What is Title Insurance?
Title insurance is an exclusively American invention. Its purpose was well stated in the first advertisement for title insurance back in the late 1800s:
“This company insures the purchaser’s of real estate and mortgages against loss from defective titles, liens, and encumbrances. Through these facilities [the] transfer of real estate and real estate securities can be made more speedily and with greater security than heretobefore.” [circa 1876]
Protecting purchasers against loss is accomplished by the issuance of a title insurance policy, which states that if the status of the title to a parcel of real property is other than as represented, and if the insured suffers a loss as a result of title defect, the insurer will reimburse the insured for that loss and any related legal expenses, up to the face amount of the policy.
Title insurance differs significantly from other forms of insurance. While the functions of most other forms of insurance is risk assumption through the pooling of risks for losses arising out of unforeseen future events (such as death or accidents), the primary purpose of title insurance is to eliminate risks and prevent losses caused by defects in title arising out of events that have happened in the past. To achieve this goal, title insurers perform an extensive search of the public and private records to determine whether there are any adverse claims to the subject real estate. Those claims are either eliminated prior to the issuance of a title policy or their existence is excepted from coverage.
Benefits of Title Insurance
To the Purchaser of Real Estate…
The purchaser of real estate needs protection against serious financial loss due to a defect in the title to the property purchased. For a single, one-time premium, which is a modest amount in relationship to the value of the property, a buyer can receive the protection of a title insurance policy – a policy that is backed by the reserves and solvency of the Company. A title insurance policy will cover both claims arising out of title problems that could have been discovered in the public records, and those so-called “non-record” defects that could not be discovered in the record, even with the most complete search.
A title insurance policy will not only protect the insured owner, but also their heirs for as long as they hold title to the property, and even after they sell by warranty deed. The Company will not only satisfy any valid claim made against the insured’s title, but it will pay for the costs and legal expenses of defending against a title claim.
To the Lender…
The overwhelming majority of mortgage loans made in the United States are made by persons who are acting in a fiduciary capacity – by savings and loan associations, savings banks, and commercial banks on behalf of their depositors, and by life insurance companies on behalf of their policyholders. Because they are lending other people’s money (other people’s savings or policyholder’s funds) these lenders must be concerned with the safety of their mortgage investments.
A policy of title insurance provides a mortgage lender with a high degree of safety against the loss of security as a result of a title problem. This protection remains in effect for as long as the mortgage remains unsatisfied.
To the Seller…
An owner of real property whose interest is insured by an owner’s title insurance policy has the assurance that the title will be marketable when selling the property. The title insurance policy protects the seller from financial damage if the seller’s title is rejected by a prospective purchaser. Also, when the seller conveys with “warranties,” the seller is still protected if the buyer sues because of a breach of those warranties.
To the Real Estate Attorney…
Title insurance enables the real estate attorney to provide the client with substantially greater protection than would be afforded by the attorney’s opinion alone. The attorney’s opinion is generally limited to recorded matters and the client can only recover from the attorney if the attorney is found to be negligent. (Remember the case of Watson v. Muirhead that prompted the creation of title insurance?)
To the Real Estate Broker…
The title insurance company and the real estate agent both seek to ensure that as many purchases as possible are closed to the satisfaction of all the principals in the transaction. From the broker’s standpoint, the efficient and safe transfer of title will result in client satisfaction, increased prestige, and continued business.
Apart from the security that title insurance offers, most brokers have experienced numerous instances in which title insurance personnel have enabled them to close transactions that otherwise would have been delayed. By helping to avoid delays, Old Republic Title is able to facilitate the job of the real estate broker and to minimize the inconveniences and costs to the homebuyer.
To the Home Builder…
By providing various title insurance services and information to the home builder, the title insurance industry can and does assist the builder in identifying and evaluating building and use restrictions, easements, etc., in removing title problems that may arise, and in facilitating prompt and needed disbursement of construction funds from the construction lender. All of these services ultimately rebound to the benefit of the buyers of newly constructed homes.
To the Community In General…
Apart from the unique benefits title insurance offers to particular parties interested in a real estate transaction, title insurance companies can and do offer considerable assistance to public officials through the use of their “title plants” – the data banks of reorganized and indexed public records that are maintained by the Abstract Companies in Oklahoma.
Much of the information contained in title plants is not readily available from other sources. This fund of information about the date of recent sales, representative sale prices, ownerships, area maps, use restrictions, surrounding properties, and a host of other matters pertinent to proposed projects, has helped representatives from all levels of government save countless hours and taxpayer dollars. In addition, title plant people frequently help recording officers correct errors they discover in public indices and records.