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Do You Need Title Insurance?

Yes, you do need title insurance. Title insurance protects a homebuyer and lender against post-sale claims against their title. In any real estate transaction, the buyer gets an owner's title insurance policy and a lender's title insurance policy for the lender.

This article explores why title insurance is essential when buying a home.

What Is 'Title'?

The word "title," in real estate, refers to ownership of real property. For example, consider automobile purchases. When a person purchases an automobile, the title transfers to them, the buyer. This means they have the title to the car. They own the vehicle. Similarly, in real estate transactions, the title transfers to the new homeowner, denoting legal ownership of the home.

The title to a house is not the same as the deed to a house. While a title confers ownership, a deed denotes a property owner's right to claim ownership.

Title Searches

Before purchasing a new home, homebuyers should get a title report on their prospective home. Many mortgage lenders require borrowers to get a title report. If the borrower defaults, the mortgage company can foreclose on the house and sell it to satisfy the loan. A clean title report ensures for the mortgage lender that there are no possible obstacles to a potential future sale.

While anyone can complete a title search independently because it is a public record, using a title company is preferable. Title companies execute title searches by examining public records. A public record search should reveal the history of property ownership. A title agent or real estate attorney will conduct the title search and produce a title report. The title report summarizes the results of a title search and identifies any title issues.

What Is Title Insurance?

Even if a title search reveals no defects or encumbrances, it may not tell the whole story. Encumbrances include some of the following items:

  • Past ownership
  • Assessments for property taxes

Often, these types of encumbrances are not revealed through a public records search. Consider, for example, real property ownership through adverse possession. If someone openly uses land that is not theirs, exclusively over a specific time period, they may have ownership rights to that property. Their rights may trump the new owner's, leading to a defect in the property's title.

Title insurance offers financial protection for defects found after the issuance of the title report. Title insurance policies will remedy these defects. For example, consider easements. An easement occurs when a property owner gives another party a right to use their property. Property owners often give local governments access to their property to install electric poles. This right-of-way is an easement.

Title insurance covers homeowners in these scenarios. The title insurance provider will defend against any adverse claims to ownership.

Getting Title Insurance

Getting a title search and title insurance policy is part of any real estate purchase process, including refinancing. Borrowers typically purchase an owner's title policy and a lender's policy. Borrowers go through an escrow agent or a closing agent to buy a title insurance policy.

Types of Title Insurance

There are two main types of title insurance offered by title insurance companies. They are an owner's policy and a lender's policy.

Owner's Policy

The lender's policy does not cover equity in the property. As the homeowner pays off the mortgage loan, their exposure increases unless they have an owner's policy. Policies typically cover the purchase price of the home. This policy offers financial protection for undisclosed title defects. It covers the value of the property at the time the property is purchased.

Lender's Policy

Lenders often require a borrower to get a lender's policy on the home. The lender will likely require that the borrower obtain a lender's policy because the property serves as collateral for the loan. Any defect in the title of the property affects the value of the lender's security, potentially leading to significant financial loss. The loan policy only covers the amount of the loan. As the buyer pays back the loan, the value of the lender's policy decreases.

Title Insurance Premiums

Homeowners who buy title insurance pay a one-time premium or a one-time fee during escrow. Closing costs typically include title insurance premiums.

Possible Post-Closing Title Problems

Title searches may uncover title problems. A few of these problems include the following title defects:

  • Incorrect names in deeds, wills, or trusts
  • Outstanding mortgages
  • Incorrect notary acknowledgments

These problems are often exclusions to the policy if they are not cleared before the purchase. The title insurance company will not protect homeowners from claims or lawsuits based on these exclusions.

Get Help

If you have questions about your ownership of the property, consider speaking to an experienced local real estate attorney. They can help you sort through many title insurance issues.

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