How NJ Title Insurance Protects You from Hidden Ownership Hazards

When purchasing real estate in New Jersey, it is imperative that buyers take care to familiarize themselves with the lengthy checklist of steps that must be completed throughout the process of purchasing a home. Neglecting to do so can result in delays, missed deadlines, or additional fees.

One of these important tasks is purchasing title insurance. However, if buyers encounter this fee as an unexpected add-on, they may resent it, or even wonder if title insurance is necessary at all. Of course, title insurance is necessary because it provides a financial shield against a slew of potential pitfalls, even title-related issues that could crop up down the road.

Questions related to title insurance often include:

Before the closing date, there is going to be a title search. What does that mean?

The party listed on a home’s title is the rightful owner of the property. When your NJ real estate attorney or the title insurance company performs a title search on a property before the sale, they are attempting to find anything in the home’s history that could become problematic when it’s time to transfer the title.

This is a preliminary examination, but it is quite thorough. Records commonly examined include divorce agreements, judgments, liens, tax records, trusts, wills, and yes, deeds. If there is an obstacle that is fairly minor (remaining liens, clerical errors, or missing signatures), it can often be quickly remedied. In such cases, a sale can usually proceed unencumbered.

The initial title search was clear. Do I still need title insurance?

Even when a title search is initially clear, it is nearly impossible for even the most thorough of title searches to fully eliminate the potential for future conflict. A contesting claim can be filed for a number of reasons, including clerical errors, newly-discovered family connections, and estate planning mistakes. Unfortunately, such a claim could crop up at any point – even years after you’ve closed on the home.

Additionally, all reputable lenders will require you to secure title insurance before they will even consider your mortgage request, and NJ real estate attorneys simply won’t represent you if you are unable to secure it. No attorney wants to take on a client who has left themselves so vulnerable to unpredictable future events.

Title insurance can sound superfluous at first, but clearly, it is an absolutely essential cog in the machinery of actions that represent responsible, successful home ownership.

What does title insurance cover?

A standard owner’s title insurance policy normally protects you financially in the event of any of the following:

  • Displacement by a contesting claimant
  • Forgery and fraud with regard to prior documentation
  • Clerical or typographical errors
  • Mistakes on records or in methods of record-keeping
  • Outstanding liens or legal judgments
  • Restrictive covenants, i.e. easements that have been undocumented

If something goes wrong with the title years from now, how can title insurance help?

Your policy will be your safety net, even if a long-buried issue crops up down the line and presents a valid obstruction to your ownership.

Now, a long-lost party can still take a claim to the courts; if they happen to win ownership of the property, your policy will pay off the remaining balance on your mortgage. If you have also taken out a homeowner’s insurance policy, that will be activated as well, so that some – or perhaps all – of the money you’ve invested (i.e. down payments and mortgage payments) can be recovered.

What is the total cost of title insurance?

The lender’s policy will cost a one-time initial cost of roughly $1,000. An owner’s policy costs less than $100. Even if you never file a claim against your policy, though, this is still money well spent.

Why? Because on the (admittedly small) chance that a missed claim does crop up and catches you without title insurance, you stand to lose a large sum of money as well as the home you’ve fallen in love with.

Who should I speak to about purchasing title insurance?

Your escrow or closing agent will pursue title insurance for you once your purchasing agreement for your new property has been completed. Feel free to reach out to us at Veitengruber Law if you have questions about title insurance, title searches, or any other aspect of the New Jersey real estate process!