When a buyer purchases real estate, the title to the property is subject to rights and claims that others have in the property. These rights and claims, such as mortgages, leases, and easements may come with financial consequences. In fact, certain defects and encumbrances interfere with more than the buyers use and possession of the property; they also may call into question whether the buyer is the rightful owner. A mortgage lender's lien in real estate is similarly subject to various interests in the property. Title problems and liens can jeopardize the lender's ability to collect if a foreclosure is necessary. This is where title insurance plays an important role in the process.

Title insurance is an indemnity contract between the insurance company and the owner of some type of interest in real property. Title insurance is intended to protect real estate buyers, mortgagees, and other insured parties by shifting the risk of loss surrounding title matters from those parties to the title insurance company. A few of the most common risks title insurance protects against are:

A) Liens for unpaid property taxes, estate taxes, mortgages, mechanics liens, assessments
B) Forged instruments, false claims of ownership, false representations
C) Mistakes in recording legal documents

Usually, the real estate interests insured are fee simple ownership or a mortgage lien; however, any interest in real property can be insured, including such things as easements, leases, or even life estates. If a monetary loss results from a title defect or lien on the insured property, the title insurer will defend the insured against any attack on the title or pay the insured for the money lost up to the amount of the policy, provided the defect is not excluded within the coverage exceptions.

Most insurance provides contractual coverage, indemnifying or guaranteeing the consumer or business against certain types of losses at some future date. Title insurance covers past occurrences, not potential future events. It is designed to eliminate or reduce risk by assessing the public record and other matters known to or disclosed to the title company. Title companies are able to minimize those risks by establishing the chain of title and identifying the potential for any adverse claims. Once the title exam has been completed, a title company typically provides a title commitment, which involves a promise of insuring the title, restricted by the terms of the commitment. At that point, potential defects can be either corrected before the issuance of the title policy or excluded by the express terms of the policy.

The two most common title policies are the Owner's Policy and the Lender's Policy. The Owner's Policy details the coverage as of the policy's effective date and provides a litany of exclusions to coverage that the title company refuses to insure, known as Schedule B Exclusions. Typically, the policy limit is the purchase price of the property, and coverage lasts as long as the insured maintains the covered interest.

A Mortgagee's Policy (or Lender's Policy) insures the enforceability of the lender's mortgage lien. Just as a lender will demand that the property has casualty and hazard insurance to protect the lender's investment, the first lien holder also will require title insurance as security for its investment in the real estate, protecting against defects and liens. This protects all lenders up to the amount of their loans. Lenders do not want to be standing behind any other interest holder if they are trying to collect on their collateral. Title insurance for lenders makes sense as an investment, but it is also a legal requirement for many regulated mortgage lenders and has contributed to the proliferation of the secondary mortgage market in this country.

A one-time premium based on the value of your home is your only cost as long as you or your heirs own the property. There are no annual or monthly payments.