This section is dedicated to answering some of the questions you might have about the closing process, title insurance, or other real estate related items.

The Closing Process

Step 1: Starting the process
A purchase agreement or purchase/refinance open order form is completed and submitted to our office to formally open title. At this stage the following is requested and completed; a search of the land records, tax information, loan payoff(s), survey, home owner association fees, inspection reports, and legal documents are ordered.

Step 2: The title search and examination
A search of the documents of record relating to the property associated is conducted. At this stage, the abstractor is searching deeds, mortgages, assessments, liens, wills, divorce settlements and other documents affecting title. After all the documents are collected, the title examination begins; verifying the legal owner, legal description, and ramifications of the documents recorded against the property or owners.

Step 3: Document preparation
At this stage, we receive and review lender and other interested party instructions, review legal and loan documents, prepare, closing statement/HUD-1 and request final approvals prior to proceeding with closing.

Step 4: Conduct closing
Closing agent conducts the closing with interested parties. At this stage, the seller signs a deed, buyer signs new mortgage, and seller's loans are paid off. All money due from the buyer is deposited into an escrow account and disbursed to the seller, real estate professionals, attorneys and other interested parties. The documents are recorded in the county where the property is located.

Step 5: Finalize the process
Closing agent receives recorded documents from county, prepares title insurance policies for the buyer and lender, then remits to the underwriter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is title? Title is a collective term that encompasses your legal rights to own, possess, use, control or dispose of real property - land. Title takes into account all previous land ownership, uses and transfers of land use and ownership. In order to legally transfer real estate property, you must perform a title search to determine the title is clear or free of defects or inappropriate encumbrances.

What is Title Insurance? Title insurance is a contractual obligation between you (and/or/your lender) and the title insurance company, wherein the title insurer, in exchange for a one-time premium payment, provides protection against future losses that might result from a variety of possible title defects or encumbrances.

What is a title defect or encumbrance? A title defect is a problem or omission associated with the title that impairs your ownership rights to the property. Possible title defects include errors or omissions in the public records, forgery, confusion caused by similar names, signatures by minors, mental incompetence, fraud, incorrect marital status, etc. For example, a title defect could be an undisclosed heir of a previous owner suddenly appearing to make an ownership claim to your land.

An encumbrance is a claim made upon the land by someone other than an alleged landowner. For instance, your local power company may have a ground or aerial easement - a limited right to your property - to install electrical power lines to serve your house or neighbor's house. Although a utility easement is often an appropriate encumbrance, other encumbrances may not be acceptable. If you are borrowering money to purchase your house, your lender will want assurance that no one elsehas a claim against your house. Your house is the collateral for your loan. Therefore, your lender will require clear title - title free of any outstanding defect or unacceptable encumbrance - before approving your loan.

Why consider purchasing title insurance? There are two types of title insurance policies - lender's and owner's. A lender's title policy protects the lender's investment by paying the mortgage in the event that a title defect voids the owner/buyer's title to the property. Typically, a lender's policy does not represent the full property value and the amount of policy protection decreases as the mortgage balance decreases over the life of the loan and termintes when you pay off the mortgage.

An owner's policy protects the landowner/homeowner against the specific types of claims listed in the policy usually purchased to cover the full property value. While lenders generally require a lender's policy as part of the real estate transaction, an owner's policy is usually optional. An owner's policy protects against any title loss covered by the terms of the policy, which insures the value of the property and lasts as long as you or your heirs retain an ownership interest in the property. In addition to title loss coverage under a lender or owner policy, a title insurer must also pay for any and all costs associated with defense against title challenges and, if unsuccessful, the title insurer must also pay for any reduction in land value as a result. You pay for an owner's policy only once, at the close of escrow - there are no monthly premiums.

What does title insurance cover? Title insurance protects you and/or your lender from losses resulting from claims against your ownership of real estate. It is unique because it provides coverage for problems or "hidden risks" (errors, forgeries, unpaid taxes, etc.) that possibly occurred before you took title to the property, yet can jeopardize your ownership rights. Title insurance coverage includes:

• Protection from financial loss (up to the face amount of the policy) due to covered claims against your title;
• Payment of legal costs to defend against covered claims;
• Payment of successful claims against your title (up to the face amount of the policy).

Glossary & Terms

Abstract (of Judgment) - A summary of a money judgment obtained in court. (When this summary or abstract is recorded in the county clerk's or recorder's office, in some states the judgment becomes a lien on the debtor's property.)

Abstract (of Title) - A summary of the public records relating to the title to a particular piece of property. An abstract in some states or areas is reviewed by an attorney or title insurance company to determine whether there are any title defects affecting the property, which must be cleared or paid before a buyer can purchase marketable and insurable title.

Abatement - A reduction or decrease. Usually applies to a decrease in the assessed value of a property resulting in lower property taxes after the assessment.

Acceleration Clause - Clause in a deed of trust or mortgage, which "accelerates" the time when the balance of the loan becomes due. For example, some mortgages contain a provision (an acceleration clause) stating that the full amount of the note shall become immediately due and payable upon the sale of the property or if regular mortgage payments are not made.

Accommodation Recording - The recording of an instrument with the county clerk or recorder by a title company merely as a convenience to a customer; such as a deed between family members. There is no title insurance, nor does the title company assume any responsibility for the correctness or validity of the instrument.

Acknowledgement - A formal declaration before a duly authorized officer (normally a notary public) by a person who has executed an instrument that such execution is his or her own act and deed. An acknowledgment is usually necessary before a county clerk's or recorder's office will accept an instrument for recording. The acknowledgment is either part of, or attached to, the instrument.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) - A loan with an interest rate that changes periodically, to more closely coincide with current interest rates. The amounts and times of adjustment are agreed to at the inception of the loan. Typically, however, ARMs can increase two percentage points per year or six percentage points above the initial interest rate.

Administrator - A person appointed by a probate or surrogate court to carry out the administration of a decedent's estate, when the decedent has left no will. If a woman is appointed, she is called an Administratrix.

Adverse Possession - A process of acquiring title to land by taking possession for a certain (statutory) period of time, in addition to fulfilling certain other conditions.

Affidavit - A written statement or declaration, sworn to before an officer who has authority to administer an oath, such as a notary public.

Agent - One who has authorization, either expressed or implied, to act for or represent another party, usually in business matters. For example, a title agent is authorized to issue title insurance policies on behalf of a particular title insurer (underwriter) for a portion of the title premium.

Agreement of Sale - A written contract entered into between a seller (vendor) and buyer (vendee) for the sale/purchase of real property (land). It is known by various names such as contract of sale, sales agreement, contract of purchase, purchase agreement.

All-Inclusive Rate - A title premium rate, which includes the charge for the title insurance policy, as well as the costs associated with the search, abstract, and examination incidental to the issuance of the title insurance policy. Check with your title company to determine if this rate is available in your state.

ALTA (American Land Title Association) - An organization composed of title insurance companies, title agents, and others involved in the title insurance industry, which sets standards for the industry, including title insurance policy forms used on a national basis.

Amortization - A payment plan which enables a borrower to reduce his or her debt gradually through periodic regular payments of both interest and principal that are equal or nearly equal.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) - The yearly interest rate of a loan, as expressed by the actual rate of interest paid. The APR is disclosed as a requirement of federal truth in lending statutes.

Appraisal - An estimate of the fair market value of a property resulting from an analysis of facts about the property, such as recent sales of neighboring properties.

Approved Attorney - An attorney whose opinion as to the state of title to a property is acceptable to a title insurance company, as the basis for issuance of a title insurance policy by the insurer. The insurer, rather than the attorney, executes the title insurance policy.

Assumption - The act of a Buyer taking title to a property and assuming liability for paying an existing loan secured by a existing mortgage or deed of trust against the property.

Back Title - A copy of the last title insurance policy or title report issued by a title insurer, which describes the title to land upon which a new search is to be made. In some states, this is called the "Starter".

Beneficiary - A person or entity advancing funds which are to be repaid, when a Deed of Trust is used as the security for the repayment of a loan or other obligation. See Deed of Trust.

Blanket Mortgage or Deed of Trust - A mortgage or deed of trust that covers more than one lot or parcel of property. A blanket mortgage or deed of trust is often found in a residential subdivision. As individual lots are sold, a partial release (reconveyance) from the blanket mortgage (deed of trust) is ordinarily obtained.

Bona Fide Purchaser - A buyer who buys property in good faith, for fair value, and without notice of any adverse claims or right of third parties.

Breach of Contract - Failure to perform a contract, in whole or part, without legal excuse.

Building Contract - Also known as Construction Contract. An agreement between an owner (or lessee) and a contractor, setting forth terms relative to the construction/renovation of a structure.

Buydown - A payment to the lender from the seller, buyer, third party, or some combination of these, causing the lender to reduce the interest rate during the early years of a mortgage (deed of trust) loan. The buydown usually applies during the first one to five years of the mortgage (deed of trust) loan.

Certificate of Title - In areas where attorneys examine abstracts or chains of title, a written opinion, executed by the examining attorney, stating that title is vested as stated in the abstract.

Close of Escrow - The date the documents are recorded and title passes from Seller to Buyer. On this date, the Buyer becomes the legal owner, and title insurance policy becomes effective.

Closing - The final procedure in the real estate sales process, where the sale and loan (if applicable) are completed by the execution of documents for recording. In some areas, this procedure is known as the closing of escrow.

Cloud on Title - An irregularity, possible claim, or encumbrance which, if valid, would adversely affect or impair the title.

Coinsurance - A transaction under which each of two or more insurers assumes a designated portion of the liability for the total risk and is liable for only such portion of any loss beginning at the first dollar of loss. (See Reinsurance.)

Collateral - By or at the side, additional or auxiliary.

Collateral Security - Most commonly used to mean some security in addition to the personal obligation of the borrower.

Commitment - A binding contract with a title company to issue a specific title policy, showing only those exceptions contained in the commitment and any intervening matters after the date of the commitment and prior to the effective date of the policy. The commitment contains all information included in the preliminary title report, plus a list of the title company's requirements to insure the transaction. It also includes the standard exceptions from coverage that will appear in the policy.

Community Driveway - A driveway that is jointly owned, used and maintained by two or more persons. Usually, the driveway burdens a portion of each owner's property.

Community Property - In certian states, property acquired by husband, wife or both during marriage which gives each spouse an interest in the property whether each appears in title or not. Check with your attorney to see if your state recognizes Community Property.

Comparable Sales - Sales that have similar characteristics as the subject property, used for analysis in the appraisal. Commonly called "comps".

Condemnation - The taking of private property by the government for public use - as for a street or a storm drain - upon making just compensation to the owner. This right or power of government to take property for a necessary public use is called "eminent domain".

Conservator - A person appointed by the court to care for the person and/or property of an incompetent adult or an adult unable to care for their person or property because of health.

Constructive Notice - Notice imparted by the public records of the county (or town) when documents entitled to recording are recorded.

Conveyance - An instrument in writing, such as a deed or trust deed, used to transfer (convey) title to property from one person to another.

Covenant - (1) A formal agreement or contract between two parties in which one party gives the other certain promises and assurances, such as the covenant of warranty in a warranty deed. (2) Agreements or promises contained in deeds and other instruments for performance or nonperformance of certain acts, or use or nonuse of property in a certain manner.

Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions - Commonly called "CC & R's" the term usually refers to a written recorded declaration which sets forth certain covenants, conditions, restrictions, rules or regulations established by a subdivider or other landowner to create uniformity of buildings and use within tracts of land or groups of lots. The restrictions also can be established by deed. CC & R's are sometimes referred to as private zoning.

Debt - Money owing from one person to another.

Debtor - One who owes a debt.

Decree of Distribution - A probate court decree that determines how the estate of a decedent shall be distributed.

Deed - Written document by which an estate or interest in real property is transferred from one person to another. The person who transfers the interest is called the "grantor." The one who acquires the interest is called the "grantee." Examples of deeds are grant deeds, administrators' deeds, executors' deeds, quitclaim deeds, etc. The deed to use depends on the language of the deed, the legal capacity of the grantor and other circumstances.

Deed of Trust or Trust Deed - A written document by which the title to land is conveyed as security for the repayment of a loan or other obligation. It is a form of mortgage. The debtor is called the "trustor". The party to whom the legal title is conveyed (and who may be called on to sell the property if the loan is not paid) is the "trustee". The lender is the "beneficiary". When the loan is paid off, the trustee is asked by the beneficiary to issue a "recon" or "reconveyance". This reconveyance corresponds to a Release, Cancellation, or Satisfaction that a mortgage company executes when the mortgage loan is paid off.

Deed Restrictions - Limitations in the deed to a property that dictate certain uses that may or not be made of the property.

Defect - A blemish, imperfection or deficiency. A defective title is one that is irregular and faulty.

Defective Title - (1) Title to a negotiable instrument obtained by fraud. (2) Title to real property, which lacks some of the elements necessary to transfer good title.

Demand Note - A note having no date for repayment, but due on demand of the lender.

Deposit - Money given by the buyer with an offer to purchase. Shows good faith. Also called earnest money.

Description - The exact location of a piece of real property stated in terms of lot, block, tract, part lot, metes and bounds, recorded instruments, or U.S. Government survey (sectionalized). This is also referred to as legal description of property.

Earnest Money Deposit - Down payment made by a purchaser of real estate as evidence of good faith; a deposit or partial payment.

Easement - A right or interest in the use of the land of another which entitles the holder to some use, privilege or benefit, such as to place pole lines, pipe lines or roads thereon.

Eminent Domain - The right of a government to take privately owned property for public purposes under condemnation proceedings upon payment of its reasonable value. See Condemnation.

Encroachment - The presence of an improvement such as a building, a wall, a fence or other fixture, which overlaps onto the property of an adjoining owner.

Escrow - Refers to a neutral third party that follows the instructions of both the buyer and seller to handle all the paperwork of settlement or "closing." Escrow may also refer to an account held by the lender into which the homebuyer pays money for tax or insurance payments.

Fee Simple - An estate under which the owner is entitled to unrestricted powers to dispose of the property, and which can be left by will or inherited. Commonly, a synonym for ownership.

File and Use - In most states, title insurers file rate schedules, title insurance policies and endorsement forms with the State Insurance Department or other state agency and then may use such items or rates starting within a specified period of time after filing. Rates so filed usually are mandatory.

Fixed Rate Mortgage - A mortgage having a rate of interest, which remains the same for the life of the mortgage.

Foreclosure - The sale of property used as security for a debt after default in payment.

Forfeiture of Title - A common penalty for the violation of conditions or restrictions imposed by the seller upon the buyer in a deed or other proper document. For example, a deed may be granted upon the condition that if liquor is sold on the land, the title to the land will be forfeited (that is, lost) by the buyer (or some later owner) and will revert to the seller.

Full Disclosure - In real estate, revealing all the known facts, which may affect the decision of a buyer or tenant. A broker must disclose known defects in the property for sale or lease.

"Good Faith" or "Mortgage Savings" Clause - A clause in CC & R's which provides that "a violation thereof shall not defeat or render invalid the lien of any mortgage or deed of trust made in good faith and for value."

Good Faith Purchaser or Mortgagee - A person who buys or lends in good faith, that is, without notice of any existing problem, where value is paid or lent.

Grant - A transfer of real estate, between individuals, by deed. A transfer of real estate from a sovereign is accomplished by patent or royal decree.

Grantee - The Buyer, Purchaser or person to whom the property is transferred in a Deed.

Grantor - The Seller or person from whom the property is transferred in a Deed.

Grant Deed - One of the many types of deeds used to transfer real property. Contains warranties against prior conveyances or encumbrances.

Guardian - A person appointed by a court to manage the person and/or property of one whom is legally incompetent to handle his/her own affairs.

Hazard Insurance - Real estate insurance protecting against fire, some natural causes, vandalism, etc., depending upon the policy. Buyer often adds liability insurance and extended coverage for personal property.

Homestead - A statutory protection from execution or the establishment of title by occupation of real property in accordance with the laws of various states or the Federal Government.

Impounds - A trust type of account established by lenders for the accumulation of borrower's funds to meet periodic payments of taxes, mortgage insurance premiums, and/or future insurance policy premiums, required to protect their security.

Indemnity - Insurance against possible loss or damage. A title insurance policy is a contract of indemnity.

Judgment Lien - A lien against the property of a judgment debtor.

Land Contract - An installment contract for the sale of land whereby the seller (vendor) holds legal title and the buyer (vendee) has equitable title until the sales price is paid in full.

Lease - An agreement by which an owner of real property (lessor) gives the right of possession to another (lessee), for a specified period of time (term) and for a specified consideration (rent).

Legal Description - A description of land recognized by law, based on government surveys, spelling out the exact boundaries of the entire piece of land. It should so thoroughly identify a parcel of land that it cannot be confused with any other.

Lender - Any person or entity advancing funds which are to be repaid. A general term encompassing all mortgagees, and beneficiaries under deeds of trust.

Lien - An encumbrance against property for money, either voluntary or involuntary. All liens are encumbrances but all encumbrances are not liens.

Mechanics Lien - A lien created by statute for the purpose of securing priority of payment for the price or value of work performed and materials furnished in construction or repair of improvements to land, and which attaches to the land as well as the improvements.

Mortgage - A written document by which land is pledged as security for the repayment of a loan, or other obligation. Specifically, (1) To hypothecate as security, real property for the payment of a debt. The borrower (mortgagor) retains possession and use of the property. (2) The instrument by which real estate is hypothecated as security for the repayment of a loan.

Mortgagee - The party lending the money and receiving the mortgage.

Mortgagor - The party who borrows the money and gives the mortgage. instruments, or U.S. Government survey (sectionalized). This is also referred to as legal description of property.

Note - A unilateral agreement containing an express and absolute promise of the signer to pay to a named person (or bearer) a definite sum of money at a specified date or on demand. Usually provides for interest and, concerning land is secured by a mortgage or trust deed.

Obligee - One to whom an obligation (promise) is owed.

Obligor - One who legally binds (obligates) oneself, such as the maker of a promissory note.

Owner's Policy - A policy of title insurance usually insuring an owner of real estate against loss occasioned by defects in, liens against or unmarketability of the owner's title.

Parcel - Any area of land contained within a single description.

Partnership - An association of two or more persons who have contracted to join in business and share the profits.

Party Wall - A wall generally erected on a property boundary or between two lots for the common benefit and use of the property owners on either side.

Patent - A conveyance of title to land by the Federal or State Government.

Personal Property - Any property that is not designated by law as real property (i.e., money, goods, evidences of debt, rights of action, furniture, automobiles).

"P.I.Q." - A term referring to Property In Question.

PITI - A payment that combines Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance.

Plat - A plan, map or chart of a tract or town site dividing a parcel of land into lots.

Power of Attorney - A document by which one person (called the "principal") authorizes another person (called the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact") to act for him or her in a specific manner in designated transactions.

"Pre", "Prelim" or Preliminary Report - A written report issued by a title company, preliminary to issuing title insurance, which shows the recorded condition of title of the property in question. See Commitment.

Priority - The order of preference, rank or position of the various liens and encumbrances affecting the title to a particular parcel of land. Usually, the date and time of recording determine the relative priority between documents.

Public Records - The transcriptions in a county clerkÿs or recorder's office of instruments, which have been filed or recorded, including the indexes pertaining to them.

Quitclaim Deed - A deed operating as a release; intended to pass any title, interest, or claim, which the Grantor may have in the property, but not containing any warranty of a valid interest or title in the Grantor.

Quiet Title - To free the title to a piece of land from the claims of other persons by means of a court order through a court action called a "quiet title" action. The court decree obtained is a "quiet title" decree.

Real Property - Land, from the center of the earth and extending above the surface indefinitely, including all inherent natural attributes and any man-made improvements of a permanent nature place thereon. For example: minerals, trees, buildings, and appurtenant rights.

Reconveyance - An instrument used to transfer title from a trustee to the debtor of real estate, when title is held as collateral security for a debt. Most commonly used upon payment in full of a Deed of Trust. Also called a Deed of Reconveyance or Release.

Recording - Filing documents affecting real property as a matter of public record, giving notice to future purchasers, creditors, or other interested parties. Recording is controlled by statute and usually requires the witnessing and notarizing of an instrument to be recorded.

Reinsurance - A contract which one title insurance underwriter makes with another to protect the first company (wholly or partially) against loss or liability through a separate and distinct contract. Reinsurance differs from coinsurance in that, in the case of reinsurance, only one underwriter has a direct contractual relationship with the insured, and that underwriter (commonly referred to as the "lead insurer") purchases reinsurance in order to lessen or spread the risk. The "lead insurer" will assume a risk up to a limit (the amount of which is referred to as the "retention") and any loss which exceeds this limit would be borne by the reinsurer(s). In the case of coinsurance, each coinsurer has a direct contractual relationship with the insured, and the risk is shared in agreed-upon proportions from the first dollar of loss.

Restrictions - Often called Restrictive Covenants. Provisions in a deed or other instrument whereby an owner of land prohibits or restricts certain use, occupation or improvement of the land.

Right of Way - (1) The right to pass over property owned by another usually based upon an easement. (2) A path or thoroughfare over which passage is made. (3) A strip of land over which facilities such as streets, highways, railroads or power lines are built.

Sale and Leaseback - A transaction in which the Grantor (Seller) in a deed to a parcel of property sells it, but retains the right to continue to possess or occupy it, by simultaneously leasing it from the Grantee (Buyer).

Separate Property - Property owned by one spouse exclusive of any interest of the other spouse.

Squatter - One who settles upon unoccupied land without legal claim or authority. (See Adverse Possession.)

Starter - A copy of the last title insurance policy or title report issued by a title insurer, which describes the title to land upon which a new search is to be made. In some states, this is called the "back title".

Subdivision - An area of land laid out and divided into lots, blocks, and building sites, and in which public facilities are laid out, such as streets, alleys, parks, and easements for public utilities.

Subordination Agreement - An agreement by which one encumbrance (for example, a mortgage or deed of trust) is made subject to another encumbrance (for example, a new mortgage or deed of trust; or perhaps a lease) To "subordinate" is to "make subject to", or to make of lower priority.

Surface Rights - Rights to enter upon and use the surface of a piece of land, usually in connection with an oil and gas lease or other mineral lease. They may be "implied" by the language of the lease (no explicit reservation or exception of the surface rights) or "explicitly" set forth.

Survey - The measurement by a surveyor of real property, which delineates the boundaries of a parcel of land. An ALTA survey additionally delineates the exact location of all improvements, encroachments, easements and other matters affecting the title to the property in question. In certain areas, a title insurance company as part of the real estate transaction may require a survey.

Tax Deed - A deed executed by the sheriff or tax collector to the state, county or city when no redemption is made from a tax sale.

Tax Sale - The process of "selling" a property to the governing authority (usually a state) because of unpaid real estate taxes. No actual sale takes place. Title is transferred to the governing authority and typically the former owner may redeem it within a certain time (which varies by area) by paying taxes, penalties and costs.

Testate - A person who leaves a legally valid Will at death. Opposite of Intestate.

Title - (1) A combination of all the elements that constitute a legal right to own, possess, use, control, enjoy and dispose of property or a right or interest therein. (2) The rights of ownership to land recognized and protected by the law.

Title Insurance - A statement of the condition of title or ownership of real property, insured as such by a title insurance company. For a one-time-only premium, the named insured and their heirs are protected against title defects, liens and encumbrances existing as of the date of the policy and not specifically excluded from it. In the event of a claim, the title company provides legal defense for the policyholder and pays any covered losses incurred as a result of such claim.

Title Report - See Commitment. Compare with Preliminary Report.

Title Search - A review of all recorded documents affecting a specific parcel of land to determine the present condition of title.

Trustee - A lender when a Deed of Trust (instead of a Mortgage) is used as the security for the repayment of a loan or other obligation. See Deed of Trust.

Trustor - A borrower when a Deed of Trust (instead of a Mortgage) is used as the security for the repayment of a loan or other obligation. See Deed of Trust.

Variable Interest Rate - An interest rate that changes in keeping with a current index or cost of money.

Vendee - The Buyer or Purchaser in an Agreement of Sale, Contract of Sale, Sales Agreement, Contract of Purchase, or Purchase Agreement.

Vendor - The Seller in an Agreement of Sale, Contract of Sale, Sales Agreement, Contract of Purchase, or Purchase Agreement.

Vendor's Lien - An implied lien given by law to a vendor for the remaining unpaid and unsecured part of a purchase price.

Vesting - The names, status and manner in which title of ownership to a particular piece of land is held; also that section of a title report, commitment, or policy setting forth the above.

Waive - To voluntarily and intentionally relinquish a known right, claim or privilege.

Warranty Deed - A deed used in many states to convey fee title to real property. ndemnity.


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