Travels through Real Estate Law by Tom Brodersen, Esq.
It’s part of the tragedy of our times that you can no longer assume that you are being given true, reliable information in so many situations.
One can argue that it starts in the media, where so many advertising messages are aimed at consumers in order to convince them to spend their money on worthless products and services.
The one that is bugging me right now is the issue of “title theft.” There are shows that run all night on cable, frightening people for no good reason. The pitch is that anyone can record a deed against your home and that somehow if you don’t catch it, you may end up on the street.
This is foolish. Yes, anyone can record a deed saying anything. But can they really follow up by getting a mortgage on your home? These unscrupulous advertisers know that lenders do title searches, and the identity of the person they would give many thousands of their dollars to as a result would certainly be verified before any funds passed. Suppose the lender is careless enough not to do their due diligence, and they give hundreds of thousands of dollars to a stranger, based on a mortgage on your home. When the first payment comes due and is not paid, what happens? You might think a mortgage foreclosure would be swiftly filed, and you’d be dragged into court, at which time you’d be in deep, deep trouble.
Well, no. First of all, the due diligence they should have done would finally take place, and the lender would discover they’ve been had. They would look carefully at that fraudulent deed and closely compare the signature on it to previous documents you’ve executed. The forgery would be discovered, and no foreclosure would ever get filed because such a sloppy lender would find themselves paying your attorneys’ fees for their trouble. The damage to their reputation would be quite unpleasant, too.
If you’re still unconvinced and determined to do something to prevent this, fine. Just don’t give your money to the slimy advertiser that got you upset in the first place. Instead, spend nothing. Just go online, look at your local property appraiser’s website, and find your property record. Any recent deeds filed will be there, if they can get past the watchful eyes of both the Clerk of Court and the appraiser. The appraiser actually writes to the homeowner if some problem is suspected.
If you deal with reputable professionals and buy title insurance when you buy, you are well protected, not just against the errors of the past, but many future events as well.