Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don't skimp on title insurance

Most people are trying to cut costs these days. Some even wonder if it's necessary to pay for title insurance when they buy or sell a home. Skimping here could end up costing plenty if you discover a title defect after you own the property.

Title insurance is paid for once at closing and covers the property for as long as you own it. It protects the purchaser from financial loss deriving from defects in the title to the property. The premium cost varies depending on the title insurance company, and is usually based on the purchase price.

Who pays the title insurance premium often depends on local custom and can vary from one county to the next. For instance, if you were to sell a home in Los Angeles County, where the seller usually pays for title insurance, and buy in Alameda County, where the buyers usually pay, you'll pay for title insurance twice during one move. Buyers typically pay the premium to cover their lender's interest in the property.

The payment of title insurance is not set by law and can be negotiated between the buyer and seller, although local custom usually prevails. Whatever is agreed to in the purchase agreement will dictate who pays the premium.

A buyer who was an attorney thought title insurance was expensive and a waste of money. Given his legal expertise, he decided he'd search the title record himself to avoid paying the title premium. In the end, his agent talked him out of the do-it-yourself approach based on the risks involved.

Title insurance companies search the title to a property to make sure that there aren't any defects in the chain of title. They also look for liens and easements recorded against the property, as well as establish who has marketable title to the property.

In one case, the title company discovered when searching the chain of title that when the property sold to the current owner, an heir to the estate had not signed the deed transferring title. This meant that person still had rights to the property.

Fortunately, the title company located the heir, who was reputable. She relinquished any interest she had in the property. If the heir hadn't been cooperative, the current owner could have made a claim against the title insurance company that issued title insurance to him when he bought the property.

Title companies usually issue a preliminary title report, which is an offer to provide title insurance on the property. It is not the insurance policy, but it shows the results of the title search.

You and your real estate agent or real estate attorney should examine the preliminary report carefully to make sure the person who has marketable title to the property is the person who signed the purchase agreement. Also check for liens secured against the property.

Easements grant the right to use the property to someone other than the owner. Common easements are for utilities, sewer, and drainage. Ask the title company to provide written copies of any easement and CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions), and to locate the easements in color on a copy of the parcel map. You can't build over an easement.

Both CC&Rs, typically found in condominiums and planned-use developments, and easements restrict your use of the property. Make sure you understand how these will affect your ownership interests before you complete a purchase.

If you find defects in the title, make it a condition of the purchase that the seller cures the defects before closing. Make sure that your purchase agreement includes a clause that gives you that right.

THE CLOSING: Ask your title officer, REALTOR® or attorney for answers to any title-related questions.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Entry-level Affordability Up

Quick Facts:

· C.A.R. First-time Buyer Housing Affordability Index stood at 67 percent in the second quarter of 2009 compared with 49 percent (revised) in the second quarter of 2008

· The median price of an entry-level home in California was $224,180 in the second quarter of 2009

· The estimated monthly payment including taxes and insurance was $1,330 in the second quarter of 2009

· The minimum household income needed to purchase an entry-level home in California in the second quarter of 2009 was $39,930

C.A.R. reports entry-level housing affordability reached 67 percent in the second quarter of 2009

July sales up 12 percent

C.A.R. reports July sales up 12 percent, prices declined 19.6 percent

Home sales increased 12 percent in July in compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home declined 19.6 percent, C.A.R. reported yesterday. “The federal tax credit for first-time buyers played a critical role in the purchase decision of many buyers,” said C.A.R. President James Liptak. “Nearly 40 percent of first-time buyers said they would not have purchased a home if the tax credit was not offered. Because the tax credit has helped so many first-time buyers become homeowners, it is critical that Congress extends the credit beyond the Dec. 1 deadline, and includes all buyers, not just first-timers.”

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 553,910 in July at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate. Statewide home resale activity increased 12 percent from the revised 494,390 sales pace recorded in July 2008. Sales in July 2009 increased 8.1 percent compared with the previous month. The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2009 would be if sales maintained the July pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during July 2009 was $285,480, a 19.6 percent decrease from the revised $355,000 median for July 2008, C.A.R. reported. The July 2009 median price rose 3.9 percent compared with June’s $274,740 median price.

“July marked the fifth consecutive month of month-to-month increases in the median price,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “This was the largest increase on record for the month of July based on statistics dating back to 1979. The yearly decline in July also

Monday, January 26, 2009


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced it will expedite its process of providing relief from federal tax liens for distressed homeowners. With more than one million current federal tax liens against real and personal property, the IRS announcement should help REALTORS® and their clients resolve federal tax lien issues in their sale and loan transactions. As background, a homeowner seeking to sell or refinance a property must generally pay off an existing federal tax lien. However, during the current economic downturn, many homeowners don't have the cash or equity to do so. Hence, for a refinance, the homeowner may request that the IRS makes its tax lien subordinate, or secondary, to the lien of the refinancing lender. For a sale, the homeowner may, under certain circumstances, request that the IRS discharge its claim. The IRS's processing time for subordination or discharge requests has been about 30 days. The IRS currently is working to expedite that time frame to help distressed homeowners. For IRS instructions on requesting relief from federal tax liens, go to IRS Publication 783 for discharges and Publication 784 for subordinations at