Title insurance: It’s another one of those mysterious fees buried inside the pile of paperwork you’ll receive at your loan closing. Who knows what it’s all about? All you’ve figured out is that lenders require a policy for their protection, and either you or the seller will have to pay for it — and then you’ll be asked if you want an owner’s title policy, too.
Here’s how title insurance works, how to decide whether you need your own policy, and how much you can expect to pay.
Title insurance protects the insured from a financial loss related to the ownership of a property. There are two policies in the mix at a home loan closing: the lender’s policy, which is required, and an optional owner’s policy. Both are a one-time, upfront cost — not a monthly premium that will be added to your mortgage payment.
When you’re in the process of buying a home, a title research company will check the property’s ownership history. Ideally, your new home has what’s called a “clear title.” That means the current owner, who is selling to you, has a complete ownership stake in the property, without any legal claims against it. Claims can be in the form of a lien or levy from a lender, creditor or — in the event of taxes due — the government.
If the research company doesn’t find any outstanding claims or title defects, why buy title insurance? Because an as-yet-undiscovered issue could cloud the ownership of the property years after the purchase. That could be a mistake in the ownership history, an oversight committed by the title researcher, even a previously unknown heir. Maybe there’s a pending lawsuit or legal judgment. A title issue could also arise as a matter of fraud.
A title defect that arises after a loan closing could, at the very least, mean a variety of legal costs — and, in a worst-case event, the loss of your property and the money you’ve put in it.
Lenders insist on title insurance to protect their interest in the loan. And that makes sense, because they’re on the hook for the majority of the home’s value, especially in the early years of the mortgage.
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Can you make a case against buying the owner’s title insurance policy? Sure. But let’s think this all the way through before making a decision.
“Here’s the deal: When you buy a house or build a property, usually you get a warranty deed,” says Martin Farris, a mortgage broker in San Angelo, Texas. “That means the seller is saying, ‘This is a good deed. I own this property free and clear. I’m transferring it to you free of any other liens.’”
So any ownership defect would be the seller’s responsibility, right? And as a buyer, you’re in the clear — any legal action would be against the seller. But remember, the seller has transferred that risk to the insurance company. And even though the lender is protected by the title policy, your stake in the home could be at risk. That would be equal to your down payment and any equity you have. Again, a title claim could happen many years after your purchase.
For many home buyers, purchasing an owner’s title insurance policy is a matter of being safe rather than sorry.
A lender’s title insurance policy is a given, and maybe now you think an owner’s policy isn’t a bad idea. How much will it cost to buy both?
Sometimes nothing. You might be able to negotiate to have the seller pay for both policies.
But if you end up shouldering the cost, your policy might not cost much. “When you buy two title policies in Texas, the first one you buy at full price. The second one you buy and they charge you a hundred bucks for it,” Farris says. It’s a discount called the “simultaneous issue rate” — kind of a “BOGO” thing.
Prices and discounts vary from state to state. You can expect to pay somewhere between $1,000 and $4,000 for title insurance, according to CourtHouseDirect.com, a courthouse data research website.
Some states regulate insurance rates, so there may not be much cost difference among insurers, such as in Texas. But in other locations, title insurance is one more closing cost that you can shop for.
The American Land Title Association provides a list of insurers by state and city. There are also title insurance providers online, such as EntitleDirect.com.
The article Title Insurance: What It Is and Why You (Probably) Need It originally appeared on NerdWallet.
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Are you looking to explore the beauty that encapsulates the Hill Country of Texas? Rather you’re looking for a vacation spot or a place to move your family in the upcoming future, Texas provides a plethora of exciting and beautiful experiences that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the country.
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Looking to buy a home? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.
Get your finances in order.
Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.
Find a house you can afford.
As with engagement rings, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a home: two-and-a-half times your annual salary. There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc.
Hire a professional.
While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web. That’s why you’re better off using a professional agent than going it alone. If possible, recruit an exclusive buyer agent, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.
Do your homework.
Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller.
Think long term.
Obviously, you shouldn’t buy unless you’re sure you’ll be staying put for at least a few years. Beyond that, you should buy in a neighborhood with good schools. Whether you have children or not, this will have an impact on your new home’s resale value down the line. When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future.
Moving from a small town or suburb to a large city can be an intimidating proposition. Here are a few tips to help make your move as painless as possible.
Research before you move. It’s important to understand the culture you’re joining. Do research online and find out about school systems, neighborhoods, parking, weather, public transportation, and laws that are native to that area. If you can, visit a city before moving and connect with someone who’s lived there before.
Have a plan. There are a lot of steps to go through before you start packing the moving truck. Find housing before you leave, or at least know where you’ll stay while you look for a home. Never sign a lease on an apartment that you haven’t seen. If you can’t get there, find a friend or an employer to check for you. Have a job waiting for you, or if that’s not possible, know what you’ll do for money in the first few weeks of living there. Try to line up things like driver’s licenses, car insurance, renter’s insurance, and parking passes ahead of time as well.
Get involved. Meeting people in a big city can be daunting. Don’t expect the neighbors to knock your door down with a casserole when you arrive: city life is often too noisy and hectic. Take the initiative. If there are things you liked to do in your town, find ways to do those things in the city. Try new things. Volunteer. Big cities offer so many opportunities to engage other people, so find what you like.
Mind your wallet. City life is expensive. Everything costs more: food, insurance, clothes, rent. There are also a lot more ways to get ripped off, whether legally or criminally. Be careful how you spend, and know where your money is going.