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The Basics

The purchase of a home is one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. 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 property.

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 of 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 cleared up so the lender has first claim against the property, should you default.

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.

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 policy in addition to the lender’s policy.

Title companies routinely issue two types of policies: An “owner’s” policy that insures you, the homebuyer for as long as you and your heirs own the home; and a “lender’s” policy that insures the priority of the lender’s security interest over the claims that others may have in the property.

The title insurance 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.