Title & Escrow Advice
Closing and Title Costs
To help you better understand this confusing subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about title, closing and closing costs.
WHAT SERVICES WILL I BE PAYING FOR WHEN I PAY CLOSING COSTS?
You will usually be paying for such things as real estate commissions, appraisal fees, loan fees, escrow charges, advance payments such as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, title insurance premiums, pest inspections and the like.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I EXPECT TO PAY IN CLOSING COSTS?
The amount you pay for closing costs will vary; however, when buying your home and obtaining a new loan, an estimate of your closing costs will be provided to you pursuant to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act after you submit your loan application. This disclosure provides you with a good faith estimate of what your closing costs will be in the real estate process. An itemized list of charges will be prepared when you close your transaction and take title to your new property.
CAN I PAY FOR MY CLOSING COSTS IN INSTALLMENTS?
No, and it is easy to understand why. Many different parties will have fulfilled their responsibilities and be awaiting payment upon closing. The title or escrow company will disburse money to those parties, pursuant to the escrow instructions, when funds are available.
WILL I BE ALLOWED TO WRITE A PERSONAL CHECK TO COVER MY CLOSING COSTS?
Your closing funds should be in the form of a cashier’s check, issued by an institution from the state of your purchase, made payable to the title company or escrow office in the amount requested. A personal check may delay the closing or may be unacceptable to the title or escrow company. An out-of-state check could also cause a delay in your closing due to possible delays in clearing the check.
HOW MUCH CAN I EXPECT TO PAY FOR TITLE INSURANCE?
This point is often misunderstood. Although the title company or escrow office usually serves as a meeting ground for closing the sale, only a small percentage of total closing fees pay for title insurance protection.
Your title insurance premium may amount to less than one percent of the purchase price of your home, and less than ten percent of your total closing costs. The title policy is good for as long as you and your heirs own the property with the payment of only one premium.
WHY ARE SEPARATE OWNER’S AND LENDER’S TITLE INSURANCE POLICIES ISSUED?
Both you and your lender will want the security offered by title insurance.
Your home is an important purchase, and you will want to be certain your home is yours, all yours. Title insurance companies insure your rights and interests in order to protect you against claims.
Your lender is looking to insure the enforceability of their lien on your property and marketability. What is meant by “marketability”? Local lenders will originate a loan here, and, often, sell it to an out-of-state investor. This investor, who may never see the property, needs to know that he has a valid and enforceable lien. Title insurance is the way of making certain. Without a current title policy, the loan is essentially unmarketable.
WHAT DOES MY TITLE DOLLAR PAY FOR?
Title insurers, unlike property or casualty insurance companies, operate under the theory of risk elimination.
Risk elimination can only be accomplished after an intensive period of risk identification.
Title companies spend a high percentage of their operating revenue each year collecting, storing, maintaining and analyzing official records for information that affects title to real property. The issuance of a title insurance policy is highly labor-intensive. It is based upon the maintenance of a title “plant” or library of title records, in many cases dating back over a hundred years. Each day, recorded documents affecting real property are posted to these plants so that when a title search on a particular parcel is requested, the information is already organized for rapid and accurate retrieval.
Trained title experts are able, with the aid of their extensive title plants, to identify the rights others may have in your property, such as recorded liens, legal actions, disputed interests, rights of way or other encumbrances on your title. Before closing your transaction, you can seek to clear those encumbrances which you do not wish to assume.
The goal of title companies is to conduct such a thorough search and evaluation of public records that no claims will ever arise. Of course, this is impossible–we live in an imperfect world, where human error and changing legal interpretations make 100 percent risk elimination impossible. When claims do arise, title insurance companies have professional claims personnel to make sure that your property rights are protected pursuant to the terms of your policy.
To conclude, when you pay for your title insurance policy, you are paying for a team of professionals who have worked together to deliver you a title insurance policy which represents protection for your ownership of real property.
WHO CAN I LOOK FOR STRAIGHT ANSWERS ON TITLE, CLOSING, AND CLOSING COSTS?
Title or escrow company personnel are available to review and explain your title policy and your closing statement.
Creative financing: Do you know everything you need to know about carrying back a second; essentially, about becoming a lender? You better know the same things that financial institutions know – you better know about lender’s title insurance.
It’s time to sell your $150,000 home, a home that you have owned for fifteen years, a home in which you have substantial equity. The loan terms call for a $20,000 down payment from your buyer, a new $100,000 loan from a local savings and loan, and for you, the seller, to carry back a note for the remaining $30,000.
Will you, the seller, need title insurance?
Yes, you will. Everyone who retains an interest in the property needs title insurance. When you took on the role of lender, you retained a record title interest which you will want to protect for the term of the loan.
But, why would you need lender’s title insurance when the repayment of your loan is assured by a lien in the form of a recorded deed of trust against the property? What could possibly go wrong?
You must insure yourself for the same reason that financial institutions obtain title insurance – for the protection of your investment. You must be assured that your lien on the property cannot be defeated by a prior lien or other interest in the property, which, if exercised, would wipe out your security.
Anything that involves the new buyer’s ownership rights to the property is of direct interest to you because you are holding the second mortgage. If such ownership rights are in question or defective, you may have trouble collecting your monthly mortgage payments. But, you say, there is nothing in your property’s history that could cause problems: no problems with easements, no problems with boundaries, no problems with rights-of-way.
A large proportion of title problems arise out of man’s interaction with man. The fact of a marriage, a divorce, a death, a forgery, a judgment for money damages, a failure to pay state or federal taxes – these occurrences can and usually will affect your rights as a mortgage lender.
If you are considering carrying back a second, be sure to get all the facts regarding the benefits of lender’s title insurance. Your local title insurance company should be happy to provide the information you need.
Required Reporting to the IRS
Sellers of real property will have certain information regarding the sale reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
This required reporting is a consequence of the Tax Reform Act of 1986; it is intended to encourage taxpayer compliance and aid in audit and enforcement efforts by the I.R.S.
To help you better understand this subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about Required Reporting to the I.R.S.
WHO IS REQUIRED TO REPORT TO THE I.R.S.?
Sellers of real property, under guidelines established by the I.R.S., are required to have their gross proceeds from the sale reported on a Form 1099S. When a settlement agent is used, the I.R.S. makes this agent responsible for the delivery of the information on the Form 1099S.
The settlement agent generally will be the escrow agent or title company; however, it may be an attorney, real estate broker or other person providing settlement services.
WHAT IS AN I.R.S. FORM 1099S, AND WHAT WILL BE REPORTED?
The Form 1099S is the reporting form adopted by the I.R.S. for submitting the information required by law.
The information will be transferred onto magnetic media by the settlement agent who will store the information and make the required report to the I.R.S. The settlement agent is also responsible for keeping a master copy of all transactions reported.
In general, information required by the I.R.S. falls into the following categories:
- The name, address and taxpayer ID number (social security or tax identification number) of the seller(s)
- A general description of the property (in most cases an address)
- The closing date of the transaction
- The gross proceeds of the transaction (even though gross proceeds do not correspond to taxable income)
- Any property involved as part of the transaction other than cash or cash equivalent
- The name, address and taxpayer identification number of the settlement agent.
- Real estate tax paid in advance that is allocable to the buyer.
ON WHAT TYPE OF TRANSACTIONS IS A FORM 1099S REQUIRED?
Currently, typical homeowner transactions covered include sales and exchanges of 1-4 family residential properties such as houses, townhouses, and condominiums. Also reportable are sales or exchanges of improved or unimproved land, commercial or industrial buildings, condominiums, stock in a cooperative housing corporation and mobile homes (manufactured homes) affixed to real property.
Specifically excluded from reporting are foreclosures and abandonment of real property and financing or refinancing of properties.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE SELLER(S) REFUSES TO PROVIDE THE TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER FOR THE FORM 1099S?
The settlement agent is required to request the transferor’s taxpayer identification number(s) (TIN(s)) before the time of closing. You may request a TIN on Form W-9 or use an alternative written request. The IRS has included sample wording of an alternative written request in the instructions for preparation of Form 1099S.
Should the seller fail to provide the identification number and certify its correctness, the settlement agent may choose to:
- Delay the closing of the transactions until the information is furnished, or
- Complete the transaction and report to the I.R.S. that an attempt was made to obtain the information from the seller.
HOW IS THE SALE REPORTED WHEN THERE IS MORE THAN ONE SELLER INVOLVED OR WHEN MULTIPLE SELLERS DO NOT OWN EQUAL INTERESTS IN THE PROPERTY?
Multiple sellers may allocate the gross proceeds among themselves for purposes of reporting. If there is no allocation, an incomplete allocation or conflicting allocations, then the entire gross proceeds will be reported for each seller.
WHERE CAN I GO FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON TAXATION OF REAL PROPERTY?
The I.R.S. provides free publications that explain the tax aspects of real estate transactions. You may wish to order:
- Publication #523 “Tax Information on Selling Your Home”
- Publication #530 “Tax Information for Home Owners”
- Publication #544 “Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets”
- Publication #551 “Basis of Assets”
To place your order, phone toll-free (800) 829-3676.
The Functions of an Escrow
Buying or selling a home (or other piece of real property) usually involves the transfer of large sums of money. It is imperative that the transfer of these funds and related documents from one party to another be handled in a neutral, secure and knowledgeable manner. For the protection of buyer, seller and lender, the escrow process was developed.
As a buyer or seller, you want to be certain all conditions of sale have been met before property and money change hands. The technical definition of an escrow is a transaction where one party engaged in the sale, transfer or lease of real or personal property with another person delivers a written instrument, money or other items of value to a neutral third person, called an escrow agent or escrow holder. This third person holds the money or items for disbursement upon the happening of a specified event or the performance of a specified condition.
Simply stated, the escrow holder impartially carries out the written instructions given by the principals. This includes receiving funds and documents necessary to comply with those instructions, completing or obtaining required forms and handling final delivery of all items to the proper parties upon the successful completion of the escrow.
The escrow must be provided with the necessary information to close the transaction. This may include loan documents, tax statements, fire and other insurance policies, title insurance policies, terms of sale and any seller-assisted financing, and requests for payment for various services to be paid out of escrow funds.
If the transaction is dependent on arranging new financing, it is the buyer’s or the buyer’s agent’s responsibility to make the necessary arrangements. Documentation of the new loan agreement must be in the hands of the escrow holder before the transfer of property can take place. A real estate agent can help identify appropriate lending institutions.
When all the instructions in the escrow have been carried out, the closing can take place. At this time, all outstanding funds are collected and fees- such as title insurance premiums, real estate commissions, termite inspection charges- are paid. Title to the property is then transferred under the terms of the escrow instructions and appropriate title insurance is issued.
Payment of funds at the close of escrow should be in the form acceptable to the escrow, since out-of-town and personal checks can cause days of delay in processing the transaction.
The following items represent a typical list of what an escrow holder does and does not do:
THE ESCROW HOLDER:
- – serves as the neutral “stakeholder” and the communications link to all parties in the transaction;
- – prepares escrow instructions;
- – requests a preliminary title search to determine the present condition of title to the property;
- – requests a beneficiary’s statement if debt or obligation is to be taken over by the buyer;
- – complies with lender’s requirements, specified in the escrow agreement;
- – receives purchase funds from the buyer;
- – prepares or secures the deed or other documents related to escrow;
- – prorates taxes, interest, insurance and rents according to instructions;
- – secures releases of all contingencies or other conditions as imposed on any particular escrow;
- – records deeds and any other documents as instructed;
- – requests issuance of the title insurance policy;
- – closes escrow when all the instructions of buyer and seller have been carried out;
- – disburses funds as authorized by instructions, including charges for title insurance, recording fees, real estate commissions and loan payoffs;
- – prepares final statements for the parties accounting for the disposition of all funds deposited in escrow (these are useful in the preparation of tax returns).
THE ESCROW HOLDER DOES NOT:
- – offer legal advice;
- – negotiate the transaction;
- – offer investment advice.
Your local title company should be happy to provide additional information.
Title Insurance - Where Does Your Dollar Go?
Title Insurance: As a homebuyer, the term is probably familiar – but is it understood? What is your dollar actually paying for when you purchase a title policy?
Title Insurers, unlike property or casualty insurance companies, operate under the theory of risk elimination. Title companies spend a high percentage of their operating income each year collecting, storing, maintaining and analyzing official records for information that affects title to real property. Their technical experts are trained to identify the rights others may have in your property, such as recorded liens, legal actions, disputed interests, rights of way or other encumbrances on your title. Before closing your transaction, the title company will proceed to clear those encumbrances which you do not wish to assume.
This theory is different from that of most other insurance where, for example, rates and anticipated losses are based on actuarial studies and premiums are pooled on the assumption that a certain number of claims will be made. The distinction is important: title insurance premiums are paid to identify and eliminate potential risks and claims before they happen. Medical and casualty insurance premiums, for example, are paid to insure against an unpredictable future event, knowing that risks exist and claims will occur. Furthermore, title insurance involves a one-time premium, paid when you close the real estate transaction, while property, casualty and medical insurance require regular renewal premiums.
The goal of title companies is to conduct such a thorough search and evaluation of public records that no claims will ever arise. Of course, this is impossible — we live in an imperfect world, where human error and changing legal interpretations make 100% risk elimination impossible. When claims arise, professional claims personnel are assigned to handle them according to the terms of the title insurance policy.
As in all competitive business environments, rates vary from company to company, so you should make comparisons before deciding on a particular title company. Your real estate professional can help you do this. In addition, there are many helpful customer services provided by title companies which you and your real estate professional may find helpful to your transaction.
The issuance of a title insurance policy is highly labor-intensive. It is based upon the maintenance of a title plant, or library of title records, in many cases dating back over a hundred years. Each day, recorded documents affecting real property and property owners are posted to these title plants so that when a title search on a particular parcel is requested, the information is already organized for rapid and accurate retrieval. This investment in skilled personnel and advanced data processing represents a major part of the title insurance premium dollar.
Article by CLTA
Title Insurance Requirements For Insuring Trusts
In today’s world of busy probate courts and exorbitant death taxes, the living trust has become a common manner of holding title to real property. The following may help you understand a few of the requirements of the title insurance industry if title to property is conveyed to the trustee of a living trust.
WHAT IS A TRUST?
An agreement between a trustor and trustee for the trustee to hold title to and administer designated assets of the trustor for the use and benefit of one or more beneficiaries.
CAN A TRUST ITSELF ACQUIRE AND CONVEY INTERESTS IN REAL PROPERTY?
No. The trust is an arrangement between a trustee and the trustor. Only the trustee, on behalf of the trust, may own and convey any interest in real property. The trustee may only exercise the powers granted in the trust.
WHAT WILL THE TITLE COMPANY REQUIRE IF A TRUSTEE HOLDS THE TITLE TO THE PROPERTY WHICH IS PART OF THE TRUST?
A certification of trust containing the following information:
- Date of execution of the trust instrument,
- Identity of the trustor and trustee,
- Powers of the trustee,
- Identity of person with power to revoke trust, if any,
- Signature authority of the trustees,
- Manner in which title to the trust assets should be taken,
- Legal description of any interest in the property held by the trust, and
- A statement that the trust has not been revoked, modified, or amended in any manner which would cause the certification to be incorrect and that the certification is being signed by all currently acting trustees of the trust
MY TRUST CONTAINS CERTAIN AMOUNTS OF MONEY TO BE GIVEN TO VARIOUS CHARITIES WHICH IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. CAN I OMIT THESE PAGES?
Because many different provisions may be on the same page, the answer must be no — but if the title company requires a copy of the trust, it may accept a copy with those amounts blacked out.
IF THERE IS MORE THAN ONE TRUSTEE, CAN JUST ONE SIGN?
Maybe. The trust must specifically provide for less than all to sign.
CAN THE TRUSTEE GIVE SOMEONE A POWER-OF-ATTORNEY?
Only if the trust specifically provides for the appointment of an attorney-in-fact.
WHAT WILL THE TITLE COMPANY REQUIRE IF ALL THE TRUSTEES HAVE DIED OR ARE UNWILLING TO ACT?
If the trustor is not able to do so, or the trust provisions prohibit the trustor from appointing a new trustee, the court may do so.
HOW DOES A NOTARY ACKNOWLEDGE THE SIGNATURE OF THE TRUSTEE?
Title is vested in the trustee. Hence, if the trustee is an individual or a corporation, then the new general form of acknowledgment will be prepared to reflect the intrinsic nature of the trustee.
HOW WOULD THE DEED TO THE TRUSTEE ORDINARILY BE WORDED TO TRANSFER TITLE TO THE TRUSTEE?
“John Doe and Mary Doe, as trustees of the Doe family trust, under declaration of trust dated January 1,1992.”
ARE THERE ANY LIMITATIONS ON WHAT A TRUSTEE MAY DO?
Yes, the trustee is limited principally and most importantly by the provisions of the trust and, thus, may only act within the terms of the trust. The probate code contains general powers which, unless limited by the trust agreement, are sufficient for title insurers to rely on for sale, conveyance, and refinance purposes.
Article by CLTA
Why Do You Need Title Insurance?
It’s a term we hear and see frequently – we see reference to it in the Sunday real estate section, in advertisements and in conversations with real estate brokers. If you’ve purchased a home before, you’re probably familiar with the benefits and procedures of title insurance. But if this is your first home, you may wonder, “Why do I need another insurance policy? It’s just one more bill to pay.”
The answer is simple: The purchase of a home is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. You, and your mortgage lender, want to make sure that the property is indeed yours – lock, stock and barrel – and that no individual or government entity has any right, lien, claim to your property.
Title insurance companies are in business to make sure your rights and interests to the property are clear, that transfer of title takes place efficiently and correctly and that your interests as a homebuyer are protected to the maximum degree.
Title insurance companies provide services to buyers, sellers, real estate developers, builders, mortgage lenders and others who have an interest in a real estate transfer. Title companies routinely issue two types of policies – “owner’s”, which cover you, the homebuyer; and “lender’s”, which covers the bank, savings and loan or other lending institution over the life of the loan. Both are issued at the time of purchase for a modest, one-time premium.
Before issuing a policy, however, the title company performs an extensive search of relevant public records to determine if anyone other than you has an interest in the property. The search may be performed by title company personnel using either public records or more likely, information gathered, reorganized and indexed in the company’s title plant.
With such a thorough examination of records, any title problems usually can be found and cleared up prior to your purchase of the property. Once a title policy is issued, if for some reason any claim which is covered under your title policy is ever filed against your property, the title company will pay the legal fee involved in defense of your rights, as well as any covered loss arising from a valid claim. That protection, which is in effect as long as you or your heirs own the property, is yours for a one-time premium paid at the time of purchase.
The fact that title companies work to eliminate risks before they develop makes the title insurance decidedly different from other types of insurance you may have purchased. Most forms of insurance assume risks by providing financial protection through a pooling of risks for losses arising from an unforeseen event, say a fire, theft or accident. The purpose of title insurance, on the other hand, is to eliminate risks and prevent losses caused by defects in title that happened in the past. Risks are examined and mitigated before property changes hands.
This risk elimination has benefits to both you, the homebuyer, and the title company: it minimizes the chances adverse claims might be raised, and by so doing reduces the number of claims that have to be defended or satisfied. This keeps costs down for the title company and your title premiums low.
Buying a home is a big step emotionally and financially. With title insurance you are assured that any valid claim against your property will be borne by the title company, and that the odds of a claim being filed are slim indeed.
Isn’t sleeping well at night, knowing your home is yours, reason enough for title insurance?
Article by CLTA
Understanding Title Insurance
What is title insurance? Newspapers refer to it in the weekly real estate sections and you hear about it in conversations with real estate brokers. If you’ve purchased a home you may be familiar with the benefits of title insurance. However, if this is your first home, you may wonder, “Why do I need yet another insurance policy?” While a number of issues can be raised by that question, we will start with a general answer.
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.
The Land Title Association, in the following pages, answers some questions frequently asked about an often misunderstood line of insurance – title insurance.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TITLE INSURANCE AND CASUALTY INSURANCE?
Title insurers work to identify and eliminate risk before issuing a title insurance policy. Casualty insurers assume risks.
Casualty insurance companies realize that a certain number of losses will occur each year in a given category (auto, fire, etc.). The insurers collect premiums monthly or annually from the policy holders to establish reserve funds in order to pay for expected losses.
Title companies work in a very different manner. Title insurance will indemnify you against loss under the terms of your policy, but title companies work in advance of issuing your policy to identify and eliminate potential risks and therefore prevent losses caused by title defects that may have been created in the past.
Title insurance also differs from casualty insurance in that the greatest part of the title insurance premium dollar goes towards risk elimination. Title companies maintain title plants, which contain information regarding property transfers and liens reaching back many years. Maintaining these title plants, along with the searching and examining of title, is where most of your premium dollar goes.
WHO NEEDS TITLE INSURANCE?
Buyers and lenders in real estate transactions need title insurance. Both want to know that the property they are involved with is insured against certain title defects. Title companies provide this needed insurance coverage subject to the terms of the policy. The seller, buyer and lender all benefit from the insurance provided by title companies.
WHAT DOES TITLE INSURANCE INSURE?
Title insurance offers protection against claims resulting from various defects (as set out in the policy) which may exist in the title to a specific parcel of real property, effective on the issue date of the policy. For example, a person might claim to have a deed or lease giving them ownership or the right to possess your property. Another person could claim to hold an easement giving them a right of access across your land. Yet another person may claim that they have a lien on your property securing the repayment of a debt. That property may be an empty lot or it may hold a 50-story office tower. Title companies work with all types of real property.
WHAT TYPES OF POLICIES ARE AVAILABLE?
Title companies routinely issue two types of policies: An “owner’s policy” which insures you, the Homebuyer, for as long as you and your heirs own the home; and a “lender’s” policy which insures the priority of the lender’s security interest over the claims that others may have in the property.
WHAT PROTECTION AM I OBTAINING WITH MY TITLE POLICY?
A title insurance policy contains provisions for the payment of the legal fees in defense of a claim against your property which is covered under your policy. It also contains provisions for indemnification against losses which result from a covered claim. A premium is paid at the close of a transaction. There are no continuing premiums due, as there are with other types of insurance.
WHAT ARE MY CHANCES OF EVER USING MY TITLE POLICY?
In essence, by acquiring your policy, you derive the important knowledge that recorded matters have been searched and examined so that title insurance covering your property can be issued. Because we are risk eliminators, the probability of exercising your right to make a claim is very low. However, claims against your property may not be valid, making the continuous protection of the policy all the more important. When a title company provides a legal defense against claims covered by your title insurance policy, the savings to you for that legal defense alone will greatly exceed the one-time premium.
WHAT IF I AM BUYING PROPERTY FROM SOMEONE I KNOW?
You may not know the owner as well as you think you do. People undergo changes in their personal lives that may affect title to their property. People get divorced, change their wills, engage in transactions that limit the use of the property and have liens and judgments placed against them personally for various reasons.
There may also be matters affecting the property that are not obvious or known, even by the existing owner, which a title search and examination seeks to uncover as part of the process leading up to the issuance of the title insurance policy.
Just as you wouldn’t make an investment based on a phone call, you shouldn’t buy real property without assurances as to your title. Title insurance provides these assurances.
The process of risk identification and elimination performed by the title companies, prior to the issuance of a title policy, benefits all parties in the property transaction. It minimizes the chances that adverse claims might be raised, and by doing so reduces the number of claims that need to be defended or satisfied. This process keeps costs and expenses down for the title company and maintains the traditional low cost of title insurance.
Article by CLTA