Information On Titles

Do You Really Need Title Insurance

When a home is purchased, title insurance is one of the closing cost items on the closing statement. This insurance protects the buyer from defects in the title that are not discovered until after the closing. There are two kinds of title insurance--coverage that protects the lender for the balance of the mortgage if the buyers have a loan, and coverage that protects the buyers' equity in the property. 

It is prudent to purchase owners' coverage because most of the title problems that arise after a closing are not from a sloppy title search, but are the result of inaccurate information in the public records. The ownership chain goes back a long way, and fraud or misrepresentation anywhere in the chain could mean big problems. Title insurance will protect you if a wife or husband did not properly sign off on the ownership papers or if the property was sold as part of an estate that was later disputed. Most people do not have to deal with the title insurance company after the closing, but this coverage could save your investment if a problem arises.

 

Holding Title to A Condo

With condominiums becoming increasingly popular among today's homebuyers, it is a good time to clarify the terms of ownership that seem to confuse many people. Condo-type residences most commonly fall into two categories - condominiums and townhouses. 

A condominium is usually a multi-story structure. Each owner-resident has a deed of ownership for his own unit and owns the space within the unit, but not the land under the structure. Therefore, condo units can be stacked vertically. Condo owners share title to the common areas of the development, including land, exterior of buildings, hallways, roofs and swimming pools -- all areas used by all occupants. Each owner pays property taxes on their unit. Also, a monthly fee is paid to the homeowners' association that is used for managing and maintaining all common areas. 

A townhouse, or town home community is usually a series of single- or two-story housing units, each linked to each other horizontally by common walls. Each owner hold title to their unit and the land beneath it, thus these units cannot be stacked vertically. Typically, a townhouse unit will be a two-story residence, with the living area downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. Common areas belonging to the townhouse development are owned jointly. Each townhouse owner pays property taxes and association fees.

 

Joint Tenancy

When two or more individuals own property together, each one owning an equal interest and having equal rights in the property including the rights of survivorship, it is referred to as joint tenancy. Any of the joint tenants may transfer his or her interest in the property to another party, but this dissolves the joint tenancy and creates a tenants-in-common interest with respect to the other parties whose names are on the title. 

The most important feature of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship. A joint tenant cannot will his or her interest in the property to others. The surviving joint tenant (or tenants) simply becomes the owner or owners of the property without going through the probate process, which can involve expensive legal fees and may take months to resolve. 

It is important to get professional advice when you plan to buy and hold title to real estate with another person.

 

Liens Against the Title

Occasionally homeowners who are trying to sell their home are surprised to learn that their title is encumbered by a lien. There are several types of liens; the most common are mechanic's or contractor's liens.

The lien (or debt) must be paid off in order to be cleared. If the owner prefers to challenge the lien, he can release it by posting a bond, pending adjudication. In some types of liens, a title search may disclose claims against the property by an ex-spouse or long-ago heir of a former owner. A simple "quitclaim" deed may be used in these cases. By signing the deed, the person involved signs over whatever rights he or she might have, without laying any claim to the property.

Most real estate transactions involve at least some minor unresolved issues on the part of either the buyer or the seller. This is where an experienced real estate agent can provide solutions to resolve the issues and conclude the sale.

 

Quitclaim Deed

Homeowners who are selling property they purchased many years ago are sometimes dismayed to discover that a lien must be paid on their house. The lien can be the result of work done by a contractor that was never recorded as "paid in full." To challenge such a lien, the buyer can release it by posting a bond pending adjudication. In other cases, a title search may disclose claims against the property by an ex-spouse, past heir, or a former owner. A simple quitclaim deed may be used in such a case. A quitclaim deed allows the person involved to sign over whatever rights he or she may have had in the property without laying any claim to it.

If the seller will not be receiving the proceeds from the sale of their present home in time to close on a new home, it may be possible to arrange a swing loan. Most real estate transactions involve some hesitation and questions on the part of the seller and the buyer. The real estate agent can help to bring the property sale to a successful conclusion by providing solutions that satisfy all parties and resolve any outstanding issues.

 

The Title Search

The people who do title searches have an extremely important job. They must ensure that the sellers really own the property being sold and that all liens against the property are being paid off as a result of the sale.

If the seller has had financial difficulties, for instance, and didn't pay his bills, there may be judgments that must be satisfied on or before the closing. Someone in addition to the party who signed the sales agreement may have an interest in the property. If so, it will be necessary for that person to sign the sales agreement and the deed that transfers ownership to the new buyer. The preliminary title report will also show any easements that run with the property. The Title Company will go back many years, examining what is called the "chain of title". If you learn that the property you are buying has title problems, don't panic. Most of them are resolved easily and in plenty of time to avoid delays in the closing.

 

Timeshare Title

Timeshare ownership is a popular vacation home investment currently held by over three million American households. A timeshare is joint ownership in a vacation resort property that gives you an exclusive right to occupy a condo unit for a specified interval each year. What might you need to know about timeshare ownership if you are considering making such an investment? 

There are two ways to approach timeshare. One is to buy a right-to-use membership that allows you to stay in a particular condo for an annual block of time for a number of years. You can also choose to trade your right-to-use time with someone else, perhaps someone who owns timeshare in a different location you yearn to visit. Simple-fee ownership is more like conventional homeownership -- you purchase a slice of the property and receive title by means of a deed. The property is legally yours. You can obtain insurance on the time-share property, sell or lease it, or have it transferred by will. Deeded timeshares can be also willed to family members. 

Minimize the stress of booking yearly accommodations by purchasing ownership in a timeshare resort in one of 81 different countries.

 

Timeshare Title

Timeshare ownership is a popular vacation home investment currently held by over three million American households. A timeshare is joint ownership in a vacation resort property that gives you an exclusive right to occupy a condo unit for a specified interval each year. What might you need to know about timeshare ownership if you are considering making such an investment? 

There are two ways to approach timeshare. One is to buy a right-to-use membership that allows you to stay in a particular condo for an annual block of time for a number of years. You can also choose to trade your right-to-use time with someone else, perhaps someone who owns timeshare in a different location you yearn to visit. Simple-fee ownership is more like conventional homeownership -- you purchase a slice of the property and receive title by means of a deed. The property is legally yours. You can obtain insurance on the time-share property, sell or lease it, or have it transferred by will. Deeded timeshares can be also willed to family members. 

Minimize the stress of booking yearly accommodations by purchasing ownership in a timeshare resort in one of 81 different countries.

 

Ways to Hold Title

When two or more people purchase property together, there are three ways that the title can be held. Knowing the implications of each form of ownership will help you decide how to write your deed. 

"Tenancy by the entireties" is reserved exclusively for married people. Both husband and wife own an undivided interest in the property. On the death of one party, the surviving spouse owns the entire property and no probate will be necessary. When unmarried persons buy a home together, they should seek legal advice regarding how title should be held. As "tenants in common" each party owns a percentage interest in the property. On the death of one party his or her interest does not go to the surviving owner but is distributed in accordance with the will of the deceased, whose estate must be probated. As "joint tenants" each party owns an undivided, equal interest that passes automatically to the surviving joint tenant. Probate is not necessary if the deed reads "joint tenants with rights of survivorship". 

It is important to know that in most courts, if a deed is written without specification of how title is held, the property is titled as "tenants in common."

Yours In Deed

The way that you hold title to your property has legal, tax, and estate-planning consequences. Many buyers do not receive adequate professional advice on this important aspect of property ownership. 

If you are purchasing property by yourself, you will be acquiring title by sole (or "separate") ownership, single ownership, or severalty ownership. The term "severalty" does not denote more than one person - it is a legal term meaning that sole ownership is severed from all other forms of ownership. 

If you are purchasing property with others, the most common forms of co-ownership are tenancy in common, joint tenancy, and community property. Tenants in common can be created when two or more related or unrelated people hold title to a property either equally or unequally. Each individual has the right to do whatever he wishes with his interest in the property. For example, he can sell his interest, give it away, or will it to someone else. 

Before you take title, you should seek advice from your tax advisor and an attorney, particularly if you are buying the property with another person.

Shirl A Thornton
Shirl A Thornton
Real Estate Professional