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Frequently Asked Questions about Title Insurance


What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance is protection against loss arising from problems connected to the title to your property.

Before you purchased your home, it may have gone through several ownership changes, and the land on which it stands went through many more. There may be a weak link at any point in that chain that could emerge to cause trouble. For example, someone along the way may have forged a signature in transferring title. Or there may be unpaid real estate taxes or other liens. Title insurance covers the insured party for any claims and legal fees that arise out of such problems.

Is Purchasing Title Insurance Obligatory?


It is if you need a mortgage, because all mortgage lenders require such protection for an amount equal to the loan. It lasts until the loan is repaid. As with mortgage insurance, it protects the lender but you pay the premium, which is a single-payment made upfront.

 

Does Title Insurance Do Anything For Me?


The required insurance protects the lender up to the amount of the mortgage, but it doesn't? protect your equity in the property. For that you need an owner's title policy for the full value of the home. In many areas, sellers pay for owner policies as part of their obligation to deliver good title to the buyer. In other areas, borrowers must buy it as an add-on to the lender policy. It is advisable to do this because the additional cost above the cost of the lender policy is relatively small.


 

Doesn't the Lender Policy Indirectly Protect Me?


No, title policies are indemnity policies, they protect against loss, and a lender policy would only cover the lenders loss. Of course, the fact that the insurer issued a policy to the lender indicates that the title has been searched and nothing amiss has been found, but no search is 100% dependable. That is why an insurance policy is issued.


 

When Does Title Insurance Protection Begin and End?


With the exception noted later, title insurance only protects against losses from claims that arose prior to the date of the policy. Coverage ends on the day the policy is issued and extends backward in time for an indefinite period. This is in marked contrast to property or life insurance, which protect against losses resulting from events that occur after the policy is issued, for a specified period into the future.

 

For How Long Is the Property Owner Purchasing Title Insurance Covered?


Indefinitely. The owners protection lasts as long as the owner or any heirs have an interest in or any obligation with regard to the property. When they sell, however, the lender will require the purchaser to obtain a new policy. That protects the lender against any liens or other claims against the property that may have arisen since the date of the previous policy.

For example, if the contractor you failed to pay for remodeling your kitchen places a lien on your home, you are not protected by your title policy; the lien was placed after the date of the policy. You will probably be required to get the lien removed before you can sell the property. But in the event the lien hasn't?t been removed and a search has failed to uncover it, the new lender will be protected by a new policy.
 
 

Why Do I Need to Purchase a New Policy When I Refinance?


You don't need a new owners policy, but the lender will require you to purchase a new lender policy. Even if you refinance with the same lender, the existing lenders policy terminates when you pay off the mortgage. Furthermore, the lender is concerned about title issues that may have arisen since you purchased the property, such as the lien mentioned in an earlier question. A new title search will uncover the lien, and you will have to pay it off as a condition for the refinance.

Insurers generally offer discounts on policies taken out within short periods after the preceding policy. In some cases, discounts are available as far out as 3 years from the date of the previous policy. Ask for it, it may not be offered if you don't.


 

Does Title Insurance Guarantee Me That I Will Be Able to Sell My Property If An Unforeseen Claim Arises?


No. Title insurance does not prevent loss of marketability due to a title claim, any more than fire insurance prevents fire. If a claim arises, you wont be able to sell your property until the claim is settled by the title insurer. The interest of the owner and the insurer may clash in such cases. The owner usually wants settlement immediately, whereas the insurer wants to minimize the cost of settlement, which may require time-consuming negotiations with the claimant.


 

Why Are There Such Large Variations in the Cost of Title Insurance in Different Parts of the Country?


One major reason is that the services covered by the title insurance premium vary in different parts of the country. In some areas, the premium covers not only protection against loss but also the costs of search and examination, as well as closing services. In other areas, the premium covers protection only, and borrowers pay for the other related services separately.
Of course, what matters to the borrower is the sum total of all title-related charges. These also differ from one area to another in response to a variety of factors. The 50 states have 50 different regulatory regimes, which affect charges. So do local costs, competition in local markets, and other factors.