The chain of title is a clear and unbroken chronological record of the ownership of a specific piece of property. Tracing the chain of title simply means tracing the successive conveyances of title, starting with the current deed and going back a suitable number of years. Each owner is linked to the previous owner and the subsequent owner through deeds, forming a chain of title as disclosed in the public records.

A gap in the chain of title creates uncertainty, which is referred to as a cloud on the title, also called color of title. A cloud on the title could be something simple. For example, Sue Jones buys a house; she gets married and is now Sue Smith. When she sells the house, the grantor name on the deed is Sue Smith. This creates a break in the chain of title.

A suit to quiet title, also called a quiet title action, may be required to close any missing links and remove the cloud on the title. This is a lawsuit filed to determine and resolve problems of instruments conveying a particular piece of land. The purpose of this suit is to clear a particular, know claim, title defect, or perceived defect. To close the gap and clear the cloud on the title, the court may issue a quitclaim deed or a judicial deed.

A deed that falls outside of the chain of title is said to be a wild deed. Buyers and lenders are not held to have constructive notice of wild deeds. For example, Ann buys a house and records her deed. Later she sells the house to Bob, who does not record his deed. Bob sells the land to Curt, and Curt records his deed promptly. Now there is a break in the chain of title. The record shows only Ann’s deed and Curt’s deed, but the link between them (Bob’s deed) is missing, so Curt’s deed is a wild deed.

Ann is aware that Bob never recorded his deed and decides to sell the same property a second time. This time she sells it to Dan. Dan does not know about Bob or Curt, so he has no reason to look up those names in the grantee/grantor index. He looks up Ann’s name in the index, and as far as he can tell from the record, she still owns the property. So, Dan buys the house. Dan does not have constructive notice of Curt’s interest in the property, because Curt’s deed was outside the chain of title. So, this is why it is very important to understand the chain of title prior to buying a home and why lenders require that clear title be insured by a reputable title company.

Source by Joe Jesuele

Painter Kenneth Noland said,  “Context is key – from that comes the understanding of everything.”  Whether that is true in the world of art I could not tell you, but it is most certainly true in the world of economics. What are numbers but meaningless points? It is when those points are considered in the context of what has happened before and what we expect to happen in the future that they become imbued with meaning. With that in mind, I would like to revisit my 2020 thoughts on the U.S. housing market and compare those to where we are today — in the middle of one of the most epic years in our country’s history, due to COVID-19.

No doubt about it, the COVID crisis has taken some juice out of the 2020 housing market. The February housing data, pre-COVID, was juicy indeed. For the first time since the early part of the century, housing was the sector outperforming in the economy rather than a lackluster underperforming sector. If the February trend continued, total existing home sales would have been higher: we probably would have ended the year with sales between 5,7100,000 and 5,8400,000, a noticeable jump from last year’s number of roughly 5.3 million.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Even with today’s 6 million existing home sales print, we are down 3.2% compared to 2019 levels.

But, even with the COVID-19 crisis, we have had 17 straight weeks of double-digit year-over-year growth in MBA purchase applications data following a nine-week period of negative year-over-year numbers.

We have seen on average in the last 17 weeks roughly 20% year-over-year growth. But don’t expect the 20% plus year-over-year growth in purchase applications to continue. Some of the positive growth was catch-up demand from those nine weeks of a frozen market due to COVID-19. Even if growth fades toward single digits or even flat, this doesn’t mean a crash is coming in two weeks. If 2020 has taught you anything, it’s that the American housing bubble home price crash bears in the past few years have no idea what they’re talking about because all they care about is trolling for clicks — these are not real economic people. This is why I gave them the new nickname Forbearance Home Price Crash Bros.

The big question for the rest of 2020 is whether or not we will get total home sales of 6.2 million. The context for this number is that from 2008-2019 my belief was that we would have the weakest housing recovery ever, but in the years 2020-2024, our demographics for housing became vastly improved. I have never had a forecast of total home sales (new and existing home sales combined) 6.2 million or higher until this year. Today’s existing home report at 6 million and the solid growth in new home sales means we still have an outside shot to hit my 2020 high range forecast levels even with this pandemic. It is not out of the question that we can get to 6.2 million total home sales by the end of the year.

The new home sales market is doing well as it really benefits from lower mortgage rates. I have said for many years that we wouldn’t see total housing construction start a year at 1.5 million until the years 2020-2024 because we would need to start the year with over 737,000 new home sales in order for developers to see the need for that amount of building. 2020 is looking great on that front for the new home sales market and housing starts, which need more new home sales to warrant more single-family construction.

My biggest concern for housing in 2020-2024 is that real home prices could take off. Good housing demographics, housing tenure at 10 years and low mortgage rates are a perfect recipe for unhealthy home-price growth. The median sales price is now 11.4% higher than a year ago. I’m not saying that home-price growth will somehow morph into a speculation bubble like it did in the 2000s — our credit lending standards will prevent that — but housing could become considerably less affordable even with low mortgage rates if this continues.

Because housing is becoming an outperforming asset, we may see an increase in cash buyers in 2021 as a percent of sales. In today’s existing home sales report they were at 18%. Housing may be an attractive place to park money for yield returns when yields are low elsewhere, and this could also increase demand slightly in 2021. I wouldn’t put too much weight on this story because it’s a smaller portion of total home-sales demand.

The reality for housing has always been the same: Housing is the cost of shelter to your own capacity to own the debt, it’s not an investment. The majority of home buyers in America buy homes to live in, not for an investment. This is the big difference between the housing market now and what we saw in 2002-2005, when we saw a lot of speculation going on. 

Rates, of course, still matter. Mortgage rates are one of the primary drivers of demand. Housing demand slowed when the 10-year yield went above 2.62% in the previous expansion. In this market, expect cooling when the 10-year yield goes above 1.94%. For the next several years the housing market is going to be a battle between good demographics driving demand and affordability keeping demand in check.

This is why I believe if we ever get total home sales above 6.2 million in years 2020-2024 I will consider this an outperforming metric compared to what we saw from 2008-2019. However, we are nowhere close to the speculation demand we saw during the bubble years of 2002-2005. Context is key!

Also, we are nearing our peak sales capacity on these monthly sales prints for 2020. If you see a lower rate of growth sales print in the future, don’t be a fragile housing crash bear, this mindset hasn’t ended well for those that believe home sales demand is going to crash just because of a lower monthly print. It’s sporadic in the 21st century to have any existing home sales print below 4 million. It’s only happened three times this century and two of those events were one-off items such as the home-buyer tax credit and this year with the low level of sales due to COVID-19, just a tad under 4 million.

The existing home sales demand market isn’t overheating as we are still down compared to 2019 levels. Context is key! 2019 was a very healthy year for housing in that we had negative year-over-year real price gains and sales stayed flat. But more recently, price growth is rising higher as demand has picked up.  We are at levels now that depend too much on lower rates. So I’m rooting for negative real home price growth again but finding it harder to get there with demand so good and rates so low. 

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The Federal Reserve approved a revamp of the anti-redlining rules known as the Community Reinvestment Act, or CRA, in a live-streamed meeting on Monday morning and gave 120 days for community and industry feedback.

The move comes four months after Joseph Otting, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, stepped down a day after releasing his controversial reforms of CRA. Housing groups sued the OCC in June for “unlawfully eviscerating the vital anti-redlining rules.”

Usually, federal regulators would speak in unison on proposals to revamp rules such as the CRA, but the Fed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. declined to sign onto Otting’s proposal.

“Today the Federal Reserve Board unanimously approved an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that would strengthen, clarify, and tailor the CRA regulation to better meet the law’s core purpose,” Lael Brainard, a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, said in a speech to the Urban Institute following the release. “Research and surveys indicate that there are ongoing racial disparities in access to credit.”

In 2019, small businesses with Black ownership were only half as likely as those with White ownership to have obtained bank financing in the previous five years, she said.

“And, the gap in homeownership rates between Black and White households remains significant today, even when controlling for differences in income and education,” Brainard said.

Brainard said the new proposal will “modernize the CRA in a way that significantly expands financial inclusion.”

One proposed change is to assign a “nationwide assessment area” for online banks, rather than continue with the current practice of assigning them the area where their headquarters is located.

The National Housing Conference, a fierce critic of the OCC’s reform of CRA, said the Fed’s proposal could lead the way to a united approach to modernizing the CRA.

The Fed’s approach “is likely to improve investment to low- and moderate-income households and communities,” the housing group said in a statement.

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My mother’s village, Santa Caterina dello Ionio, was perched high up on a mountain top. Each day at 5am I begged my aunts to take me with them to my grandfather’s orto (vegetable garden) he had named ‘Giangi’, which was a good half hour’s hike downhill into the gorge…

We came across people who got to their farms way before we even got out of bed. The aroma of baking bread made my stomach growl and I could see the tiny flames glowing inside their brick and stone ovens as we continued down the path.

I knew we had arrived at nonno’s orto when I saw the rivulet, more like a brook, gently meandering through the bottom of his property. One of my aunts lifted hefty boulders to block the water’s flow and create a pool where she would wash our clothes, beating them on the rocks before drying them on a branch of the nearby gigantic fig tree that looked hundreds of years old.

We were deep in a revine, and as I looked up I saw the most wonderful garden built on steps on the side of the mountain. My other aunt took me to the water reservoir nonno had built after returning from Philadelphia U.S.A. around 1908. It was called ‘u concu’. All she had to do was lift a wooden panel and water began flowing through all the pathways especially designed to water everything. I could sense my nonno’s spirit everywhere, and although I had never met my grandparents I felt them in my heart, as if they were sending me their love. They were humble hard-working souls who had endured much through World War 2 and had accepted their lot in life. Tears welled in my eyes.

Our first bit of food was at 11am when the church a couple of hundred meters above us tolled its bells helping farmers keep time. Watches were a luxury no-one could afford.

After helping gather some figs, also fica d’India (prickly pears) and more, we sat in the little casetta – the stone house nonno fixed up, but I was told it was originally built centuries ago. Brunch consisted of aromatic slices of Calabrese salami, hard cheese (Pecorino, I think), and yummy crusty Calabrese bread and a jug of that fresh mountain dew water from nonno’s concu… I was in heaven and felt what Eden must have looked like. This is my Calabria as I remember it… This is my experience in Calabria 1964… Memories of a little boy in Giangi, my Garden Eden…

Source by Sal Provino

I have proven to myself, most prayerfully, that the Philadelphia Church of God is the most unique of all the groups who’ve distanced themselves from the Worldwide Church of God’s devious doctrinal changes. Only Malachi’s Message clearly speaks with AUTHORITY and not “like the scribes” (Matt. 7:29). I’ve listened carefully for THE Voice of the Shepherd, hearing what the Spirit says to God’s Church today, checking out everything with the Bible and what Mr. Armstrong faithfully taught us (John 10:3; Rev. 3:22; 2 Thess. 2:15).

Of course, there are those who claim to follow the traditions we’ve been schooled in, yet they’ve refused to humble themselves and submit to the fact that JESUS CHRIST had already moved HIS LAMPSTAND by the time they finally saw the light! All that was necessary for them to do was to go where Christ had already gone, and support HIS WORK of knocking the errors in the Worldwide Church of God, while holding on for dear life to God’s truth! We either GET A GRIP – or we lose it! (Rev. 3:11).

Instead of working with Christ, some have chosen to do their own thing, contributing to the Church’s state of confusion, rather than helping to RESTORE ORDER (1 Cor. 14:33). Why duplicate efforts, wasting precious time and money? Why not join ranks with the PCG so we can present a UNITED FRONT to an increasingly divided world? This would enable us to effectively share with others the message GOD would have them to hear (John 12:49). We ought to come together, in Christ, especially since we’ve all been taught repeatedly: “There is only one Church. Not a parent church and many little daughter churches that have split off in disagreement. Divisions splintering off are NOT STILL IN THE CHURCH” (Mystery of the Ages, pg. 243).

Whether we like it or not, God, in His infinite wisdom, chose Gerald Flurry to reveal to God’s Church what was going on – and thereby allow us to show our true colors by how we responded to Malachi’s Message. (That doesn’t mean Mr. Flurry is infallible or that he doesn’t need to continually apply the principles of Malachi’s Message to himself and organization, as we all do as explained in my article “Worldwide All Over Again?”).

Restored to Zion!

If I’m so convinced that Christ is only with the PCG, and that the others are self-willed, for the most part, resisting God’s lead, why don’t I attend their services? (Matt. 7:21; 1 Sam. 15:23). And how can I believe that God is actively working through me in the Middle East? Because I’ve unjustly been disfellowshipped (2 Thess. 3:2), yet I remain loyal to God’s truth they teach!

It’s BEWILDERING to see an organization that apparently started out so good and strong and righteous degenerate into a personality CULT that rules through intimidation and fear and borders emperor worship! Yet they have more truth in many regards than the others, just like Herbert W. Armstrong saw Sardis (Church of God, 7th Day) did, however impotent. Strange but true! Perhaps it’s like Saul was still the anointed until he was punished by death for his sins and then David reigned…..

When Gerald Flurry wasn’t anything in his own sight or mind God used him and now, unfortunately, it appears to have gone to his head, all the new revelation (simply a deeper understanding of some things), and he forgets that all truth is from and belongs to GOD and that God can use a donkey to deliver it! (1 Cor. 4:7). Gerald Flurry has become so swollen in his own imagination that he fails to see that he is the leader of LAODICEA! He knows what warning God is giving the Laodiceans, of which he is chief! He had better heed his own words!

Under Herbert Armstrong Pasadena, California was the headquarters of the Philadelphia era of God’s Church; now Edmond, Oklahoma is the headquarters of the Laodicean era, and next in God’s plan is the restoration of His headquarters to Jerusalem!

God knows my attitude and actions still support the work God’s given them to do, but I truly believe what Gerald Flurry teaches: their work’s almost finished! It’ll just slightly overlap the beginning of GOD’S FINAL WORK as outlined in my book, Beyond Babylon: Europe’s Rise and Fall (John 3:30). Minister Dennis Leap wickedly disfellowshipped me for believing that GOD has ORDAINED that I should promote its timely truth (Isa. 61:1), even though I’m not from the “school of the prophets” (Ambassador College), or going about it in the “conventional” way (1 Sam. 17:39).

I’ve come to better understand that God has already begun the transitional process of RESTORING His Menorah – His Lampstand to JERUSALEM! (1 Kgs. 11:36; Amos 9:11). As prophesied, a NATIONAL MESSENGER will be on active duty in Jerusalem, preparing the way for Messiah’s imminent return(Zech. 12:8). God reveals He would send this outspoken individual to deliver a BLISTERING MESSAGE and a SCORCHING CONDEMNATION to the NATIONS – just before NUCLEAR FIRE AND BRIMSTONE RAINS DOWN upon those who’ve rejected GOD’S ULTIMATUM! (Isa. 41:27; 30:27; Micah 3:8).

It’s from Jerusalem that we must warn another HOLOCAUST is coming! That’s the sensitive location where God will spark a NATIONAL DEBATE and ignite an INTERNATIONAL CONTROVERSY! (Micah 6:1-2). It’ll shock the Jews and anger the Germans! It’ll undoubtedly offend many holocaust survivors who now live in Israel, but they ought to understand and lend their voices of experience to ours, having personally witnesses GERMANY’S BRUTE FORCE, to help our efforts to ensure “Never Again!”

Regardless, we can expect a maelstrom of protest and a bitter backlash — but such persecution will only fan the flames of this BURNING ISSUE! (Isa. 54:15-16). Both Germany and Israel (for their own reasons), will want to immediately stop such “incitement” — calling it fear-mongering and racist — but they’ll fail and God’s Word will prevail (Jer. 1:19).

God must grant “political immunity” to His Two Witnesses, so they can be free to boldly say and do all that He commands, even though the world will regard them as public enemy number one! (Ps. 105:15; Rev. 11:10). Undeterred, they’ll carry on God’s Work and serve as His official government spokesmen, even in the hostile face of fierce opposition (Jer. 1:8). But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is all related in Beyond Babylon, but let’s go back to the beginning – of the true Philadelphian era….

Experiences of Mr. Armstrong

In the words of Mr. Armstrong, referring to his dealings with certain Sardis ministers, “I Shall Not Hide the FACTS!” (Autobiography of HWA, Vol. 1, pg. 366). However, lest I be misunderstood, I’d been most hesitant to say or write anything about my experiences with certain professing Philadelphian ministers, but I feel compelled by GOD to state the truth, without fearing men’s reactions, but trusting in God’s PURPOSE!

Mr. Armstrong relates how he had presented a “dual test” to the Church of God, Seventh Day, to help him determine whether or not it truly was the Church of God. His first test involved mailing an “exposition of 16 TYPEWRITTEN PAGES proving clearly, plainly, and beyond contradiction that a certain minor point of doctrine… was in error… to see whether their leaders would confess error and change.” Their leader admitted what Mr. Armstrong pointed out was true, but feared it might upset many of the members and even threaten to divide the Church! “Naturally, this shook my confidence considerably.” (Autobiography of HWA, Vol. 1, pgs. 360-361, emphasis mine).

I, too, detected “a certain minor point of doctrine” taught by Dennis Leap (on the 144,000), was in error. I didn’t want to rock the boat, and it wasn’t something I’d lose sleep over, so I wanted to just ignore or overlook the matter, but God wouldn’t let me! Amazingly, a dear friend asked me about the 144,000 out of the blue, and then somehow it came up again with someone else; so God succeeded in getting my attention to write Dennis Leap about it. I sent him my PAGE AND 1/2 LETTER, reproduced here — and didn’t hear anything.

Finally, around my third try (I don’t give up easily!), Dennis Leap discussed it with me on the phone. When I mentioned that the Scriptures clearly state that once you’ve broken your “seal” you’ve lost your salvation, and to claim we can somehow be “resealed” amounts to crucifying Christ twice, Dennis Leap stammered around, unable to justify his position, but remained determined to stick with it — to my sorrow. Like Herbert W. Armstrong’s experience, “Naturally, this shook my confidence considerably.”

Church Rejects New Truth

God used an evangelist in Florida to challenge Mr. Armstrong. He had written Mr. Armstrong and told him he was ignorant if he didn’t know where we are mentioned in the Bible. After gleaning through the surprising amount of information on the subject in the library, Mr. Armstrong PROVED that the so-called “Lost 10 Tribes” are, in fact, the American, British and Northwest European peoples. He then sent the “lengthy manuscript of close to 300 TYPED PAGES” that he had written to support this truth to the editor and leader of the Church. “Did this Church accept and proclaim this vital new truth… But this Church refused then to accept it or preach it or publish it though their leader frankly confessed it was TRUTH and a revelation from GOD! Yet here was the Church which appeared to have more truth, and less error than any other… Truly this was bewildering!” (Pg. 362)…

Philadelphia Church of God Leads Laodicean Era (Conclusion)

Source by David Ben-Ariel

The group of people advising former Vice President Joe Biden on the economy is dominated by people who worked in the Obama administration, according to Beacon Policy Advisors.

Biden has surrounded himself with economic advisers that offer viewpoints ranging from progressive to more middle-of-the-road, Beacon said in a report to clients.

Biden will “continue rolling out more specific economic policies as the election comes closer,” the report said. “In particular, there could be increasing detail if the Biden campaign believes it can flip the script on President Trump and be perceived as better able to handle the economy. Otherwise, Biden will likely continue to be relatively vague to maintain the election as a referendum on Trump.”

Economic advisors cited in the report include:

Jeffrey Zients: In the Obama administration, Zients was director of the National Economic Council, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and an economic advisor to Obama. He played a “crucial role” in fixing the early-day website problems with when the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, went live, the Beacon report said. In the Obama White House, he played a key role as the negotiator with Congress on tax and budget agreements. At the time, he proposed lowering the corporate tax rate from the then 35% to something in the high 20s, which is where Biden would look to increase it to after the Republican’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 lowered it to 21%, Beacon said.

Jared Bernstein: Bernstein previously served as chief economist and economic adviser to Biden, as well as being the executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class and a member of President Barack Obama’s economic team from 2009 to 2011. After leaving the White House, he became a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that analyzes the impact of federal and state government budget policies.

In a Vox article last year, Bernstein outlined four assumptions he said have limited economic policy: A mistaken estimation of the natural rate of unemployment; the view that globalization benefits everyone; the theory that deep budget deficits will limit investment; and that a higher minimum wage will only hurt workers.

“Given Bernstein’s close history with Biden, he is someone who we anticipate will have a major influence on the administration’s economic policies,” the Beacon report said. “Since he is also a PhD economist, Bernstein could also make the move from the White House to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and would be a relatively uncontroversial choice for that role, compared to other economic advisors.”

Heather Boushey: If Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 presidential election, Boushey would have served as the chief economist of her transition team. Now, she is one of Biden’s key advisors on the economy, according to the Beacon report. Boushey is CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a spinoff from the Center for American Progress that focuses on policies promoting broad-based economic growth – in other words, an economy that benefits everyone, not just the wealthy. Boushey testified to Congress in July in front of the Joint Economic Committee on the Coronavirus Recession advocating for COVID-19 response policies including an extension of the $600 a week beefed-up unemployment benefits, federal aid to state and local governments struggling with the costs of responding to the pandemic, rental assistance, direct payments to low- and middle-income families, small business aid, funding for safe elections, and hazard pay for essential workers that would increase their salaries during the health crisis.

“Boushey is best known for her push to reduce inequality, and her research highlighting how inequality limits economic growth across the economy,” the Beacon report said.

Ben Harris: Harris was Biden’s chief economist and chief economic advisor from 2014 through the January 2017 end of the Obama administration. Harris’ main interests are tax and budgetary issues as well as Social Security. If the Biden administration pursues any reforms or expansions of the Social Security program, including a transfer to ensure the trust fund does not run out, Harris will likely be the administration’s lead, the Beacon report said. Harris “has been an advocate for increased stimulus from Congress, seeing the last stimulus as good though some of it going to companies that were not in need of the money they received,” the report said.

Felicia Wong: Wong is the president of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive economic think tank that seeks to carry forward the values of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who steered the U.S. out of the Great Depression, and his wife, Eleanor. Earlier this year, Wong criticized the Heroes Act, the COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House of Representatives at the end of May, for not going far enough.

“Wong will certainly be one of the more progressive voices advising Biden, but her ideas will be taken seriously and some may be adopted in a modified form as a compromise towards the progressive wing of the party,” the Beacon report said.

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First-time homebuyer activity decreased mostly in part due to the economic effects of the pandemic, but it still remains the most active segment in the purchase space of the housing market.

During the second quarter, 539,000 single-family homes were purchased by first-time homebuyers, down 4.6% compared to last year, according to Genworth Mortgage Insurance. This represented 40% of single-family homes purchased during Q2, Genworth said.

Compared to the first quarter of this year, it is an 18% drop.

“The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the U.S. economy into the sharpest recession on record in March,” Tian Liu, Genworth’s chief economist said. “The housing market also began correcting in April, resulting in an 18% decrease in the number of first-time homebuyers in the second quarter compared to the first quarter. A quick rebound in May moderated the market decline.”

Although buyer purchasing power has increased, many may not be able to find a home that’s affordable due to high home prices as a result of low inventory.

In 35 states and Puerto Rico, there were fewer first-time homebuyers in the second quarter of 2020 than the second quarter of the prior year. In 15 states and Washington, D.C., there were actually more first-time homebuyers reported.

The report also noted that first-time homebuyers relied on smaller down payments for their mortgages.

Overall, 449,000 first-time homebuyers used some form of low down payment mortgage products to finance their home purchase in the second quarter, roughly 83% of all first-time homebuyers. That’s a record, according to Genworth.

Between April and June, Genworth researchers found that the number of rate locks by first-time homebuyers increased by 55% and no states reported negative growth.

Rate locks of over 100% between April and June happened in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan.

Liu said that despite the challenge the pandemic handed first-time homebuyers, credit availability was maintained in the housing finance system, as the private mortgage insurance industry played a huge role.

“The main reasons that the housing finance system has largely maintained credit availability to date include a focus on prudent underwriting, having adequate capital in the financial system, a significant presence for the agency market that will take credit risk during periods of market stress, and continued investment in technology to make the industry capacity more elastic,” Liu said.

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Before the Apostle John was taken in the Spirit to record the future events of the Revelation, he was instructed to record our Lord’s first and only personal address to the Church (Revelation, Chapters 2 & 3): seven separate letters to seven specific churches that existed during John’s day.

  • Ephesus
  • Smyrna
  • Pergamos
  • Thyatira
  • Sardis
  • Philadelphia
  • Laodicea

These were real churches with real issues and Jesus responded to an actual condition particular to that congregation; sometimes commendatory, sometimes critical; but adapted perfectly to the particular situation He discovered in each.

But they were not random selections. Jesus specifically addressed these seven churches because each had a condition representative of the church as a whole in all ages and continue to exist in all churches today. Their problems are our problems. The Lord therefore still speaks with a message as relevant for our churches and for each of us today as it was to those in the first century.

Jesus concludes each letter with a warning to the individual: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” May we hear and heed what Christ, through the Spirit, says to us personally concerning these matters.

EPHESUS (2:1-7)


Jesus applauds the works of the Ephesians. They labored hard to serve the church, persevered in their duties with patience, didn’t tolerate evil members, rejected false teachers and doctrines, and they did it gladly for His name’s sake without growing weary. “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Our Lord’s issue with Ephesus was clearly not the quantity or the quality of their works, for He emphasizes both a zeal and steadfastness. Instead, Jesus was identifying a departure from their earlier “first love”. Though this is not explained, because love for God and love for one another are the two greatest commandments, allow me to speculate what might have been happening.

Rather than a passionate desire to worship God as it was in the beginning, church attendance became an obligation or force of habit; and fellowship, once a fervent love for one another, became argumentative and divisive. In other words, that early love where we denied self, gladly abandoned all that displeases God, and joyfully embraced fellowship one with another had waned in Ephesus and the members were simply “going through the motions without emotion.”

In response, Jesus calls the Ephesians to remember, repent, and return to the place from where they had fallen otherwise He would remove their “lampstand” from its place and essentially put it “on the shelf”. That is, He would disqualify their service as a light-bearer to uphold and illuminate Him to the world and would no longer effectively use them for opportunities to shine the light of the gospel unto others.

As Christians, we are the light of the world; vessels empowered by the Holy Spirit to enlighten hearts with the true love and glory of God in His Son, Jesus Christ. When our hearts no longer abound in love, however, we quench the work of the Spirit and thereby render our witness and testimony inadequate to serve as a lamp to uphold Jesus, who is the light. May our worship, works and fellowship always flow from a pure heart genuinely in love with Jesus that we may present ourselves as a vessel sanctified and useful for God to proclaim His great love to those dwelling in darkness.

SMYRNA (2:8-11)


The church at Smyrna is the Lord’s choice to illustrate the suffering church and its needs. As such, their message is one of comfort and the first of only two churches in these letters Jesus has only praise for.

Smyrna was under severe persecution from a malignant group of Jews that Jesus calls blasphemous members of the “synagogue of “Satan”-vile men falsely claiming to be Jews spiritually who were being used as instruments of the devil to vehemently oppose Christ and His Church.

Christians suffer persecution because the world hates God. Some are light afflictions like ridicule, false accusations, scorn, or perhaps the loss of friendships, while others are heavier afflictions of imprisonment and death such as our dear brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are enduring. God alone knows why the disparity. But the Sufferer surrounds all His suffering ones and none of us ever passes through any trial of unjust persecution or worldly contempt that He has not known, overcome, and has promised to see us through.

In response, Jesus calls for the members to not be afraid but to remain faithful throughout the affliction and torment and death. That by their patient endurance they would pass through the trials as He did and thereafter be rewarded with a crown of life and an everlasting joy in the world to come; never again to be hurt by the first death, or empowered by the second death.

As Christians, we will suffer in this life when we desire to live godly for Jesus because it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. This seems strange because suffering is difficult. But our afflictions for Christ are gifts from God working for us a far more exceeding and internal weight of glory: the promise of joy unspeakable when His glory is revealed. Still, we never suffer alone. Our risen Lord stands with us and His Spirit covers us with sufficient grace. May we follow Jesus through suffering with patience, knowing God has appointed it for our blessing in anticipation of the eternal hope of glory He has laid up for us in heaven.

PERGAMOS (2:12-17)


Jesus commends the church for holding fast to His name and maintaining a true faith in Him all the while surrounded by temples and shrines and innumerable idols in the darkest center of pagan abominations He refers to as “Satan’s seat.”

As with Ephesus, the issue Jesus had with Pergamos was not about their lack of steadfastness to His name. Jesus rebukes the congregation for permitting ungodly men with carnal doctrines into the church. Seemingly Pergamos had not yet embraced their teachings, but by harboring and giving a seat to these false teachers they allowed a spirit of compromise with evil and seductive practices taught by the world to infiltrate the church.

In response, Jesus calls for the congregation to repent for allowing false teachers to freely coexist in the church and influence other members into accepting their pagan practices. “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” How this intervention would play out is uncertain, but the prospect of our Lord fighting members in the congregation with the same verbal sword which one day He will smite the nations should strike fear in the church.

The issue for Pergamos was thinking that the church has the authority to decide what is right or wrong rather than identifying with the person of Jesus Christ and recognizing that He has given us the Word of God through the Holy Spirit as our only authority. In other words, the congregation blindly permitted the presence of heretics based upon church allowances rather than searching the Scriptures themselves to “test the spirits” whether they were of God.

As Christians, we’re warned that many false prophets are in the world. We must therefore test every doctrine by the doctrinal truth taught by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God to expose beliefs taught by the spirit of this world. In fact, we’re guilty of compromise when we say nothing even though we aren’t practicing such things. We are the salt of the earth. May we always do the work of an evangelist when confronted by worldly philosophies and use the opportunity to preach the Word to convince, rebuke, and exhort with longsuffering and teaching those deceived by the lie, that in hearing they might believe the truth and be saved.

THYATIRA (2:18-29)


Our Lord gives honorable mention of the works, charity, faith and patience in Thyatira, even emphasizing that their latter works had grown more impressive than their earlier works. Still, the congregation was far from a right relationship with the Son of God and is sternly rebuked.

Thyatira was found guilty of entrusting an evil and bewitching “prophetess” named Jezebel to influence and teach the congregation into mingling pagan practices and idolatry with Christian works and worship as if she had supernatural revelation and divine approval to impose it.

As such, Thyatira represents the apostate church evolved. It not only enabled a false system of heresy entrance into the church as did Pergamos, but exalted it by granting “that woman Jezebel” authority to publicly introduce and beguile the congregation with her ungodly pagan rituals, idols, ceremonies and traditions.

Whether Jesus was identifying this woman by her actual name or merely pin-pointing a particular female member of the congregation who had been corrupting the church in the manner of the abominable ancient Queen Jezebel is unclear. Nonetheless some evil woman representative of a diabolical system did exist in Thyatira and is still very much influencing the Church today.

In response, Jesus levies a strong admonition of sickness against her and great tribulation and death against those unrepentant members who became converts and commit adultery with her. To those not holding to her doctrine He commands to hold fast with a cautionary warning not to let others wrest the truth away from them.

As Christians, we are unique because we proclaim one God, one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and only one inspired revelation of God, the Bible. The world exalts diversity of belief and is content for everybody to have his own religious beliefs as if they all had equal merit-but Christianity is contrary to all of that! Christianity absolutely does not permit any part of the traditions, ceremonies, rituals or doctrines of any religious system to be mixed or mingled into it. Jesus is more than the man of history other religions acknowledge. He claimed to be God, was put to death for this claim, and His resurrection substantiated this claim. May we always rightly divide the word of truth to expose and openly reject any clergy, priest, theologian or religious organization that preaches any other gospel regardless how righteous and holy they appear.

SARDIS (3:1-6)

“Spiritually Dead”

The Sardis letter contains no approval of good works or condemnation for blatant wickedness, only a searing admonition that all the while they outwardly appeared as a church alive in Christ, inwardly there was no life; they were dead and in dire need of the quickening power of the Holy Spirit.

Seemingly Sardis had once been known as a strong, Christ-honoring church, so they still had a name as a church in Christ, a pastoral leadership, and evidently most members were “professing” Christians. But other than using His name and conducting church, they denied the realities of the doctrine of salvation and were not reborn of the Spirit. The sad truth is that they were unsaved members just going through the motions of pseudo-Christianity unaware they had not passed from death to life.

In response, Jesus calls upon the unsaved members to repent because they would not be found blameless at His Coming. To the few genuine believers who were truly saved, He calls worthy of eternal life.

Salvation is a gift of God by grace through faith, not the result of our good works or good behavior or our membership in a church. We must be born again. We must admit that we’re sinners willing to turn away from sin, believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and resurrected again to achieve our salvation, and then ask Him to become our Lord and Savior. As we do, we are instantly “born again” from above and given a new nature and a new heart and a spiritual life sealed by the indwelling of His Spirit for the day of redemption. There is no other way; this is where eternal life begins.

As Christians, we became new creatures in Christ entirely different from what we were before by our new birth. We were spiritually reborn as a child of God into His family and by His Spirit God now lives within us. May we always be influenced and empowered to walk and live and be led by the Holy Spirit, for it is His Spirit that God has given us and to everyone that believeth.



This church was maintaining a faithful witness in the midst of general apostasy and unbelief and is commended for keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His name and the letter is without any rebuke or suggestion of judgment.

Philadelphia was not found guilty of the sins practiced in Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira and Sardis. Their love was sincere, they tested the spirits to keep out false teachers, rightly divided the word to prevent mixing worldly philosophies with the true gospel, and they were born-again by the Holy Spirit. As such, they represent the persevering, spiritually awakened and faithful church that keeps His word and does not deny His deity or His completed work on the cross.

In response, Jesus promises to set before them an “open door, and no man can shut it”, and to keep them from “the hour of trial, which shall come upon the whole world, to test them that dwell upon the earth.” Both promises apply to the church as a whole in what I deem to be a significant way.

Our Lord’s first assurance is that He has set before it an “open door” to preach the gospel throughout the world as an instrument for salvation despite any attempt to prevent it. This, of course, has been the case for the Church from the beginning and explains why it has survived two thousand years of adversity and opposition and continues to spread the gospel throughout the world today.

The second is somewhat more controversial but I believe is one of the key verses supporting the doctrine of the rapture of the believing church. The “hour of trial which shall come upon the whole earth” refers to the future tribulation described by the prophets as seven years of calamity, chaos and judgment poured from the vials of God’s wrath unlike anything the world or man has ever experienced. This is a time of vengeful judgment. But given our Lord’s assurance to deliver Philadelphia from this coming hour, we must therefore conclude that genuine believers will be delivered by Christ Himself before the appointed wrath as He returns to take them by resurrection and rapture to be with Him.

As Christians, we’re deserving of nothing and yet have been given exceedingly great and precious promises. Let us remain steadfast to keep His Word and with patience and perseverance hold fast to the crown given us for our work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. We can be comforted to know that we may be caught up at any moment to meet the Lord in the air for Jesus says, “Behold, I come quickly!” Let us therefore watch and be sober that we need not be ashamed at His appearance. Let us be confident we have fought the good fight so we can boldly respond without any uncertainty, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

LAODICEA (3:14-22)


This is a strong rebuke against a church that allowed their wealth and financial well-being to blind them to the reality of their own spiritual depravity and contains no Godly praise or the mentioning of any good works and no indication that any member was above approach.

The issue for Laodicea was that they allowed worldly possessions and fascinations to dilute their burning desire for the Lord Jesus Christ until they became spiritually lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-neither fervent for God, nor bitterly opposed to God. But they had drifted so far away from an intimacy with God that they lacked the spiritual compass to recognize it. In their own worldly eyes they felt no need to change things because they were comfortable just as they were.

In response, Jesus calls for them to “wake up and see” the truth about the wretched and miserable state they were in because their condition was repugnant to Him and would lead to chastening. “I am about to spew you out of My mouth.” And yet, upon a church whose hearts had shut Jesus out, the risen Lord still yearns to restore fellowship with them. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.”

Unlike Sardis whom Jesus warned of judgment because they had not attained salvation, this is a plea from our heavenly Father to a “prodigal son” whom He loves and continues to pursue, but also will rebuke and discipline as a son in order to uncover and correct the problem. God alone knows what manner of chastening, but at the very least I believe they would no longer be partakers of the abundant life and fullness of joy promised to those who abide in Him, and He in them-at the very least they would lose the joy of their salvation and live sad spiritually unfulfilled lives.

As Christians, our fervent desire to know and draw closer to God more intimately can quickly cool by any circumstance that provides a sense of contentment. Wealth and prosperity, certainly, because money supplies material things without a need to call upon God; and over time, by devoting less time in prayer and supplication before God we simply connect with Him less. The issue however isn’t a satisfactory life style, for contentment with godliness is great gain because it’s finding joy in what God has given to us. The issue is when we take God out of the equation: feeling enriched enough with ourselves to devote less time in prayer and worship, reading the Word, exercising our spiritual gifts, and fellowshipping with the saints. This is the danger zone-when we become satisfied spending less time with God rather than thirsting for more-this is what summons our Lord to beckon and discipline if necessary. May we continue earnestly praying for God to search our hearts and minds so He can reveal any wicked way in us that requires correction. He loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son that we may have life and that eternally. How can we not but love Him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and strength?

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” – Hebrews 13:20-21

Source by James Kobzeff

Mortgage applications decreased 2.5% last week after seeing some positivity the week prior, according to a report from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The refinance index decreased 4% compared to the week prior but remains 30% higher than the same week last year.

According to Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, demand for refinances may be slowing due to remaining borrowers waiting for another sizable drop in rates.

Purchase applications decreased slightly by 1% from the week prior on a seasonally adjusted basis, while the unadjusted purchase index decreased 12% compared to the week prior. However, the purchase index was 6% higher than the same week last year.

“Applications to buy a home also decreased last week, but the underlying trend remains strong,” Kan said. “Purchase activity has outpaced year-ago levels for 17 consecutive weeks, with a stronger growth in loans with higher balances pushing MBA’s average loan size to a new survey high of $370,200.”

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 2.3% of total applications.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of this week’s mortgage application data:

  • The FHA’s share of mortgage apps decreased to 9.7% from 10.2% the week prior.
  • The VA share of applications increased to 12.3% from 11.2% the week prior.
  • The USDA share of total applications decreased to 0.5% from 0.6% the week prior.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($510,400 or less) remained unchanged at 3.07%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $510,400) increased to 3.41% from 3.40% the week prior.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA remained unchanged at 3.16%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 2.61% from 2.62% the week prior.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 3.20% from 2.99% the week prior.

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This article was written for FinLedger, HW Media’s new fintech focused news brand designed specifically for financial services professionals in banking, payments, insurance and proptech. Register for the FinLedger Daily Newsletter.

The virtual notary services industry has become increasingly popular amid the COVID-19 pandemic as businesses have adopted remote signatures to adhere to social distancing protocols while closing on mortgages and other loans.

Dealmaking in the virtual notary services space rose despite the pandemic. In July, DocuSign acquired  Austin-based startup Liveoak Technologies for $38 million in an all-stock transaction. Digital notary platform Notarize also closed on a $35 million Series C round of funding in March, raising a total of $82 million with investments from real-estate focused venture capital firm Camber Creek, Boston-based Polaris Partners, and other existing strategic investors.

Companies like Liveoak, which has financial institutions as customers, utilize web-based videoconferencing, identity verification and other tools to complete an auditable transaction remotely. These remote online notarizations (RONs) avoid the traditional in-person contact. Notaries are being hired by these companies, but their work is conducted solely online. 

Consumer loans such as mortgages and other financial documents require notarization. Remote online notarization allows the notary act to be performed remotely and contactlessly instead of in-person. Digital adoption has been hampered by state laws since a federal law that outlines practices for remote online notarizations does not exist. The laws related to virtual notary services are passed by individual state legislatures. 

Virginia became the first state to authorize remote notarization via live audio-video technology in 2011 with the passage of House Bill 2318/Senate Bill 827. There are 27 states that have enacted a form of a RON law, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, according to a report written by law firm DLA Piper.  

Remote online notarizations are digital experiences that mirror the traditional notarial act, said Pat Kinsel, CEO of Notarize, a Boston-based notary public platform. A signer such as a customer closing on a loan appears before a notary on a video call and they complete, sign and notarize the document, he said. Each video session is recorded and retained along with an audit trail of the transaction.

“Signers only connect with a notary after completing several additional security measures, including personal identity challenge questions and credential analysis of their government-issued identification,” Kinsel said. 

Electronic closings supported by remote online notarization (RON) offer advantages to notaries, borrowers and lenders. The notary’s traditional “stare and compare” of the ID is further supported by credential analysis and knowledge-based authentication (KBA), reducing the risk of fraud or errors, said Camelia Martin, managing director, digital mortgage advisory with Falcon Capital Advisors, a Washington, D.C. business advisory firm in real estate, mortgage finance, digital mortgage, banking and capital markets.

“Borrowers can complete the closing from the comfort and safety of their own homes,” she said. “If the transaction is ever challenged, the lender has the ability to access an audit trail and an audio-video recording of the online notarization session.” 

Since March, Notarize said its business rose exponentially – by over 500% – since the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses and consumers to rely on remote, digital notarizations to complete critical transactions, including commercial agreements, retirement withdrawals, healthcare proxies, home closings and refinancings. 

“The pandemic has fast-tracked market acceptance and business operations for Notarize and RON as a category,” Kinsel said. 

Demand for Notarize’s platform rose the most for real estate transactions with over $7 billion ordered in June 2020 alone, as consumers sought to complete closings, refinance and take advantage of historically low interest rates. 

“At the current rate, Notarize is on pace to close $100 billion in volume on the platform,” he told FinLedger. 

Notarize opened its platform to independent notaries and title agents in 13 states since March and also hired thousands of notaries in Florida, Texas, Virginia and Nevada. The notaries worked from home and received payment the same day through Stripe Connect, a platform that accepts money and pays out to third parties. 

A growing number of industries are turning towards utilizing virtual notary services to go fully digital. Notarize said it is now working with the top 10 U.S. insurance companies, including home and auto providers. The company also accelerated the rollout of its Ellie Mae Encompass partnership and integration “so mortgage lenders may offer online closings with minimal setup.” The company expanded the market for mortgage lenders since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac permanently eliminated the waiver requirements for lenders to perform RON mortgage closings.

Notarize also signed dozens of partnerships in various industries, including J. D. Power & Associates in auto to conduct fully-digital car sales. Trust & Will uses the company’s software to execute wills entirely online while homebuilder Lennar uses it for mortgage closings (a strategic investor in Notarize, participating in its $20M Series B round in 2018.) 

The software of companies such as Notarize is secure from cybersecurity criminals and other forms of tampering. 

Notarize said its application development team built bank-grade, highly secure software systems. The data is transmitted and stored using industry-best data security practices. 

“All user communications are encrypted and all data such as documents are protected using industry-specified encryption protocols such as AES-256,” Kinsel said. “All application accesses are also tracked using an audit trail. Notarize’s security policies and systems are audited and tested on a regular basis.”

The notary uses a special x.509 digital certificate. Once the notary’s digital certificate is applied to a document, it creates what’s called a digital “hash,” which is essentially a hidden record of all the bits and bytes comprising the document. If any component of the document is later changed, no matter how small, the document will show that it has been changed (or “tampered with”) after the digital signature was applied.

This enables all users to confirm that they are looking at the original document as originally signed and notarized, according to the company.

Notarize also stores a digital record of every notarization in a password-enabled “verification portal” where the customer and any legally authorized recipient can access a digital copy of the original notarized document along with key transactional information about the notarization itself. It also stores the video of the notarization session, showing both the notary and the signer as the document is notarized, in an effort to deter fraud and provide a secure record of the entire transaction.

More than convenience

Conducting transactions remotely and contactlessly is more than a convenience, said Brian Madocks, CEO of eOriginal, a Baltimore, Maryland-based digital loan processor. Vendors must conduct both data and asset protection. Data protection ensures confidentiality and privacy of data while asset protection ensures the “integrity of an asset, that it is tamper-proof,” he said.

The transactions, such as a mortgage closing, need to be performed where it produces a valid, tamper-proof digital record. This transaction needs to be recorded to provide evidence that it occurred and all elements of the transaction need to be securely stored as proof that the transaction was properly executed, Madocks said. 

The use of virtual notary services has accelerated since the onset of the pandemic, he said. 

“Borrowers and loan officers want and need remote capability to maintain social distancing and continue to transact business,” Madocks said. 

While digital adoption accelerated prior to the pandemic, in the aftermath of March, adoption by SBA lenders grew to fulfill the demand for Paycheck Protection Program loans.  

The rise grew in other businesses such as the mortgage, auto and consumer loan industries.

“The requirements for remote and contactless solutions are no longer about convenience,” he said. “It’s about changing the way we will conduct business in the Covid and post-Covid new normal.”

Lenders and investors are still looking to strike the right balance between compliance and scalability with RON, Martin said. 

“The market still has a lot of work to do to reach the holy grail of a full, paperless remote eClosing,” she said. “We need much more than RON to get there.”

Lenders need the capability to generate an electronic promissory note (eNote) and an eVault to store and manage copies of eNotes. 

“Today lenders are shopping for services and implementing processes that the industry does not have a lot of experience with,” Martin said. “A large part of the work we do at Falcon is helping lenders evaluate and implement the right digital mortgage technology providers. At the same time, we also help lenders establish the compliance infrastructure needed to ensure that they have adequate oversight and controls over their eClosing processes.”

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