Protecting Your Ownership Rights and the Lender’s Interest

When you purchase a new home, you and your mortgage lender will want to make sure the property is indeed yours and that no one else has any lien, claim or encumbrance on your property. Title insurance protects your interests and the interests of the lender, should a claim be made against your ownership rights in the property. These claims can be from a former lender who held a mortgage on the property, an unknown owner such as a missing heir, or a contractor who previously did work on the property but was not paid.

What Is"title"?

In general, title is the legal way of saying you own a right to something, for instance having the title to a car. In real estate, title refers to the legal ownership of a property and the right to use it or sell it.


What is Title Insurance?


Title insurance is a policy of insurance that you purchase when you buy a home or other property. It offers protection against claims resulting from various defects (as set out in the policy) that may exist in the title to a specific parcel of real property, effective on the issue date of the policy.


What is a defect?


An example of a defect in the title is a prior claim of ownership from someone other than the person selling you the property, for instance an ex-wife, a former partner or a co-inheritor. It could also include a claim for an easement, giving someone a right of access across your land. For instance, in a lakeside community, an easement along your lakefront property could provide walkway access to the lake for other residents in the area. Another claim could result from a court judgment against the former owner that resulted in a lien placed on the property. Normally, property and casualty insurance insures against possible losses in the future, such as automobile insurance that protects you against future accidents. Title insurance protects against things that happened in the past, and title insurers seek to minimize that risk prior to your purchase of the home.


How do title insurers protect against the risk of a claim?


Before the lender finalizes a mortgage on your property, a search of all public records is conducted by a title agent or abstractor. County clerks or recorders maintain records on each property within the nearly 3,600 counties in the United States. These records include legal descriptions of the property; a list of all past owners; current mortgages held by lenders, including home equity lines of credit; liens or judgments placed against the property; and tax records associated with the property. After gathering all the data on the property, a title agent or attorney prepares a report for the lender. Prior to lending against the property, the lender must be assured all claims of mortgages, taxes and liens against the former owner are paid off or cleared up so the lender has first claim against the property, should you default.


How can the lender assure
all existing claims are paid and the property is free and clear?


At the time of your closing, the lender provides the closing or escrow agent with a detailed list of instructions, authorizing the agent to pay off all claims at the time the property changes hands.


Who pays for the title search, title report and title insurance?


A homebuyer purchasing a home with cash would pay for the title search, title report and title insurance. If the homebuyer is taking out a mortgage on the property, the lender requires the title search, report and insurance as a condition of making a mortgage on the property. However, the fees are still paid by the homebuyer as part of the settlement costs associated with the purchase of the property. Alternatively, in some states, the seller is required to pay for the title insurance. The homebuyer is also encouraged to purchase an Owner's Title Policy in addition to the Lender's Title Policy.


What is The difference between
the Owner's Title Policy and the Lender's Title Policy?


An Owner's Title Policy insures you, the homebuyer for as long as you and your heirs own the home. A Lender's Title Policy insures the priority of the lender’s security interest over the claims that others may have in the property. If a claim succeeds against the property, and the homeowner lost title to the property, the lender would be reimbursed for any mortgage still existing on the property, but the
homeowner would not be covered for the equity in the property or for any improvements made on the property unless the homeowner also had an Owner's Title Policy.

How long is my title policy in effect?

The Owner's Title Policy is in effect as long as you hold title to the property. If at any time the property changes hands from one owner to another, a new Owner's Title Insurance Policy must be purchased to continue protection. The Lender's Title Policy is in effect as long as the original mortgage exists on the property.


How often will I have to pay a title premium?


ONCE! The fee is due when you purchase the home, and you never pay it again.