You probably drive by Florida Land and Title most every day. However, have you ever thought about what an asset the business and family behind the business are to the community?
Adopted as an infant and raised on a family farm in Greenwood, Van Kunde learned more about work ethic than row crops and cattle. He joined 4-H as a boy and attended Greenwood High School until his senior year. Van graduated from Marianna High School and Chipola College, before earning a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from University of West Florida in Pensacola. That same year he also married the love of his life, Susan Holley from Cottondale.
The couple settled in the area, where Susan began teaching at Marianna Middle School and Van began working with Federal Land Bank, now known as Farm Credit. During his 13 years at Federal Land Bank, a quasi-governmental-private farm-lending agency, Van held the positions of loan officer and appraiser. Not surprisingly he was soon hired by First Bank, which was located where Wells Fargo is now, and served as a loan officer and agricultural mortgage lender for about eight years.
“I always wanted to own my own business and approached Bob and Pat,” Van explained. In January 1996, Van and Susan purchased Florida Land and Title from Bob and Pat Crisp. Florida Land and Title was originally started by J. A. Ormond in 1906. Before it burned, Ormond’s office was initially behind Citizen’s State Bank. According to Van, Mr. Ormond was a school teacher and Sunday school teacher. He made a significant contribution to the title business by establishing a system of track books that are still used by the Kunde family today. Mr. Ormond’s work allows Van, Susan and Richard to trace titles back to when Florida became a state. This is especially valuable when computers are down. Van kept the title business at the Abstract Office for about five years before moving to the Lewis Building at 2862 Madison Street. In 2009, Van and Susan purchased the building, which had once been Robert Trammel’s law office. Around this time Van and Susan included their son, Richard, as a third owner and Vice President. In the past few years Van, Susan and Richard opened a satellite office in Chipley to make their services available to a larger area of clients.
Title work was a good fit for Van with his lending experience and knowledge of title work. “It’s a people business,” he explained. “I enjoy helping young people buy their first home,” Van continued. “Then, later when they are ready to sell their homes, we are here to help them again.” “It’s nice to have repeat business, and watch friends cultivated over time go through the life cycle of real estate at different ages,” he shared. “It’s nice to have Richard acting as Vice President and helping with the business to carry on when I retire,” Van continued.
Van explained that Florida Land and Title has four primary functions. The company helps with real estate transaction closings. They are available to sale title insurance to property owners and lenders. The company works with abstracts, which traces the chain of title. Finally, they handle escrow accounts.
According to Vann it is important when purchasing or mortgaging real estate ensure the deed is clear with no encumbrances, such as unpaid mortgages, taxes, liens, or judgments. Lenders require title insurance. Title insurance will make the buyer aware of deed restrictions and land-locked parcels. Another reason to have title insurance is to ensure the owner is the true owner. “Once a lady came in with a deed from her grandfather wanting to sell the property, but ownership had not actually been conveyed” Van explained. This is a good reason to do business with local people, who know others in the community and want to protect your investment and you from fraud. “In another situation an absentee owner hired a contractor to build a new home and did not obtain a survey, resulting in the house being constructed on the wrong property,” Van shared. “Another time two brothers owned 40 acres of land each,” he continued. “One of the brothers unintentionally built his home on both properties.” “When the brothers are alive this is not a huge issue, but once they pass it becomes burdensome for heirs,” Van added. “If you are uncertain, hire professionals to obtain a good survey and title research.” According to Van, caring for a property or having a fence line established, also does not determine ownership.
Title companies are required by law to be a neutral party and cannot negotiate. Often money is held in escrow by Florida Land and Title until a probable title is solved. In other words, until probate, surveys, and clouded titles are cleared. Buyers put their money in escrow in good faith until the seller clears any title issues, or in the case of a new house, the house is completed. When title searches are requested, Florida Land and Title follow the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), which requires a 30-year search to insure. The company must find a root deed at least 30 years old.
Sometimes deeds make references to trees or people who no longer exist. In these cases it is good to hire a surveyor to establish adjacent property owners and commonalities in an effort to piece the puzzle together. “Having Mr. Ormond’s track system helps with deeds like these,” he explained. Van has always loved solving puzzles and expounded that, for young people who love puzzles, this might be a career option.
Florida Land and Title works closely with surveyors, attorneys, real estate agents, lenders, buyers and sellers. “Software is available to create your own legal documents, but please get a professional,” Van shared. He added, “All deeds need to be signed, while the owner is alive, and recorded in the Public Records of the Jackson County Court House.” When it comes to probate, Florida Land and Title safeguard the client by providing title work traces through probate and bankruptcy issues that could affect the transaction.
Van and Susan are members of First Methodist Church, where Susan is very involved. Van is a past member of Marianna Jaycees, Kiwanis, and Chipola Civic Club. He loves Marianna and the people here. “We are so blessed to have clean water and air,” he continued, “and I enjoy kayaking.” Susan retired after teaching more than thirty years at Marianna Middle School. As one of the owner, she enjoys working in the office and helping the community. Together the couple has two children and four grandchildren. They love being grandparents, which was apparent in Van’s expression and glow when describing the many sports and dance activities his grandchildren are involved in. Van’s parents adopted him and his sister as infants. While his father and sister have now passed, Van’s mother is still living. On the issue of adoption, Van said, “We were chosen and I couldn’t ask for better parents.”
What a wonderful family and business to have in Marianna. Visit Van, Susan and Richard at 2870 Madison Street Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Call Florida Land and Title at 850-482-2323 or visit their website at www.floridalandandtitle.com. Visit the City of Marianna’s website at http://www.mariannafl.city/335/New-Businesses-and-Other-Community-News to learn more about businesses in Marianna.
Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.