Even first time home buyers have a general awareness that they will need to pay for something called “title insurance” when they close on the purchase of their home. However, few buyers, I would guess, have an understanding of exactly what they are paying for.
Unlike when you purchase a car, there is no certificate of title issued by a government agency, which serves as proof of your ownership rights. You will receive a deed from the seller at the closing, but this, in and of itself, does not give you what real estate attorneys call “marketable title.” Simply put, marketable title establishes you as the owner of the property with all the rights that such ownership entails.
Obtaining marketable title is an involved process. First, the seller, who signs the deed, must themselves have marketable title. To determine that your seller has marketable title, your title company will search the public records and have their attorneys interpret the results. Second, the deed from the seller must be recorded with the City Register. See my blog post for a discussion of why a deed is recorded.
As you can see, obtaining title to a home is much more complex then acquiring title to a car. Your attorney will employ a title company which will do this work, for a premium of course. They will determine that your seller has marketable title and insure that your deed is recorded. Your title insurance company will then issue a proposed policy of title insurance, called a “title report” that insures that you have marketable title. Lastly, your attorney will review the title report to make sure the coverage complies with the terms of your contract of sale.
When you purchase your home, be sure you retain an attorney who has experience with title insurance so you can have peace of mind that you have marketable title.