All posts tagged: Title Insurance

MURPHY’S LAW

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Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, especially in real estate, which is why you should take appropriate precautions to minimize financial risk, whether you’re buying a home to live in or an investment property.

Murphy was a competitive mudder, had him the fastest four-wheel-drive on semi-dry land—‘Murphy’s Mud Bucket.’  Like most of us, Murphy wanted to get ahead in life.  He knew he wasn’t going to drive around the state forever picking up trophies for crossing the quagmire quicker than anyone.  He took his winnings and decided to invest.

So he bought a nice little property on bank auction, a house with a front yard just about the perfect size for a good mud bog, but Murphy was going to sell it before he put any tire tracks through across the grass.

Now Murphy knew you didn’t win races if you got stuck between the starting point and the finish line.  You had to get in and get out fast without getting stuck in the middle.  The only way he was going to make any money off this thing was to get in there and get out fast.  He’d bought the house; all he had to do was sell it and he’d be money in pocket, no prizes for second place.

That’s right, folks, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle between the start line and the finish.  The same is true of real estate investments, only Murphy wasn’t so savvy about what he was doing.

You see the previous owner had bought the house and lived there.  Then that owner had gotten a reverse mortgage.  When that owner died, the property reverted to the Bank, and the Bank had sold it to Murphy at auction.  Murphy had made the purchase without a survey and used an out-of-town title company.  He also did not get an ALTA 9 Endorsement.

Murphy fixed up the house and found him a buyer.  BUT, the buyer got a survey and realized that Murphy only owned the front yard—not the house!!  The legal description on the title when the Bank took it over was incorrect.  Murphy had WAY OVERPAID for a front yard that he couldn’t sell.

Next Murphy tried to contact the out-of-town title company, but they didn’t answer.

They didn’t answer.

And they didn’t answer.

Also, because Murphy didn’t get the ALTA 9 Endorsement which protects property owners from survey errors and inaccuracies, Murphy had no recourse.  Murphy was stuck in the mud with no prize money for failure to finish.

There are ways to get across the bog to the good value side of real estate:

  • Use a Local Title Company that can help you if (and too often when) things go wrong.
  • Get a Survey, not just to know where your boundaries are, but also so you can get proper title insurance.
  • Get an ALTA 9 Endorsement, which is an important part of proper owner’s title insurance.

This is based a true story but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

By Stephen Collins & C. J. Godwin

Land Title of AmericaMURPHY’S LAW
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SHE COULD OWN YOUR HOUSE

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Isn’t she cute?  Did you know this little girl could own your home, evict you, and throw out all your stuff? 

In the State of Florida, if a person lives in a home and has a minor child, that child inherits the house.  What if the previous homeowner had a girlfriend you didn’t know about?  And the girlfriend had a baby with the previous owner?  That child owns the home, not you.

The previous homeowner’s girlfriend’s baby is not going to show up in public records on a title search.  But she could evict you.

Do you have an Owner’s Title Insurance Policy? 

Owner’s Title Insurance provides and pays for the legal defense of your property rights.  For a low, one-time premium you can protect yourself against financial loss to any such title claims.   Call Land Title of America, Inc. today at (904) 797-9600, serving all your real estate closing and title insurance needs.

Not sure if your home has title insurance?  Call us at (904) 797-9600 and we’ll be glad to check the title insurance status of your property free of charge. 

Land Title of America, Inc.

2495 U.S. Highway 1 South

Saint Augustine, Florida 32086

(904) 797-9600

www.GoLandTitle.com

Land Title of AmericaSHE COULD OWN YOUR HOUSE
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WHAT’S BURIED IN YOUR BACKYARD?

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What’s buried in your backyard:  a jar of cash, the family pet, human remains?  A home inspection doesn’t usually involve shovel work, and even a good survey can’t cite unmarked graves.

True Story:  There was a man who bought a new home in a new development.  Each of the lots was five acres, and on this man’s new property, the front yard had a nice grass lawn, trimmed with shrubs and flowers.  The back section was wooded.  Now the developer had disclosed that there were stones in the backyard that seemed out of place, in other words, not of a natural formation or deposit, but he gave no further details.

The developer really didn’t know what they were.  That part of the five-acre property did not fall into the construction area of the house, nor into the landscaped part of the yard.  The man moved in and was very happy with his new house on his new property, but when he went to clear a garden, he discovered a cemetery in the woods!

Nineteen headstones marked slave graves, untouched for over a century.

The man wanted none of this.  He didn’t hold a séance; he started a sue-ance.  He sued the developer, the real estate agent, and the title company.  The man felt the property was contaminated, compromised.  He didn’t want the bodies relocated—he wanted to be relocated instead!

In the end, the nineteen bodies were relocated, the developer resold the property, and the man lived unhaunted ever after.

What to do if you find human remains in your backyard:

  1. STOP.
  2. Call the Medical Examiner. In St. Johns County the phone number is (904) 209-0820.

The Medical Examiner will determine the age of the remains.  If more than seventy-five years, then an archaeologist gets involved.  If less than seventy-five years, you may have a police investigation in your own backyard.

This is not as much a property rights issue as it brings up issues of crime, public health, historical value, and respect for human remains.

* True story.  Some of the details are changed to protect the parties involved.

Land Title of AmericaWHAT’S BURIED IN YOUR BACKYARD?
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WAD OF CASH

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How big of a wad of cash can you flush down the toilet?  Is $10,000 too much?  I mean you might have friends coming over, what if only a few thousand dollars clogged the system?  Are hundred dollar bills septic safe?  Those are the questions you have to ask if you own real estate without an owner’s title insurance policy.

Title claims happen in the best of families, and in the worst.

Even with a title search, there can still be questions of property ownership due to clerical errors, unrecorded deeds and documents, and a whole range of other circumstances.  It is the homeowner’s responsibility to defend their ownership rights against such claims.  Even if the claims have no validity whatsoever, it is still your responsibility to stand up in court and say, “No, that’s mine!”  Otherwise you could automatically lose your home.

If you don’t have title insurance, then you have to pay the legal fees to defend your ownership rights.  The real tragedy is that you could foot the bill in court—the lawyers, the filing fees, and other legal costs—and you could still lose.  That means your money is gone AND your house is gone.  You could be left without a pot…to throw your money away in.

Here’s an idea:  don’t risk your money or your house—get an owner’s title insurance policy. 

An owner’s title insurance policy not only pays the court costs, the policy also provides the legal defense.  Yep, they bring the lawyer.  How much does title insurance cost?  A lot less than a plumber.  For a low, one-time premium, you can purchase a lifetime of title insurance that covers your financial obligation toward the property.  Furthermore, if you do get sued for title to your house, and if your case does not prevail in court, then you get the amount of the policy.

Even with title insurance, you could still lose your case, but you don’t lose everything.  Without title insurance, you might as well chuck wads of cash down the toilet and find out how much you can afford to flush.

Land Title of AmericaWAD OF CASH
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TITLE INSURANCE IS YOUR FINANCIAL SEAT BELT

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Are you really that stupid that you would own real estate without an owners’ title insurance policy?  Whether you purchased or inherited, the risk is the same.  Look ya’ll, I’m gotta house!  Risk is in all real estate; however, you can reduce your financial risk with an owners’ title insurance policy.

Now why would I want to go and spend more money on an owners’ title insurance policy when I’m trying to save money?

Let’s put it this way:  whether you drive a minivan or a convertible, you wear a seat belt for safety.  You may have financed your old minivan and made a cash deal on your convertible—either way, the accident risk is the same.  Title insurance is your real estate seat belt.  You never want to use it, but it saves your financial life.

Wear your seatbelt, EVEN ON A CASH DEAL.

ESPECIALLY ON A CASH DEAL!!

IF IT’S A CASH DEAL, IT’S YOUR CASH ON THE LINE.

If something goes funny with your ownership rights, then you stand to lose everything you put into it, and then some.  The circumstances of real estate transactions aren’t always cut and clean.  Where there’s room for doubt, there’s room for a lawsuit.  Do you know how much lawyers cost?  Do you want to find out?

Idiots abound, but you don’t have to be one.  You can do everything right—do the title search and get the survey—but that doesn’t stop some idiot from challenging your legitimate ownership of that property.  And as the owner, it’s your responsibility to defend your legal rights to the property.  Title insurance not only takes the burden of the legal defense, they also pay the bill.

Did you get that?  For a low, one-time premium, title insurance provides AND pays for the legal defense of your ownership rights. 

You can’t always stop stupid, but you can financially protect your property with title insurance.

* Please understand all title insurance policies have exceptions in their coverage.  Be sure to have an attorney review those exceptions with you.

Land Title of AmericaTITLE INSURANCE IS YOUR FINANCIAL SEAT BELT
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IS ANYBODY THERE? THE PROBLEMS WITH NATIONAL TITLE COMPANIES

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National title companies are easy to find online…unless you have a problem.  If you need help to defend your ownership rights of your property, then it’s up to you to navigate a website, or you’re at the mercy of a telephone tree.

It could be a lesser claim, like your neighbor says that your well is three feet on her property, or it might be something bigger, like a survey error puts a highway smack-dab through the middle of your living room.  Either way, legal fees are expensive.

The claim may be crazy, but it’s your responsibility to defend your ownership rights.  Title Insurance goes a long way to help you.  Title Insurance not only pays for your legal defense, your policy also provides the attorney.  That’s great…so long as your title company answers your call.

A local title company has more accountability to you.  If there’s a challenge to your real estate title, a local company will take your call, or you can walk in the door and speak to someone face-to-face for help.  People who work at a local title company are going to see you at church or school functions, shopping at Wal-Mart, or enjoying downtown.  When they review your closing documents with you, they’re going to make sure you understand them.  A local title company is not going to close the deal over the Internet and never see you.  They’re there to make sure your ownership goes smoothly, and to defend your rights if it doesn’t.

Furthermore, a local title company normally costs less than a national title company.  A national title company may tag on a fee for one region which does not apply for your location.  A local company will only apply fees specific to the area—you won’t have superfluous expenses.  National companies also may add fees for working long distance, fees that would not be charged when using a local title company.

The personal touch of a local title company gives you superior service in cost and accountability for your most valuable investment, your home.

Land Title of AmericaIS ANYBODY THERE? THE PROBLEMS WITH NATIONAL TITLE COMPANIES
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WHAT’S CHEAPER, A SURVEY OR A JACKHAMMER?

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Jackhammers are not as easy as they look. (And if you thought it looks easy, you scare me a little bit.) SO why in the heck is a Land Title Blog talking about jackhammers? Why not? Aren’t you tired of hearing about title stuff? So I figure I’ll spend this paragraph and talk about jackhammers and the importance they have in everyone’s life. Nah, you’re not that lucky!

If you’re one of those highly intelligent souls who thinks they can just take a visual of their property lines and that’s good enough to save the cost of a survey, you might need a jackhammer. As comedian Bill Engvall says, “Here’s your sign!”

Jackhammers cost around $3,000 and a land survey is a fraction of that expense.

Don’t try this at home! Leave property disputes to the professionals. Use a Survey instead of a Jackhammer to settle property line disputes.

Land Title of AmericaWHAT’S CHEAPER, A SURVEY OR A JACKHAMMER?
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SOUTH FLORIDA CONDO NIGHTMARE: PAST DUES!

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In a Florida home foreclosure, when the bank repossess the home, the lender is not liable for more than one year of back home owners’ association fees when it’s a subdivision, and six months when it’s a condo.* Often that’s not nearly what is owed, but it gives the association some recovery from the loss of income. That’s what’s supposed to happen, but one South Florida condo association—which shall remain nameless here—sees it differently.

The condominium owner went into foreclosure on his unit. He didn’t make his mortgage payments and he also couldn’t afford the condo association dues. Financial hardship led to foreclosure and months of unpaid association fees. Finally the condo unit went to auction on the courthouse steps, and the lender ended up with the property.

Then a buyer came along. He bought the foreclosure condo from the lender and got title insurance. As part of the closing process, the title company obtained an estoppel letter from the condo association that provided a certain amount to catch up all the back association fees.

Everything was great. The new buyer became the owner of their dream condominium. They got done, closed, everybody thought everything was wonderful. Now if that were really the case would I be writing this blog? In a typical situation, everything that transacted here here would be considered normal and customary—everybody crossed their proverbial t’s and dotted their proverbial i’s—why would the buyer waste money on title insurance?

Let’s list all that has transpired: There was a proper foreclosure and sale at the courthouse steps. When a new buyer was found, a new title search was done and everything came back spotless, no issues. In preparation for closing, the title company acquired all proper estoppel letters and all monies due including taxes. And the closing was conducted properly—what could go wrong?

I’ll tell you what could go wrong: the association came back and demanded all unpaid association fees prior to the buyer purchasing the condo.

“But we have an estoppel letter that says all association fees are current,” said the buyer.

The association said, “Show us the original letter.”

The buyer says, “ The lender only has a faxed copy.”

The association says, “That’s not good enough. Pay up, because if you don’t we’re going to foreclose… and by the way, thank you for the new cabinets and flooring and the updated toilet seats, they’re nice.”

How could this happen? Everything was done right. The answer: crap happens, and it’s expensive when it does.

There is a happy ending to this story even though this story has not ended: the buyer has title insurance, and the title insurance company is paying to defend the buyer’s ownership.

In a case like this, it doesn’t matter if the lawsuit is right, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal, it doesn’t matter if it’s covered in spaghetti and meatballs—the New Owner has to defend his interest in the property in a court of law… and that costs money. Without Title Insurance, the full force of the legal expense lands on the New Owner’s wallet.

The legal expense—hiring an attorney and court costs—versus the balance of the condo association. Which is more? Doesn’t matter if you have Title Insurance. Your Title Insurance Policy will either settle the claim or provide and pay for the legal defense of your ownership interest (and pay out the policy amount if that defense fails).

You buy Title Insurance for peace of mind—not because you know you are going to use it. Title Insurance is a one-time fee you pay at ground level in case a high rise of legal expense happens related to your property ownership.

No matter where you live, the view is better if you’ve got clear title, and beyond that, you’ll rest well if you’ve got financial protection through Title Insurance.

*This limitation on what’s owed on back association fees is only applicable if the foreclosing lender is the highest bidder at the courthouse steps. If a private party is the highest bidder, that person is responsible to pay all back association fees no matter how high the fees are or how far back the fees go.

Reason #328 to get Title Insurance.

Land Title of AmericaSOUTH FLORIDA CONDO NIGHTMARE: PAST DUES!
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GOOD TITLE IS GOOD BUSINESS

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Title insurance covers more than ever in the telecommuting trend.  If you work from home, your real estate title insurance is pulling double duty to protect your personal and professional life, because it’s insuring the place where you live as well as where you work.  Therefore, good title is good business.

Telecommuting is the big trend in work style. While working at home was once the exclusive purview of housewives and homemade entrepreneurs, the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau reports a 67% increase in home-based work for employees of private companies over the past decade.

By combining your primary residence with your primary source of income—your job—you tie workplace security to your home ownership rights.  Any question or claim to your real estate title could put your jobsite at jeopardy.  That makes title insurance more valuable than ever.

Title Insurance is a policy that protects the real estate owner from financial loss due to a challenge against his or her real estate ownership.

Title insurance costs a low, one-time fee, typically purchased at your real estate closing.  However, if you have inherited your home or your home was given to you by a family member, it is never too late to insure your real estate.  Title insurance provides and pays for the legal defense of your real estate ownership should somebody challenge your rights to the property.

If you are uncertain of your title insurance coverage, you can call Land Title of America, Inc. at (904) 797-9600 for a free status check.

By C. J. Godwin

Land Title of AmericaGOOD TITLE IS GOOD BUSINESS
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WHY DO YOU NEED A TITLE COMPANY?

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At Land Title of America, Inc., we’re not just an air-conditioned office full of friendly faces.  We’re here to help—in the immediate sense when you have a real estate closing, AND if there’s a problem.  If someone questions the real estate title to your home, you can walk in our front door and receive assistance in defense of your ownership rights.  Our services breakdown into three parts:

  1. Real Estate Closings – Yes, one function of a title company is to conduct real estate transactions. It’s a process, and it starts with a title search. We examine public records to make sure the chain of ownership is strong.  If we find a weakness, then we assist the seller in addressing that weakness.  We’re also watching the clock and the punch list to make sure surveys are done, inspections are made, and the money is in place.  We make sure funds are distributed correctly and documents are recorded into public record.  We want all parties involved to walk away from the closing table satisfied that their deal has been done as specified in the real estate contract.
  2. Title Insurance – Title companies sell title insurance. Though title insurance is not required by law, it’s normally a contractual obligation, and a real good idea.  Furthermore it’s a real good deal at a low cost that gives you a lot of financial protection on your real estate investment.  While title companies research every detail to minimize risk to the new owner, they also offer (at a one-time, low cost fee) an insurance policy that financially protects that owner from claims against his or her ownership.  The title search is an analysis of the situation, but it’s no guarantee; title insurance is the financial protection in case the title search doesn’t catch something.  Title insurance provides and pays for the legal defense of your real estate ownership should somebody challenge your rights to the property.
  3. If There’s A Problem With Your Real Estate Title – If someone questions your ownership to your home, you’re going to want a title company that can help you stand up for your rights by providing legal representation and paying for it.

It’s a bad day when a customer walks through our door because someone has filed a lawsuit against them, claiming ownership to their home.  But it’s good when we can be a big part of the resolution by putting that title insurance policy to work.  That’s what a title company like Land Title of America, Inc. is there to do.

Land Title of AmericaWHY DO YOU NEED A TITLE COMPANY?
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