Ok, so, you didn’t set out to become an insurance expert – all you wanted to do was buy a house, after all. Yet, in the process, you ran up against at least four different types of insurance – and these are just the mandatory policies.

We’re willing to bet that you never dreamed you would learn so much about insurance as you have during the home-buying process. From PMI to hazard insurance EVERYONE has their hand out, ensuring their interests are covered.

Think title insurance is frivolous?

A Utah couple put their home on the market and quickly found a buyer. Escrow was opened and a title search was ordered. During the process, the title company discovered a lien against the property, which happens frequently. What happened in this case is when the homeowners originally bought the home, the sellers lent them money for the purchase. This loan created a lien against the property.

The title company contacted the original homeowners and informed them that their borrowers were selling the home and, thus, paying off the loan. The lien was then removed, right?

When dealing with reasonable people the answer would be yes. Unfortunately, the original homeowners refused to take the payment in full for the money they lent. They offered no explanation.

The sellers worked overtime, trying to get the uncooperative former owner to accept the loan repayment. When the closing date came, the buyers were forced to move into an apartment because they’d already given notice to their landlord.

Finally, the original homeowner came forward and demanded more money. To move on with their lives, the sellers paid the former owner more than what they owed.

There is a moral to this story, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, let me explain what title insurance is and how it works. When a home goes under contract, the lender orders a search of the home’s title to determine that the homeowner is truly the owner of the property and that nobody else has a claim to it. The title search also reveals outstanding judgments or liens against the property, information about unpaid taxes and other issues.

After the title search, the title company will release a summary of its findings, typically called an abstract of title or a preliminary title report, and an opinion about the validity of the property’s title.

If the lender sees anything negative it will refuse to issue the funds and the purchase will not proceed. If, on the other hand, the researcher validates the title, the lender will proceed, with the requirement that the buyer purchase an insurance policy to protect it against any claims that weren’t found during the research. This is commonly known as the lender’s title policy, although there is also an optional owner’s policy that protects the new homeowner as well. The lender’s policy only protects the lender, even though it doesn’t pay the premium, the buyer or the seller does.

So, the moral of the original story about the Utah homeowners is that home sellers could have ordered a title report before actually going under contract with a buyer. Since most title issues take time to remedy – it is money well spent since time is usually in short supply when you have a closing date.

Nobody likes PMI

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) has been in the news a lot over the past few years. FHA lowered the costs of its premiums (which they call the Mortgage Insurance Premium/MIP) and that hit the headlines. Then, advice columns on how to remove PMI started making the media rounds. American homeowners try desperately to rid their house payment of the PMI premium.

PMI covers only the lender and will kick in if you default on the loan. It is required when the buyer pays less than 20 percent of the purchase price for a down payment. This is, in a nutshell, the price borrowers pay for low down-payment loans. Without it, you’d have to come up with 20 percent of the purchase price.

So, it’s not entirely “useless” after all. And now that you know what you are paying for, it’s a little less annoying.

Let’s talk about homeowner’s insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is another lender-requirement but the homeowner also benefits in the case of a claim. Hazard insurance is a part of a homeowner policy.

Homeowner’s insurance coverage varies from basic theft, weather and fire to costly coverage including that for earthquake or flood damage. The lender will let you know which basic coverage you will need to purchase.

Insurance can be confusing and when you are covering an expensive investment, you should contact a knowledgeable insurance agent. Let us know if you need a referral in Loudoun County!

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