Title defects are common; title insurance can protect you
When you have your heart set on a property — maybe it’s a house with the sun-soaked deck you’ve always dreamed of, or the bright, open kitchen with the elegant island — it’s hard to even imagine that something like a title problem could get in the way. In fact, you’d be forgiven if the issue of title defects had never crossed your mind. In truth, for most people, title defects are something they don’t think much about. Good thing you’ve got experts on your side who do!
The reality is we in the title insurance industry see problems all the time. We’re talking issues that can be a headache. We’re talking problems that can slow down your chance to own your home. We’re talking nightmares that can keep you from using your property in the way you imagine, or worse, losing it altogether.
Title search: a picture into a property’s past
A comprehensive title search is part of the title insurance process, and it can be a life saver. Time and again, we see real-life title problems crop up. Here is a sampling of just some of the common title problems we’ve found when conducting a title search for our clients:
- Liens- It’s common for existing homeowners to take out a home equity loan or have another debt that they’ve lost track of over the years. Lenders often place liens on a property to protect their interests, so they can have those debts repaid. A title search will uncover these liens so they can be settled before the sale of the home, or else they become yours.
- Missing heirs or owners- When people pass on, their property often transfers to their heirs. But families have histories as complicated as homes, and that means heirs can become estranged and may not even know they own a property. This could affect your rights to own your home.
- Problems with public records- Mistakes happen, even in public records. It’s not uncommon to uncover errors during a title search. Sometimes they can be so serious they affect the new homeowner’s right to their property.
- Boundary issues- Surveys of your property may not tell the whole story, so it’s important to examine records to make sure you are getting what you think you are buying. Boundary disputes are common and can become an issue long after someone has purchased a property — maybe when they’re hoping to add on a sun-room or pave a driveway. We can catch those issues before you sign on the dotted line.
- Prior deeds that aren’t legal- When illegal deeds emerge, they can affect past as well as present ownership. Prior deeds with minors, maybe someone who lied about being single, or a person who is determined to not be of sound mind can all factor into illegal deeds.
- Fabrications, forgeries and fake owners- For the average person, it’s almost impossible to know whether someone has fabricated documents, forged signatures or lied about owning a property. A comprehensive title search can uncover abnormalities and shed light on them before you purchase the property.
- Encumbrances- Does a third party have a right to your property? How would you know? During a title search, we can uncover encumbrances or issues where someone has laid claim to all or some of the property in question.
- Wills- If a property owner dies with no apparent heirs, the state may sell their home. But unsuspecting buyers have found too late that a will exists, passing the property on to someone else. In real life this is a real problem and could compromise your ownership of the property.
Protecting your property: title insurance is key
When so much is at stake: your investment and, let’s face it, your dreams of enjoying your new home on your terms, title insurance is a simple step you can take to protect your investment. And while you may be required to have title insurance, keep in mind you have the freedom to choose a title insurance company you know and trust to do the job, right.