Title Insurance: Always Compare Apples To Apples! (Chart)

Infographic: Cost Of The 57 Most Common Home Improvement Projects!

When it’s time to renovate the home you own or to make plans for the renovation of the one that you’re going to buy, a common question is….How much is that going to cost?

Funny you should ask, because HomeAdvisor has created an infographic that provides the national average cost for 57 of the most common home improvement projects…

the true cost of home improvement

Home improvement cost infographic
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Do you know everything that you need to know about the title insurance for your purchase of refinance?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

How Can You Tell A Knockdown Home Versus A Renovation Project?

luxury living in New York's Hamptons

Source: The New York Times/Peter Murdock

For prospective home buyers, gauging whether a potential home represents a knockdown and rebuild or a renovation project can often be an extremely personal decision!

In other words, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!’

For some an existing home is ‘livable’ as-is by making some minor improvements such as new carpet and paint. For others that same home might need to be completely renovated before moving in and therefore cheaper to tear-down and start over from the ground up.

Walking the dogs around the neighborhood I live in, my wife and I will often pass a house and wonder which one of the above scenarios it might fall under if and when it is sold.

Typically a complete teardown will (should) be priced right around the value of the land that it sits on. When a home languishes on the market for a long time, it will likely be that the sellers are not being realistic about the fact that their home falls into this category.

And Then There’s Long Island’s Hamptons!

A second home destination for many of the wealthiest individuals and families living in and around New York City, the definition of what constitutes a teardown in ordinary neighborhoods is apparently getting turned on its head in the wealthiest enclaves of the Hamptons!

In-other-words when vacant land is scarce and money is no object…

…To make room for the 11,600-square-foot house that James Michael Howard, a developer and interior designer, finished earlier this month in Bridgehampton, he first had to tear down the four-bedroom, three-bath 1980 house on its 1.1-acre lot. Mr. Howard paid $3.7 million for the shingle-style house, formerly owned by the “Manchester by the Sea” director Kenneth Lonergan and his wife, J. Smith-Cameron, and built the larger home on speculation…

Read more about this subject in the article from The New York Times…

Razing the Hamptons‘ By Marcelle Sussman Fischler

New development in the Hamptons used to conjure up images of lavish houses popping up in the middle of potato fields. But as more farms and vacant land are being preserved as open space, ever fewer lots are available to build new homes. And with soaring land values, coveted beachfront locations already built on and surging demand for new and bigger houses with copious amenities, teardowns in the area have become more pervasive than ever.

But what qualifies as a teardown on the South Fork might raise eyebrows elsewhere.

To make room for the 11,600-square-foot house that James Michael Howard, a developer and interior designer, finished earlier this month in Bridgehampton, he first had to tear down the four-bedroom, three-bath 1980 house on its 1.1-acre lot. Mr. Howard paid $3.7 million for the shingle-style house, formerly owned by the “Manchester by the Sea” director Kenneth Lonergan and his wife, J. Smith-Cameron, and built the larger home on speculation.

The fanciful new seven-bedroom, nine-bath house that Mr. Howard designed, in collaboration with the architects Bobby McAlpine and Greg Tankersley, has 30-foot ceilings with exposed beams, a breakfast nook that seats 10, a 16-seat lower-level theater, a heated in-ground pool and a pool house. Art-filled and fully furnished — down to the candlesticks in the dining room and the books on the cocktail tables — it is on the market for $11,950,000.

Older houses “don’t have the atmosphere people are looking for today and don’t have the light,” Mr. Howard said. “Ceilings are low; windows are small.” The newer Hamptons houses have more air, more light, more space and more volume, he added, with “quick and easy access to the outside and a lot of seating areas inside and outside.”

Gary DePersia, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group, who counts Mr. Howard’s house as one of nine among his 27 new construction listings built on the sites of teardowns, said, “With the towns buying up open space, that diminishes further the available vacant lots, making teardowns even more viable and important for those who want to build a house.”

Builders of these so-called spec houses “tear down a relatively nice house — that in some parts of the country is a beautiful house — to build their masterpiece house,” said Cody Vichinsky, co-founder of Bespoke Real Estate, an agency based in Water Mill that deals exclusively in $10 million-plus properties.

Some multimillion-dollar homes constructed as recently as 2006 now face the wrecking ball. “Waterfront or oceanfront or Triple-A big plots of land — people pay premiums to have a select piece of dirt,” Mr. Vichinsky said, “because it is the canvas for their vision.”

Read the rest of the article here.

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Do you know everything that you need to know about the title insurance for your real estate transaction?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

Public Pension Funds Chasing Returns…Deja Vu All Over Again?

pension funds gambling with other peoples money

Remember the 2008 financial crisis? Of course you do as it crushed many individuals along with entities entrusted as fiduciary’s that were managing OPM or, other peoples money! 

In the era leading-up to the implosion of the global financial markets, more than a few titans of finance from Wall Street to the streets of small school districts across America were duped into investing in highly complex financial products devised by quants out of schools like MIT.

These instruments that few outside of the ‘geniuses’ who created actually understood, went by names such as derivatives, credit default swaps (CDS), collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO), collateralized debt obligations (CDO) and Commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) to name just a few.

These products in many cases were purchased without any real comprehension by the buyer of either the inherent risks or of the illiquidity of the investment were it ever necessary to sell them in the secondary market.

But, at the same time, these products had existed for many years and with the right participants on both sides of the trade, served a useful purpose. The problems arose when uninitiated and unsophisticated investors were sucked-in by the promises of outsized returns, explained to them by salesmen making outsized commissions!

And, as in all things, everything was okay until it wasn’t.

In 2017, Complex Investments and State Pension Funds

Now consider that in the post-financial crisis era of undersized bond yields, underfunded pension funds and pension fund annual return estimates that have not been significantly adjusted down, state and locally run retirement systems have once again turned to complex investments that they may not fully understand.

From The Pew Charitable Trusts, ‘State Public Pension Funds Increase Use of Complex Investments‘…

State and locally run retirement systems currently manage over $3.6 trillion in public pension fund investments, most of which are held by states. Broadly, half of these assets are invested in stocks; a quarter in bonds and cash; and another quarter in what are known as alternative investments, such as private equity, hedge funds, real estate, and commodities.

Although governments and employees contribute to pension funds, investment earnings on plan assets are expected to pay for about 60 percent of promised benefits. In a bid to boost investment returns and diversify investment portfolios, public pension plans in recent decades have shifted funds away from low-risk, fixedincome investments such as government and high-grade corporate bonds. During the 1980s and 1990s, plans significantly increased their reliance on stocks, also known as equities. And over the past decade, funds have increasingly turned to alternative investments to achieve investment return targets.

Greater investment in equities and alternatives can provide higher financial returns but also bring heightened volatility and risk of shortfalls…

Continue reading here

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Do you know everything that you need to know about the title insurance for your real estate transaction?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

Home Loans Have Never Been Bigger!

The average size of home loans, tracked by a Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) survey since 1990, have never been larger seeming to confirm the narrative that high demand and low inventory is pushing prices higher!

average mortgage size keeps moving higher

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Do you know everything that you need to know about your title insurance?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

Like Real Estate And Mortgages Before, NYC Taxi Medallion Prices Crash!

nyc taxi medallions crash

Source: Getty Images

Some old adages for investing go that ‘nothing goes up in a straight-line’, that ‘you don’t want to be the last one standing when the music stops’ and that ‘bulls and bears make money but pigs get slaughtered’!

Investors in real estate and mortgages learned this lesson the hard way heading into, and then following, the financial crisis from about 10-years ago.

Some are still paying the price while others have capitalized from the pain and made money in markets that tended to over-correct to the downside and have since recovered. Las Vegas and Miami are but two examples and such are tales that markets tell!

New York City Taxi Medallion Market

Peaking at $1.3 million in 2013 as hedge funds got involved, industry disruptors Uber and Lyft have decimated the market for New York City taxi medallions with a recent trade occurring at $241,000.

Like mortgage companies before them that witnessed their collateral for loans decline to a point where, in many cases, the property was worth far less than the outstanding loan balance, so too have lenders that use taxi medallions as collateral for loans!

Using Medallion Financial Corp. (TAXI) as a proxy for the medallion financing industry, it’s little wonder that the stock price has plummeted to about $2.00/share from a November 2013 peak of $17.75.

In fact, April 2015 when TAXI was still trading above $10/share, an article here posited, ‘Because Of Uber, Are Taxi Medallion Lenders A Shorting Opportunity?‘.

In other words is the competition from Uber decreasing the demand for taxi medallions causing the price of the medallions to drop thereby damaging the collateral of taxi medallion lenders?

In a word…yes!

So the lesson to be learned?

Whether real estate, mortgages, taxi medallions or any other investment, particularly in this age of technological disruptors and outside factors beyond our control contributing to price movement, diligence before and close monitoring of investments after they’ve been made becomes that much more critical!

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Do you know everything that you need to know about your title insurance?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

A New York City Air Rights Brouhaha!

Source: The Real Deal

The topic of New York City air rights is somewhat arcane, and an area of commercial real estate development that is not TRULY understood by many in the marketplace!

Recently the Hallmark Abstract Service blog had published an article titled, ‘Are Manhattan Air Rights Losing Some Of Their Luster?‘, that examined how as ‘the market for land sales in Manhattan has cooled amid a real estate slowdown, air rights trades have plummeted…’. This article also included links to articles providing more of an explanation about what air rights are.

But this slowdown in sales does not mean that air rights have become an irrelevant issue, as witnessed by a fight between two Soho developers over the strong desire of NYC buyers and renters to possess unobstructed views!

From an article at The Real Deal New York, ‘Dueling Soho developers beef over unobstructed views‘!

Agime Group accuses Madigan Development of using DOB to block project

Building a condo tower with 360-degree views is any developer’s dream. But what if the owner of the lot next door has the exact same idea?

That, in a nutshell, is what a new legal duel between Agime Group and Madigan Development is all about. Agime wants to build a 25-story, 287-foot-tall tower at 568-570 Broome Street in Hudson Square. Madigan wants to build a 290-foot tall apartment building next door at 111 Varick Street. Now Agime filed a lawsuit against the neighboring developer accusing it of trying to sabotage the rival project to preserve its own building’s views.

Agime, headed by Murat Agirnasli, is able to build 287 feet tall because the Department of Buildings designated the area in front of 570 Broome a so-called Wide Street, which increases the building’s maximum allowable height. According to a complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday, Madigan wrote to the DOB challenging the Wide Street designation and plans to appeal a ruling that upheld the designation. If Madigan gets its way, Agime will only be able to build 185 feet tall.

Agime alleges that Madigan wrote to the DOB in violation of a zoning lot development agreement prohibiting such interference because it wanted “to provide unobstructed views to the units on the upper floors of its building.”

Agime paid $31 million for the lot in 2014 and dished out another $10.2 million for air rights, according to a previous report and the complaint. Construction is already under way.

Agime’s attorney and Madigan did not respond to emails seeking comment.

The two firms aren’t the first developers to bicker over views. Extell Development threatened to block Vornado Realty Trust’s condo project 220 Central Park South because it would have blocked views from Extell’s Central Park Tower project. The two sides settled their dispute in 2013 by each agreeing to move their projects a little to the side.

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Do you know everything that you need to know about your title insurance?
For example…
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

Long Island History And The ‘New’ Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Eternal Flame!

Iwo Jima and the Greatest Generation

Yesterday I had the great privilege of attending the dedication ceremony for the Eternal Flame that honors our nations veterans at the newly renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum!

Of course the ceremony had the expected parade of local dignitaries and politicians step to the microphone, but more importantly you had the veterans from WW2 through Iraq and Afghanistan represented there for those of us who did not serve to honor.

That said for me the most incredible and inspirational part of the day was, by far, getting to meet and shake the hand of Angelo Ciotta.

Not a household name by any means, Angelo and thousands more like him from the Greatest Generation, helped to save the world fighting in World War 2.

Angelo, a Marine, fought in the battle of Iwo Jima and tells the story of how he was there at the bottom of the hill when the now historic picture that leads this article was taken.

Turning 92 this year, Angelo is one of a diminishing number of these WW2 heroes still alive to tell their story.

This is a short video of the Color Guard at the Eternal Flame ceremony, although the whipping wind unfortunately drowns out some of the sounds.

Getting Involved Helping Our Nations Veterans

If you’d like to do more to help our veterans there are any number of organizations out there doing great work.

I serve as Board Chair of the non-denominational combat veterans 501(c)(3) Heroes To Heroes Foundation.

Heroes To Heroes provides a spiritual healing program for veterans who have attempted suicide due to Moral Injury, Post-traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury suffered in combat. Approximately 85% of donations go directly towards the organization fulfilling its mission!

If you get a chance to read the articles below about us I’d love to get your thoughts.

Heroes To Heroes Foundation – Because 20 Veterans A Day In The United States Commit Suicide!

Fort Lee Entrepreneur Leaves Corporate World To Aid Veterans

Heroes To Heroes Foundation 2017 Golf Classic

Article written by Michael Haltman, Hallmark Abstract Service President and Heroes To Heroes Foundation Board Chair. 

Questions? He can be reached at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com or (516) 741-4723

 

 

 

Register Now For A Phenomenal (And Free) April 27th Networking Expo On Long Island, New York!

long island new york networking extravaganza

On April 27th the Long Island Hilton located in Melville, Long Island, New York, will be hosting the 2017 BOOM B2B Expo and Executive Speaker Conference!

Hallmark Abstract Service will be exhibiting and admission to the Exhibitor Hall is free, courtesy of the firm, by using mhaltman in the box that reads Discount Code at checkout.

Register for the event here, http://boombiznet.com/events-list/#!event/2017/4/27/boom-b2b-expo-executive-speaker-conference.

After you’ve registered, take a look at the incredible speakers that will be offering their expertise in a variety of areas throughout the nine conference rooms that will be running all day.

The twist on the Executive Speaker series is that when you sign-up to see one of them ($20 per session), the money spent will be donated directly to the charity represented by that specific room. For example Speaker Room #1 is going to be donating ALL proceeds to the wonderful 501(c)(3) Michael Magro Foundation!

You are not required to register to see a speaker, but the list of names in addition to the topics covered, are quite impressive

The BOOM B2B Expo and Executive Speaker Conference

The BOOM B2B EXPO & Executive Speaker Conference on will showcase some of Long Island’s premier companies and provide executive conferences that will enable business owners and professionals to further expand their businesses.

The Exhibitor Hall will contain over one hundred business exhibitors prepared to effectively communicate the value of their product or service. The Executive Speaker Conferences will be conducted by some of the regions most influential speakers on a wide variety of topics including accounting, legal, real estate, financial services, insurance, healthcare, marketing, technology, hospitality and more.

Register Here and use the Discount Code mhaltman at checkout for complimentary admission courtesy of Hallmark Abstract Service.