Friday, May 28, 2010

Title Insurance Explained

During the process of purchasing a home, you will most likely deal with title insurance. Many homebuyers are confused at to exactly is title insurance is and whether or not they really need it?

When you buy a home you are given a title. The title is the owner's right to possess and use the property. It is important to know that it may not the home seller who owns the title. A bank with a mortgage on the property might own an interest in the property, as does someone who has done work on the house and filed a lien against it or even a homeowners association if the dues have not been paid. The government may also have liens against the property for unpaid taxes.

Homeowners will need to ensure that there are no problems with the home's title as well as confirm that the seller really owns the property. Problems with the title can limit your use and enjoyment of the property, as well as bring financial loss. A title search and title insurance will protect the homeowner from these problems.

A title search will reveal if someone other than the owner of the property owns the title. This search can be done by examining public records to look up the history of property ownership. While you can easily do your own title search, if you are obtaining a loan to purchase the property, the lender will require that a qualified third party do the title search. The title search shows not only limitations on the use of the property and rights others may have in the property, but also liens or monetary obligations that are outstanding against the property.

Title insurance is different than homeowners insurance where you are covered in case of a future event. For example, if you get car insurance you are insured in case you have an accident, you buy health insurance in case you get sick. Title insurance is different as it covers events relating to the title that have already happened. It does not cover anything that happens to the title after the date of issuance. For example if you have liens filed against the property for taxes that you have not paid, your title insurance policy is not going to help you. But, if the lien is for taxes not paid by someone who owned the house before you, then you may have coverage under your title policy.

A title company will do a title search on the property before issuing the policy to see if there are any problems with the title. This search is done in an effort to minimize the risks of offering insurance. Problems such as deeds, wills, outstanding mortgages, judgements, and tax liens can be located from the search and can typically be cleared up before the closing on the property. When these problems are not cleared they will often be listed as exceptions to the policy's coverage. You would then need to decide whether the property is still something you want to purchase given the known problems with the title.