A title search is a crucial step in real estate transactions and property ownership transfers. Title searches involve a thorough examination of the historical records associated with a property’s ownership and any other interests such as potential claims, liens, or restraints that might affect the property’s title. The search is often performed by a title company or an attorney on behalf of the prospective buyer. The importance of a complete title search is exemplified by a recent situation where an owner of empty land in Connecticut found a $1.5 million house had been unexpectedly built on his property.
This past summer, a former Connecticut resident, Daniel Kenigsberg, received a call from a childhood friend who still resides in Fairfield, Connecticut. The friend informed Daniel that someone was building a house on the empty lot next to his old childhood home. Daniel still owns the empty lot, and he planned on passing it down to the family. However, town records show that in October 2022, Daniel Kenigsberg of Johannesburg, South Africa had granted a power of attorney to local attorney Anthony Monelli, who then sold the empty lot to a local developer for $350,000. The developer then started construction on a residential home on the property, which was listed for sale for nearly $1.5 million. The real Daniel Kenigsberg is now seeking to tear down the residential home.
While fraud of this nature is very rare, there were a number of red flags here that were missed by Attorney Monelli and more importantly, by the attorney purchasing developer. Most problematic was that the fraudulent power of attorney being relied on was signed before the U.S. Consulate in South Africa, something that would have been easily checked. Past records would have shown the actual owner had previously been a doctor residing in Long Island, and the attorneys involved could have inquired further as to why a Long Island doctor was suddenly living in South Africa. If the attorney for the purchaser had properly discussed the transaction with his title insurance company, they could have provided additional instructions for how to ensure the seller was not a fraud. If the fraud had continued to elude detection after this additional due diligence, the title insurance policy purchased by the developed would likely cover the potential loss of their investment.
Read more about this Connecticut property fraud here: https://www.ctinsider.com/columnist/article/house-built-on-fairfield-lot-18261063.php
Verifying The Ownership and The Use of the Property
Verifying ownership is one of the most important steps in a title search, ensuring that the seller has the right to sell the property and the buyer is purchasing from the rightful owner. Information is obtained from public records and is a crucial step in helping to prevent fraudulent sales and disputes over ownership. A title search can be expanded to ensure that the property complies with the local zoning laws, building codes, and other regulations by reviewing town records. It also checks for any violations that might need to be addressed before the closing of the property.
What Else Does a Title Search Uncover?
A title search also uncovers any liens, mortgages, easements, covenants, or restrictions that may have attached to the property. These circumstances can affect the property’s value, use, and potential for development. Buyers need to be aware of these clouds on the property’s title before completing a purchase, as they may inhibit the buyer’s future use or sale of the property. Some examples of reasons why a title is not clean could be due to unresolved building code violations, liens, or restrictions that are attached to the property at hand.
Title Insurance When Planning to Finance Your Home
If you plan on financing your home, your lender will require that a title search be completed, and title insurance be purchased. A title search provides the lender with the confidence that the property is free of any liens and can be used as collateral for the loan, reducing the lender’s risk. Knowing and understanding the property’s title history and any potential restraints on the property can affect its market value. As mentioned above in the Daniel Kenigsberg story, a properly issued title insurance policy should have protected the purchasing developer of the empty lot, if they’re ultimately required to tear down the building and the ownership of the lot is confirmed is the real Daniel Kenigsberg.
Title insurance provides protection against any unforeseen claims that may arise after the property has been purchased. There are two common types of title insurance: Lender Title Insurance Policy is required by a lender and is designed to protect the lender and the amount of their loan; on the other hand, an Owner’s Title Insurance policy is optional; but is the only way for the owner to protect their equity in the property. Looking at the Connecticut fraud case, if the developer has been required to purchase a Lender’s Title Insurance policy by their lender, the lender’s interest in the loan should be paid off, but the equity and the capital investment that the developer made itself might only have been protected with an Owner’s Title Insurance policy.
A clear title on the property ensures that buyers can enjoy their new property without the worry of unforeseen ownership disputes or financial liabilities. A title search is a vital step in any real estate transaction as it provides critical information about a property’s history, ownership, and potential legal issues. Investing in title insurance can provide financial protection against unpredicted claims, including the possibility of fraudulent transactions. Purchasing or selling real estate and inquiring about title insurance can be daunting tasks, so it’s always important to reach out to seasoned professionals to assist and guide you in the transaction. contact Legacy Counsellors today at email@example.com or call (413) 527-0517.