Hazards of a Clouded Title

There are circumstances, such as assuming an old loan or using seller financing, that may tempt you to save money by foregoing a title search and new owner's title insurance. The savings aren't worth the risk. Regardless of how great a deal you've found or the customs of the region, you should obtain an owner's title insurance policy.

The wisdom of buying title insurance boils down to this: You need the protection. Title problems are numerous and varied, and they're on the increase. Some possibilities:

You are buying a house from a supposedly single man or woman. The title search reveals two names on the ownership record and describes them as married: '"John and Jane Clark, husband and wife."

You are buying from a middle-aged brother and sister from out of town. They are selling you a home their parents bought for their retirement. The father died several years ago and the widowed mother passed away just recently. A title search reveals that the property is in her name, but there is no will on file to direct what she wanted done with it.

You are buying from a couple who borrowed $20,000 seven years ago to add a room to their house. They have long since paid back the loan but have forgotten that her parents recorded it as a second mortgage when they made the loan. A title search shows the second mortgage but no evidence of its having been paid.

The wisdom of buying title insurance boils down to this: You need the protection.

You are buying a house to which the owner added central air-conditioning two years ago. He had a fight with the air-conditioning contractor over some damage to a ceiling that occurred during installation. When the contractor refused to correct the damage, the seller refused to pay the final installment on his contract. The contractor filed a mechanic's lien on the property, and it has never been removed.

You are buying a property that is beautifully landscaped.

A title search shows that the landscaper has a lien on the property. The seller explains that several of the trees died and when the landscaper refused to replace them, he refused to make final payment.

You are buying a house at a great bargain from a man who is in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, which has placed a lien on the property.

You are buying a house from an aged widow. She and her

AVOIDING SURPRISES

Never take title to a property—not even as a gift—without full knowledge of its legal and financial condition. Common problem areas include:

Unpaid taxes. Make sure there are no unpaid property taxes from prior years. The title policy or interim binder should note any pro rata portion of taxes unpaid in the current year.

Restrictions. Restrictive covenants or easements tell you where and what you can and can't build. The title company may be responsible for damages caused by restrictions it failed to list in the interim binder.

If a listed easement, such as a utility right-of-way, concerns you, get legal advice before closing.

Community standards. Within the private restrictive covenants section, the title policy should certify that structures comply with existing community standards. Then you'll be protected if, for instance, the previous owner built the deck two feet too close to the road and your neighborhood association demands you dismantle it.

Encroachments. Be sure the policy affirms that nothing on your property encroaches on your neighbor's property, and vice versa.

husband bought the property many years ago, and when he died last year, she thought she was the sole owner. Now a title search reveals that the deed by which she and her husband acquired title was defective. The deed says only "Horace and Henrietta Jenkins." It should have shown their relationship and the manner in which they intended to take title.

You are buying a house that has a newly paved driveway.

Your seller is proud of having improved the value of his property by converting his joint driveway into a private driveway. He bought his neighbor's half in a friendly deal last year when the neighbor built a new driveway on the opposite side of his house. There is just one problem: The expanded driveway doesn't appear in the public records.

The paving, sidewalks and gutters in front of the house you have under contract are all new. A title search shows that your seller has not paid the city's special assessment for the improvements.

nadequate and description and the resulting defective deed occurs in the city, too, when neighbors get together and swap bits of land.

You plan to build a garage on the west end of your lot as soon as you move in. A title search reveals an easement of eight feet over the length of your future yard, extending across the garage site. The gas company owns the easement, which was granted by the development company that built your house.

You are planning to get away from it all by building a house on a piece of land 50 miles from town. A title search reveals that your property was carved out of a large farm that was never legally subdivided. The land description was one of those down-home "from the apple tree to the stone marker" jobs. That sort of inadequate land description and the resulting defective deed occurs in the city, too, when neighbors get together and swap bits of land. Sometimes an owner with an oversize yard sells a rear 20 feet to a neighbor with a short yard. Or neighbors buy a vacant lot between them and split it. They erect a fence along the newly

Title insurance companies are regulated by state law, but in most states, rates vary enough to make shopping around worthwhile.

created lot line and consider the job finished, never thinking to get a survey and a proper deed for their new half lot and have it recorded.

Sometimes it is the owner's financial manipulations in a business that cloud the title. In the case of a bankruptcy or an unincorporated business or partnership, the owner's personal residence may be attached to satisfy part of his business debt. Another business owner may not be in trouble, just expanding, and has pledged his personal residence—the one you're about to buy—as part of the security required to obtain a business loan. Until that lien is paid or he arranges with his creditor to substitute other property as security, he can't deliver a clear title to you.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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