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Owner’s title insurance - to get or not?

Nana Sefa
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Posted Jan 3 2024, 13:02

Which of you get owner’s title insurance? And who doesn’t get owner’s title? Why do you get or not get? Thank you. 

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Replied Jan 3 2024, 13:13
Quote from @Nana Sefa:

Which of you get owner’s title insurance? And who doesn’t get owner’s title? Why do you get or not get? Thank you. 


 Always get owners title insurance. You are spending significant dollars on an asset, it is an insurance policy that if there were issues, the cost and time could be significant. 

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Replied Jan 3 2024, 21:20

@Nana Sefa Just this past year I had an issue where I had a property that I did NOT get title insurance on it and something major came up with a right of way from back around 1874 and the buyers bank held off on the closing until proof of the right of way could be found.

Fortunately for me my lending bank had title insurance which covered it because it took over 75 hours of research and digging through files in the basement of the county courthouse going back almost 150 years to turn up actual proof that the right of way existed which would have cost me about $6000.

Needless to say I’ve learned my lesson and am now getting title insurance on all of my properties.

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Replied Jan 4 2024, 07:06
Quote from @Alecia Loveless:

@Nana Sefa Just this past year I had an issue where I had a property that I did NOT get title insurance on it and something major came up with a right of way from back around 1874 and the buyers bank held off on the closing until proof of the right of way could be found.

Fortunately for me my lending bank had title insurance which covered it because it took over 75 hours of research and digging through files in the basement of the county courthouse going back almost 150 years to turn up actual proof that the right of way existed which would have cost me about $6000.

Needless to say I’ve learned my lesson and am now getting title insurance on all of my properties.


You should count your blessings.  In my experience, as long as the insured loan is performing, the lender has not suffered a loss, so the insurer is not required to do anything.  I suspect your buyer was going to be insured by the same insurer and the research was done so the closing could happen, not because of the existing loan policy.

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Replied Jan 4 2024, 07:33

Let’s hear from someone who declined TI that had to deal with a significant title claim out of pocket. The attorneys fees alone could put many out of business.

There is a reason they make you decline coverage in writing in many/most states.

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ModeratorReplied Jan 4 2024, 07:36

I always say if you get owners title insurance, you will never use it. If you do not get it, you will have a situation where you need it.

I have actually made a claim on owners title insurance before. I purchased a property that was a foreclosure. Years later I was refinancing and they found a title defect. Property had not been properly foreclosed on, so they had to reforeeclose on it like a decade later. Didnt cost me a dime, just time pushing my refinance back. 

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Replied Jan 4 2024, 11:29
Quote from @Russell Brazil:

I always say if you get owners title insurance, you will never use it. If you do not get it, you will have a situation where you need it.

I have actually made a claim on owners title insurance before. I purchased a property that was a foreclosure. Years later I was refinancing and they found a title defect. Property had not been properly foreclosed on, so they had to reforeeclose on it like a decade later. Didnt cost me a dime, just time pushing my refinance back.

@Russell Brazil

So did the claim payout for the time lost?

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Replied Jan 4 2024, 11:33
Quote from @Alecia Loveless:

@Nana Sefa Just this past year I had an issue where I had a property that I did NOT get title insurance on it and something major came up with a right of way from back around 1874 and the buyers bank held off on the closing until proof of the right of way could be found.

Fortunately for me my lending bank had title insurance which covered it because it took over 75 hours of research and digging through files in the basement of the county courthouse going back almost 150 years to turn up actual proof that the right of way existed which would have cost me about $6000.

Needless to say I’ve learned my lesson and am now getting title insurance on all of my properties.


 @Alecia Loveless This is the reason I have considered not getting it in the past. Because the risk is low and for most things that happen, if the there is still a mortgage the lender will handle it. And by the time the mortgage is paid off, I should be able to self insure.

I am hoping for examples of people who did not get owner's title insurance and had to pay for issues that came up.

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ModeratorReplied Jan 4 2024, 12:10
Quote from @Nana Sefa:
Quote from @Russell Brazil:

I always say if you get owners title insurance, you will never use it. If you do not get it, you will have a situation where you need it.

I have actually made a claim on owners title insurance before. I purchased a property that was a foreclosure. Years later I was refinancing and they found a title defect. Property had not been properly foreclosed on, so they had to reforeeclose on it like a decade later. Didnt cost me a dime, just time pushing my refinance back.

@Russell Brazil

So did the claim payout for the time lost?

 Yes, title insurance paid for everything 

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Replied Jan 4 2024, 16:27
Quote from @Tom Gimer:

Let’s hear from someone who declined TI that had to deal with a significant title claim out of pocket. The attorneys fees alone could put many out of business.

There is a reason they make you decline coverage in writing in many/most states.


as you probably know Tom I wont buy anything of substantial value with out title insurance. to your point I bought a 6 acre track in Oregon that had 3 homes on it. got a great deal at 140k.. I demo'd the houses for another 40k plus a 20k fine from the state for not doing Asbestos correctly :( then put another 50k into breaking it into 3 lots.. We go to sell one lot and low and behold we are landlocked.. my policy was for 140k but I know have 250k into it.. Title company defended and it took the attorney they hired and myself 3 years of lawsuit with neighbor and dealing with the state of Oregon to get the right of USE across an old logging railroad easement the state bought for a linear park. I suspect Chicago paid close to a 100k in legal fee's to defend my title and get us squared away.  still less than the 140k they would have had to pay me but I would have still been out the other money.. Any way sold the lots to another builder for 600k and they built 3 million dollar plus homes.. so it worked out just took 5 years.  

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Replied Jan 4 2024, 17:31
Quote from @Jay Hinrichs:
Quote from @Tom Gimer:

Let’s hear from someone who declined TI that had to deal with a significant title claim out of pocket. The attorneys fees alone could put many out of business.

There is a reason they make you decline coverage in writing in many/most states.


as you probably know Tom I wont buy anything of substantial value with out title insurance. to your point I bought a 6 acre track in Oregon that had 3 homes on it. got a great deal at 140k.. I demo'd the houses for another 40k plus a 20k fine from the state for not doing Asbestos correctly :( then put another 50k into breaking it into 3 lots.. We go to sell one lot and low and behold we are landlocked.. my policy was for 140k but I know have 250k into it.. Title company defended and it took the attorney they hired and myself 3 years of lawsuit with neighbor and dealing with the state of Oregon to get the right of USE across an old logging railroad easement the state bought for a linear park. I suspect Chicago paid close to a 100k in legal fee's to defend my title and get us squared away.  still less than the 140k they would have had to pay me but I would have still been out the other money.. Any way sold the lots to another builder for 600k and they built 3 million dollar plus homes.. so it worked out just took 5 years.  
Ouch on the asbestos fine. 

We have a file now where the parcel is landlocked and since the seller’s acquisition the access (unfortunately unrecorded) is across several parcels that have since been subdivided. 

So there are now a dozen new neighbors who will need to sign an easement and whoops… at least half of them are not willing to do so. Time for the title insurer to pull out its checkbook… either to obtain signature$ voluntarily or try to gain access via court order. 

Think about having to handle negotiations and payments and litigation out of pocket when deciding whether or not to purchase owners title insurance on your next acquisition.

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Replied Jan 4 2024, 18:06
Quote from @Tom Gimer:

Let’s hear from someone who declined TI that had to deal with a significant title claim out of pocket. The attorneys fees alone could put many out of business.

There is a reason they make you decline coverage in writing in many/most states.

Here are a few of our stories as debt buyers:

 I bought a mortgage that did not have title insurance and did not realize the mortgage was recorded before the deed. Borrower was in default but had to go through quiet title process since the mortgage was not valid since it was recorded prior. What a pain in the ASHHH that was and the time we lost. 

We did have a loan in Lousiana that had title insurance and the mortgage was recorded in the wrong parish. The borrower had taken out a second mortgage that was in first since ours was recorded in wrong parish. Title insurance was able to get it fixed but took a year.

The doozy of doozies is we acquired a loan (with insurance) where there was a first and second. The loan was a refinance of the first. They also did get a subordination agreement from the second lien holder but it was executed by their power of attorney. Borrower filed Ch 7 and liquidated the property. The second got wiped BUT filed a lawsuit claiming they did not know the power of attorney signed the subordination agreement and since the loan was dated after theirs they feel they are in first (even though in this jurisdiction a subordination agreement is not needed and the refinance of the first is automatically subordinated). Title insurance is covering the entire bill (still ongoing) - house is sold and all proceeds sitting in escrow. Been almost 2 years and when I spoke to my attorney he said legal well over $100k on this. Lets just say Glad I have insurance. 

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 07:20
Quote from @Nana Sefa:
Quote from @Alecia Loveless:

@Nana Sefa Just this past year I had an issue where I had a property that I did NOT get title insurance on it and something major came up with a right of way from back around 1874 and the buyers bank held off on the closing until proof of the right of way could be found.

Fortunately for me my lending bank had title insurance which covered it because it took over 75 hours of research and digging through files in the basement of the county courthouse going back almost 150 years to turn up actual proof that the right of way existed which would have cost me about $6000.

Needless to say I’ve learned my lesson and am now getting title insurance on all of my properties.


 @Alecia Loveless This is the reason I have considered not getting it in the past. Because the risk is low and for most things that happen, if the there is still a mortgage the lender will handle it. And by the time the mortgage is paid off, I should be able to self insure.

I am hoping for examples of people who did not get owner's title insurance and had to pay for issues that came up.

I believe this is a common misunderstanding of how title insurance works.

Title insurance claims are low as compared to say homeowners' insurance, not because there are less problems, but because title insurance is based on risk avoidance, not risk assumption. Much of the expense involved in the issuance of a title policy and therefore the premium is the cost of searching and examining the title and then removing any title defects that are identified.  In a perfect world all defects would be removed prior to closing and there would be no claims.  Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world.

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 07:22
Quote from @Russell Brazil:
Quote from @Nana Sefa:
Quote from @Russell Brazil:

I always say if you get owners title insurance, you will never use it. If you do not get it, you will have a situation where you need it.

I have actually made a claim on owners title insurance before. I purchased a property that was a foreclosure. Years later I was refinancing and they found a title defect. Property had not been properly foreclosed on, so they had to reforeeclose on it like a decade later. Didnt cost me a dime, just time pushing my refinance back.

@Russell Brazil

So did the claim payout for the time lost?

 Yes, title insurance paid for everything 


I think the questions was did the title insurance reimburse you for the lost time value of your investment.  I suspect you were not because that is generally not part of the policy's definition of loss.

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 07:57
Quote from @Peter Walther:
Quote from @Russell Brazil:
Quote from @Nana Sefa:
Quote from @Russell Brazil:

I always say if you get owners title insurance, you will never use it. If you do not get it, you will have a situation where you need it.

I have actually made a claim on owners title insurance before. I purchased a property that was a foreclosure. Years later I was refinancing and they found a title defect. Property had not been properly foreclosed on, so they had to reforeeclose on it like a decade later. Didnt cost me a dime, just time pushing my refinance back.

@Russell Brazil

So did the claim payout for the time lost?

 Yes, title insurance paid for everything 


I think the questions was did the title insurance reimburse you for the lost time value of your investment.  I suspect you were not because that is generally not part of the policy's definition of loss.


in all my title claims over the decades the policy simply pays to fix the problem or if the problem cost more to fix than the face amount of the policy they simply cut you a check.  A lot of people buying wholesale deals have no clue that most of the time they do not have coverage for their entire cost of purchase as many title companies will only insure for the contract amount and wont insure for the wholesaler fee.  U have to be aware to ask for more insurance .. and when denied by one company you need to move to another that will write the higher amount.  So basically if you have a policy for properties bought in low value areas were purchase prices are 10 to 70k lets say many times they will just cut you a check then its up to you to fix it or just keep the property and really not be able to sell it unless you can talk someone into buying it via quit claim without insurance. No lender will touch it.  I have a had that happen a few times.. you learn this stuff as it happens to you.

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 07:59
Quote from @Chris Seveney:
Quote from @Tom Gimer:

Let’s hear from someone who declined TI that had to deal with a significant title claim out of pocket. The attorneys fees alone could put many out of business.

There is a reason they make you decline coverage in writing in many/most states.

Here are a few of our stories as debt buyers:

 I bought a mortgage that did not have title insurance and did not realize the mortgage was recorded before the deed. Borrower was in default but had to go through quiet title process since the mortgage was not valid since it was recorded prior. What a pain in the ASHHH that was and the time we lost. 

We did have a loan in Lousiana that had title insurance and the mortgage was recorded in the wrong parish. The borrower had taken out a second mortgage that was in first since ours was recorded in wrong parish. Title insurance was able to get it fixed but took a year.

The doozy of doozies is we acquired a loan (with insurance) where there was a first and second. The loan was a refinance of the first. They also did get a subordination agreement from the second lien holder but it was executed by their power of attorney. Borrower filed Ch 7 and liquidated the property. The second got wiped BUT filed a lawsuit claiming they did not know the power of attorney signed the subordination agreement and since the loan was dated after theirs they feel they are in first (even though in this jurisdiction a subordination agreement is not needed and the refinance of the first is automatically subordinated). Title insurance is covering the entire bill (still ongoing) - house is sold and all proceeds sitting in escrow. Been almost 2 years and when I spoke to my attorney he said legal well over $100k on this. Lets just say Glad I have insurance. 

@Chris Seveney in most of these examples I suspect you were the lender and not the property owner. Lenders will always get the title insurance. But as an owner who is not buying the property with cash, but with a loan (where the lender will have title insurance), I am not very convinced that owner’s title insurance helps me that much beyond what the lenders title does for me. And if after 30 when the loan is paid off an issue comes up, I should be able to self insure. I would love examples where you were the owner with a mortgage that title insurance actually paid you for a title issue. Thank you all for your comments. I am learning a lot  

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 08:09
Quote from @Nana Sefa:
Quote from @Chris Seveney:
Quote from @Tom Gimer:

Let’s hear from someone who declined TI that had to deal with a significant title claim out of pocket. The attorneys fees alone could put many out of business.

There is a reason they make you decline coverage in writing in many/most states.

Here are a few of our stories as debt buyers:

 I bought a mortgage that did not have title insurance and did not realize the mortgage was recorded before the deed. Borrower was in default but had to go through quiet title process since the mortgage was not valid since it was recorded prior. What a pain in the ASHHH that was and the time we lost. 

We did have a loan in Lousiana that had title insurance and the mortgage was recorded in the wrong parish. The borrower had taken out a second mortgage that was in first since ours was recorded in wrong parish. Title insurance was able to get it fixed but took a year.

The doozy of doozies is we acquired a loan (with insurance) where there was a first and second. The loan was a refinance of the first. They also did get a subordination agreement from the second lien holder but it was executed by their power of attorney. Borrower filed Ch 7 and liquidated the property. The second got wiped BUT filed a lawsuit claiming they did not know the power of attorney signed the subordination agreement and since the loan was dated after theirs they feel they are in first (even though in this jurisdiction a subordination agreement is not needed and the refinance of the first is automatically subordinated). Title insurance is covering the entire bill (still ongoing) - house is sold and all proceeds sitting in escrow. Been almost 2 years and when I spoke to my attorney he said legal well over $100k on this. Lets just say Glad I have insurance. 

@Chris Seveney in most of these examples I suspect you were the lender and not the property owner. Lenders will always get the title insurance. But as an owner who is not buying the property with cash, but with a loan (where the lender will have title insurance), I am not very convinced that owner’s title insurance helps me that much beyond what the lenders title does for me. And if after 30 when the loan is paid off an issue comes up, I should be able to self insure. I would love examples where you were the owner with a mortgage that title insurance actually paid you for a title issue. Thank you all for your comments. I am learning a lot  


 I agree but in todays world where "seller financing" and creative financing are the next big thing, MOST of those situations neither party is getting title insurance.

Here is an instance where I bought a property and had a title claim. The owner of the property had the property and it was two parcels. they paid off the loan and then got a line of credit where the line of credit was only one parcel. When we bought the property the title company did not include both parcels in the sale. 

I paid cash for the asset but still got title insurance on it. When I went to get a loan to finish rehabbing the property this was discovered as they pulled title and wanted to get insurance in place. We had to go through quiet title on this and it was covered. It took a period of time but it finally got resolved.  But it also killed my chance of getting financing on it because lender could not get insurance...

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ModeratorReplied Jan 5 2024, 09:04
Quote from @Peter Walther:
Quote from @Russell Brazil:
Quote from @Nana Sefa:
Quote from @Russell Brazil:

I always say if you get owners title insurance, you will never use it. If you do not get it, you will have a situation where you need it.

I have actually made a claim on owners title insurance before. I purchased a property that was a foreclosure. Years later I was refinancing and they found a title defect. Property had not been properly foreclosed on, so they had to reforeeclose on it like a decade later. Didnt cost me a dime, just time pushing my refinance back.

@Russell Brazil

So did the claim payout for the time lost?

 Yes, title insurance paid for everything 


I think the questions was did the title insurance reimburse you for the lost time value of your investment.  I suspect you were not because that is generally not part of the policy's definition of loss.


 No that they did not. My refinance was delayed. It was a decade ago so I forget how long it took, maybe 6 mo ths

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 13:46
Quote from @Nana Sefa:
Quote from @Chris Seveney:
Quote from @Tom Gimer:

Let’s hear from someone who declined TI that had to deal with a significant title claim out of pocket. The attorneys fees alone could put many out of business.

There is a reason they make you decline coverage in writing in many/most states.

Here are a few of our stories as debt buyers:

 I bought a mortgage that did not have title insurance and did not realize the mortgage was recorded before the deed. Borrower was in default but had to go through quiet title process since the mortgage was not valid since it was recorded prior. What a pain in the ASHHH that was and the time we lost. 

We did have a loan in Lousiana that had title insurance and the mortgage was recorded in the wrong parish. The borrower had taken out a second mortgage that was in first since ours was recorded in wrong parish. Title insurance was able to get it fixed but took a year.

The doozy of doozies is we acquired a loan (with insurance) where there was a first and second. The loan was a refinance of the first. They also did get a subordination agreement from the second lien holder but it was executed by their power of attorney. Borrower filed Ch 7 and liquidated the property. The second got wiped BUT filed a lawsuit claiming they did not know the power of attorney signed the subordination agreement and since the loan was dated after theirs they feel they are in first (even though in this jurisdiction a subordination agreement is not needed and the refinance of the first is automatically subordinated). Title insurance is covering the entire bill (still ongoing) - house is sold and all proceeds sitting in escrow. Been almost 2 years and when I spoke to my attorney he said legal well over $100k on this. Lets just say Glad I have insurance. 

@Chris Seveney in most of these examples I suspect you were the lender and not the property owner. Lenders will always get the title insurance. But as an owner who is not buying the property with cash, but with a loan (where the lender will have title insurance), I am not very convinced that owner’s title insurance helps me that much beyond what the lenders title does for me. And if after 30 when the loan is paid off an issue comes up, I should be able to self insure. I would love examples where you were the owner with a mortgage that title insurance actually paid you for a title issue. Thank you all for your comments. I am learning a lot  

Relying upon the existence of a lender's policy to protect you as owner when the simultaneous issue rate for the owners policy is typically pennies on the dollar? That's not particularly smart, IMO.

Especially when, as @Peter Walther mentioned above, the lender is not likely to do anything on a performing loan and further the title defect may not affect lien priority. On the last comment let's say the title company missed an easement which effectively prevents the intended use of the land. You're SOL; the lender is secured. Or perhaps title missed a $5k water lien. Nobody is going to foreclose a water lien so guess who has to pay it? I could come up with many, many examples such as these where without owners coverage you're screwed.

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 14:37
Quote from @Tom Gimer:
Quote from @Nana Sefa:
Quote from @Chris Seveney:
Quote from @Tom Gimer:

Let’s hear from someone who declined TI that had to deal with a significant title claim out of pocket. The attorneys fees alone could put many out of business.

There is a reason they make you decline coverage in writing in many/most states.

Here are a few of our stories as debt buyers:

 I bought a mortgage that did not have title insurance and did not realize the mortgage was recorded before the deed. Borrower was in default but had to go through quiet title process since the mortgage was not valid since it was recorded prior. What a pain in the ASHHH that was and the time we lost. 

We did have a loan in Lousiana that had title insurance and the mortgage was recorded in the wrong parish. The borrower had taken out a second mortgage that was in first since ours was recorded in wrong parish. Title insurance was able to get it fixed but took a year.

The doozy of doozies is we acquired a loan (with insurance) where there was a first and second. The loan was a refinance of the first. They also did get a subordination agreement from the second lien holder but it was executed by their power of attorney. Borrower filed Ch 7 and liquidated the property. The second got wiped BUT filed a lawsuit claiming they did not know the power of attorney signed the subordination agreement and since the loan was dated after theirs they feel they are in first (even though in this jurisdiction a subordination agreement is not needed and the refinance of the first is automatically subordinated). Title insurance is covering the entire bill (still ongoing) - house is sold and all proceeds sitting in escrow. Been almost 2 years and when I spoke to my attorney he said legal well over $100k on this. Lets just say Glad I have insurance. 

@Chris Seveney in most of these examples I suspect you were the lender and not the property owner. Lenders will always get the title insurance. But as an owner who is not buying the property with cash, but with a loan (where the lender will have title insurance), I am not very convinced that owner’s title insurance helps me that much beyond what the lenders title does for me. And if after 30 when the loan is paid off an issue comes up, I should be able to self insure. I would love examples where you were the owner with a mortgage that title insurance actually paid you for a title issue. Thank you all for your comments. I am learning a lot  

Relying upon the existence of a lender's policy to protect you as owner when the simultaneous issue rate for the owners policy is typically pennies on the dollar? That's not particularly smart, IMO.

Especially when, as @Peter Walther mentioned above, the lender is not likely to do anything on a performing loan and further the title defect may not affect lien priority. On the last comment let's say the title company missed an easement which effectively prevents the intended use of the land. You're SOL; the lender is secured. Or perhaps title missed a $5k water lien. Nobody is going to foreclose a water lien so guess who has to pay it? I could come up with many, many examples such as these where without owners coverage you're screwed.

 @Tom Gimer. You give good examples but these seem theoretical. I want practical situations.  Also the point about lenders not doing anything about performing loans if there is a title issue is not accurate. Case in point the example from @Alecia Loveless above. 

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 14:56

@Nana Sefa Those are not theoretical... they are actual examples of things I've seen in the past 20+ years doing my job. The latest one -- buyer declined coverage and the prior title company missed a $20k state tax lien. Oops.

You didn't read Peter's comment or Alecia's fact pattern. Peter suspects (and I would tend to agree) that the title insurer involved in "resolving" the title issue was likely being asked to insure the next transfer... so the work was not done as part of a claims handling process but rather underwriting the next deal. Further, there was no title defect... coverage was not even implicated.

IMO, you're just not going to find anybody wise who agrees with your strategy. 

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Replied Jan 5 2024, 15:28

@Tom Gimer thanks for your responses. I am hear to learn and I am learning a lot. 

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Replied Jan 6 2024, 12:04
Quote from @Tom Gimer:

@Nana Sefa Those are not theoretical... they are actual examples of things I've seen in the past 20+ years doing my job. The latest one -- buyer declined coverage and the prior title company missed a $20k state tax lien. Oops.

You didn't read Peter's comment or Alecia's fact pattern. Peter suspects (and I would tend to agree) that the title insurer involved in "resolving" the title issue was likely being asked to insure the next transfer... so the work was not done as part of a claims handling process but rather underwriting the next deal. Further, there was no title defect... coverage was not even implicated.

IMO, you're just not going to find anybody wise who agrees with your strategy. 


 This thread is very sophisticated. I know 200% title insurance needs to be obtained.

Btw do you have book recommendation where I could read everything about Title and Title company ? or even not-for-profit online class would be beneficial.

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Replied Jan 6 2024, 17:02

@Carlos Ptriawan I do not have a book reference. The subject is way too broad… 50 states’ different laws are implicated. 

That said, I do recommend you download the latest ALTA Owners Policy and ALTA Lenders Policy forms. They are quite similar but do have some obvious differences.

Most title insurance companies have resources online but currently I think Stewart Title has the best publicly-facing database of information about how these policy forms (and requirements, exceptions, endorsements, etc.) and local laws all interact at Virtualunderwriter.com. 

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Replied Jan 6 2024, 17:36

I meant how do you fix something like these :


..something major came up with a right of way from back around 1874...... ?

Do you have history of centralized title somewhere ? or one title/city is holding the entire database to be corrected if something gone wrong ?

What really happened behind the curtain "when you fix title issue ?"

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Replied Jan 7 2024, 07:24

@Carlos Ptriawan Ah… I understand.

It depends on the jurisdiction. East coast you will typically find a land records division in each county. In Maryland there are 23, Virginia 95, West Virginia 55, Delaware 3, and so on. DC being tiny has a single recorder of deeds database. The documents are digital (pdf, tiff, etc.) public records… everybody can get access (some states/counties charge fees). 

Somebody will need to chime in about other parts of the country. Our footprint is expanding west so I’ll be needing to learn a ton of information about new states.

Fixing a title issue from 1874 likely requires a lot of work*… the original parties (other than gov’t) are almost surely unavailable. Estates may need to be opened or re-opened, successor entities may need to be included, perhaps all current owners of adjacent properties might need to be brought in. There is/are often a new instrument(s) (quitclaim deed, confirmatory deed, easement, etc.) executed and recorded. That’s generally how things work but the actual resolution required really depends on the nature of the title defect.

*In some cases a title insurer will simply “insure over” an old defect.