What Every REALTOR® Should Know About Owner’s Title Insurance

Make sure all of your clients are protected

You’re a real estate agent, so you know that buying a home can be overwhelming for many of your clients. Homebuyers can easily feel confused and frustrated by the mounds of paperwork they have to sign. Plus, all the fees associated with closing can sometimes be a surprise even to an experienced buyer.

Owner’s title insurance is one of those items often misunderstood by homebuyers at closing, yet its value is tremendous. As an important advisor to your clients, you are in the position to help them understand the value of owner’s title insurance and the dangers that can be incurred without it. 

What is title insurance?

Owner’s title insurance is a policy that protects homebuyers’ property rights. For the same reasons that the bank requires a lender’s insurance policy, a homebuyer obtains owner’s title insurance to protect their legal claims to the property. 

How it protects your clients

Say, for example, your client recently purchased a new home from a builder, but the builder failed to pay the roofer. Wanting to be paid, the roofer filed a lien against the property. Without owner’s title insurance, your client would be responsible for paying this existing debt—meaning they’d be paying the roofer out of pocket instead of purchasing something nice for their new home, like new living room furniture. This is just one example of how owner’s title insurance protects homebuyers’ from various significant risks. With owner’s title insurance, your client would be protected from certain legal or financial responsibilities.

Enduring value

The good news is that owner’s title insurance protects homebuyers, as long as they or their heirs* own the home. For a low, one-time fee, homebuyers can know they are protected from inheriting existing debts or claims to their property.

State regulations and CFPB

In Texas, title insurance is regulated by the Texas Department of Insurance. In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulates closing and settlement practices which can impact title insurance. Keep in mind that title insurance industry practices vary due to differences in state laws and local real estate customs.

Free resources for Realtors®

Together, real estate agents, land title insurance professionals and other stakeholders involved in real estate transactions can provide homebuyers with the protection they deserve during the home closing process.  For more resources relating to title insurance and the homebuying process, visit: www.republictitle.com/residential-resources

*This advertising offers a brief description of insurance coverages, products and services and is meant for informational purposes only. Actual coverages may vary by state, company or locality. You may not be eligible for all of the insurance products, coverages or services described in this advertising. For exact terms, conditions, exclusions, and limitations, please contact a title insurance company authorized to do business in your location.

September Stats Are In!

The September 2020 DFW area real estate statistics are in and we’ve got the numbers! Take a look at our stats infographics, separated by county, with MLS area stats on each county report as well! These infographics and video are perfect for social sharing so feel free to post them!

To see past month’s reports, please visit our resources section here.

For the full report from the Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center, click here. For NTREIS County reports click here.

Texas Housing Insight – August 2020

Here is the August 2020 Summary from Texas A&M Real Estate Center.


Total Texas housing sales declined 4.1 percent in August from an all-time high the previous month as pent-up demand from the economic shutdown normalized. Nevertheless, sales were up 3.1 percent YTD compared with activity during the first eight months of 2019. Strong demand for housing supported permit issuance, which increased for the fourth straight month to record-breaking levels. Current inventory, however, extended a year-long fall, particularly at the bottom of the price spectrum. That shortage contributed to the shift in the distribution of sales toward higher-priced homes and pushed the median home price up 8.4 percent annually. The Real Estate Center’s Repeat Sales Home Price Index, however, suggested more moderate home-price appreciation while single-family housing sales in September are expected to recover fully from August’s backslide.

Supply

The Texas Residential Construction Cycle (Coincident) Index, which measures current construction levels, increased for the third consecutive month as industry employment, wages, and construction values inched up. The Residential Construction Leading Index also accelerated amid rising permit issuance, suggesting ongoing activity in the coming months. Conversely, the major metros’ leading indexes declined, with the exception of Houston, as multifamily building permits and housing starts dropped. A modest uptick in the real rate of the ten-year Treasury bill also pulled down the leading indexes.

Single-family construction permits increased 6.6 percent, a moderate improvement compared with the previous three months but still reached a record-breaking 14,000 permits. Texas remained the national leader, contributing 16 percent of the national total. All of Texas’ major metros issued post-Great Recession highs after accounting for seasonality, except for San Antonio, where the metric recorded 920 nonseasonally adjusted permits. Houston and Dallas posted 4,768 and 3,906 permits, respectively, while Austin issued 1,854. On the other hand, Texas’ multifamily permits dropped 28.4 percent, with the year-to-date (YTD) sum running 4 percent behind the total during the same period last year.

Total Texas housing starts fell 24.5 percent in August, normalizing to their two-year average as lumber prices accelerated for the fourth straight month. Single-family private construction values also slowed, although growth was still positive at 2.9 percent. The improvement was largely due to Austin values skyrocketing 30.4 percent to a record high. The metric increased modestly in North Texas and decreased slightly in San Antonio, while Houston values backtracked 14.6 percent.

The number of new listings hitting the market has failed to keep pace with sales, pulling Texas’ months of inventory (MOI) down to a record 2.4 months. A total MOI around six months is considered a balanced housing market. Inventory for homes priced less than $300,000 was even more constrained, sliding to less than 1.8 months. The MOI for luxury homes (homes priced more than $500,000), although elevated at 6.3 months, decreased for the third straight month.

Inventory was even more limited in the major metros, falling to 1.2 months in Austin as the MOI for homes priced from $200,000-$400,000 plummeted below one month. In North Texas, the MOI dropped to 1.9 and 1.7 months in Dallas and Fort Worth, respectively. San Antonio’s metric sank to 2.3 months, while Houston’s MOI slipped to 2.7 months.

Demand

Total housing sales decreased 4.1 percent in August from an all-time high the prior month as pent-up demand from the economic shutdown waned. The trend, however, remained on an upward trajectory as low mortgage rates stimulated activity. Every price cohort less than $400,000 registered a decline in sales; on the other hand, a record-breaking 4,000 luxury homes were sold. The number of Texas’ sales transactions so far in 2020 outpaced last year’s eight-month sum by 3.1 percent. National YTD sales fell half a percent relative to the same period in 2019.

Sales also declined at the metropolitan level, most notably in Houston, which registered a 7.9 percent monthly drop. Most of the pullback in activity was due to a reduction in sales for homes priced less than $400,000. The metric in Dallas and Fort Worth decreased 5.2 and 4.1 percent, respectively, while San Antonio sales fell 2.9 percent. Austin was the exception, although the increase in sales was modest. Nevertheless, the metric posted a record-breaking 3,622 sales as the share of luxury homes sold exceeded one-fifth for the first time ever.   

Texas’ average days on market (DOM) slid below year-ago levels to 57 days, corroborating robust demand despite the pandemic-induced recession. The average home in all four major metros sold faster than during August 2019, with the Dallas and Fort Worth metric decreasing to 48 and 44 days, respectively. Austin’s DOM shaved almost two weeks off its reading from last year, falling to 49 days. At 58 days, the DOM in Houston and San Antonio, however, was slightly higher than the statewide average.  

Persistent economic uncertainty surrounding the pandemic kept interest rates at historically low levels. The ten-year U.S. Treasury bond yield inched up slightly but stayed below 0.7 percent*, while the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation’s 30-year fixed-rate was less than 3 percent for the first time in series history (starting in 1971). Mortgage rates extended a year-and-a-half-long slide within Texas during July, falling to 3.18 and 3.21 percent for non-GSE and GSE loans, respectively. The slide in rates pushed home-purchase applications up 15.1 percent YTD in August. Refinance activity continued to normalize after spiking at the onset of the pandemic but still remained 40 percent above year-end levels. (For more information, see Finding a Representative Interest Rate for the Typical Texas Mortgagee.)

In July, the median loan-to-value ratio (LTV) and debt-to-income ratio (DTI) constituting the “typical” Texas conventional-loan Texas mortgage decreased for the second straight month from 86.5 and 35.1 to 82.3 and 33.6, respectively. Meanwhile, the median credit score ticked up from 751 to 758, its highest reading in almost three decades. The median LTV (86.0) and DTI (35.5) of the typical Texas borrower who obtained a loan from a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) also declined, albeit less drastically than the corresponding components of the typical conventional loan (from 86.7 and 35.6, respectively). The improved credit profiles may reflect tightening lending standards as economic uncertainty looms heading into autumn.

Prices

The Texas median home price flattened at $261,300 in August but climbed 8.4 percent year over year (YOY). The annual growth rate in Central Texas and Dallas surpassed the state average, pushing the median price to $347,800 and $251,000 in Austin and San Antonio, respectively, and $319,800 in Dallas. On the other hand, YOY growth slowed to around 6.5 percent in both Fort Worth and Houston for a median price of $260,700 in the former and $260,600 in the latter. The growth rate in median sale price reflects the relative strength of demand for higher-priced homes as the lower-end of the market has been more vulnerable to recent employment shocks and constrained inventory.

The Texas Repeat Sales Home Price Index accounts for such compositional effects and provides a better measure of changes in single-family home values. The index suggested more moderate home-price appreciation than the change in the median price, but it still accelerated 5.4 percent annually in August compared with 4.2 percent the month prior. Austin’s metric rose at the fastest clip, jumping 8.3 percent and pushing the statewide rate above 5 percent for the first time in three years. The index climbed 5.7 percent in Fort Worth and 5.1 percent in San Antonio. The metric increased more moderately in Dallas and Houston, posting 4.6 percent and 4.1 percent YOY growth, respectively.  

Single-Family Forecast

The Real Estate Center projected single-family housing sales using monthly pending listings from the preceding period (see table). Only one month in advance was projected due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the availability of reliable and timely data. Texas sales are expected to rebound 13.7 percent in September after decreasing by more than a tenth in August. The desire to capitalize on historically low interest rates is driving home sales with activity in Central Texas and Houston predicted to accelerate around 16 percent, while DFW sales are projected to increase 13.1 percent. Texas’ housing market remains a pillar of the state’s economic recovery.

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* Bond and mortgage interest rates are nonseasonally adjusted. Loan-to-value ratios, debt-to-income ratios, and the credit score component are also nonseasonally adjusted.

Source – James P. Gaines, Luis B. Torres, Wesley Miller, Paige Silva, and Griffin Carter (October 13, 2020)

https://www.recenter.tamu.edu/articles/technical-report/Texas-Housing-Insight

eClosing 101: Hybrid, In-Person and Remote Online

Broadly speaking, eClosings fall along a continuum that include three basic types – hybrid, in-person, and remote online. These methods incorporate varying amounts of the eClosing elements. In today’s blog, Dennis Pospisil, Senior Vice President/Digital Settlement and Signing Services, breaks down the different types of eClosings.

Hybrid eClosing “Hybrid” (“procedural” documents only closing) – At the low-end of the spectrum is the Hybrid or procedural documents only eClosing. This “entry-level” eClosing only involves electronic documents that do not need to be notarized or recorded, such as loan disclosures and settlement statements. The remainder of the closing takes place in a traditional manner.

All parties appear in person at the closing table, but some documents are signed electronically and some, typically collateral, notarized, and witnessed loan documents are wet signed. For documents that are electronically signed, generally one electronic signature is applied across all documents. Hybrid eClosings are the most popular and most widely used type of eClosing.

In-Person eClosing In-person – The middle-tier approach to eClosing involves electronically recording electronic documents with electronic signatures and electronic notarizations.  The closing takes place in-person utilizing a shared computer or tablet.

All parties appear in person either at the settlement agent’s office or in the presence of a mobile notary, and all documents are both signed and notarized electronically. Very few closings are full eClosings because a large percentage of lenders are not ready to have the note electronically signed.

Remote Online eClosing Remote Online eClosing (“RON”) is a new, technology-driven notarial process that allows the signer to appear before the notary over a live audio-video feed when executing digital documents.

Click here if you would like more information on our digital settlement services.

The FAQs of Title Insurance for Homebuyers

For most of us, a home is the largest investment we’ll make in our lives. To buy with confidence, get owner’s title insurance. It’s the smart way to protect your property from legal claims. To help you understand how owner’s title insurance works, here are answers to common questions.

What is title?

Title is your right to own or use your property. Title also establishes any limitations on those rights.

What is a title search?

A title search is an early step in the homebuying process to uncover issues that could limit your rights to the property. After the title search is complete, the title company can provide a title insurance commitment and then, after any requirements are met and closing occurs, a title policy.

What is title insurance?

If you’re buying a home, title insurance is a policy that protects your investment and property rights.

There are two different types of title insurance: an owner’s policy and a lender’s policy.

  1. An owner’s policy is the best way to protect your property rights. Either the buyer or seller may pay for this policy. Ask your title professional how it’s handled in your area.
  2. A lender’s policy is usually required by the lender and only protects the lender’s financial interests. The buyer typically pays for this policy, but that varies depending on geography. Ask your title professional how it’s handled in your area.

Why should I purchase owner’s title insurance?

Owner’s title insurance protects your investment in your property from certain future legal claims regarding ownership of, or liens on, your property. For a one-time fee, you and your heirs* receive coverage for as long as you own your home. The owner’s policy also covers potential legal fees and court costs for settling claims covered by your policy.

What does owner’s title insurance cover?

Sometimes undiscoverable defects can come up after the title search. Under an owner’s title insurance policy, you are protected against certain undiscovered errors in the title.

Title issues include unknown:

  • Outstanding mortgages and judgments, or a lien against the property because the seller has not paid his taxes
  • Pending legal action against the property that could affect you
  • Unknown heir of a previous owner who is claiming ownership of the property

Unforeseeable title claims include:

  • Forgery: making a false document
    • For example, the seller misrepresents the identity of the person who sold the property.
  • Fraud: deception to achieve unfair gain
    • For example, someone steals your identity and either sells your house without your knowledge or consent, or takes out a second mortgage on the property and walks away with the money.
  • Clerical error: inconsistent paperwork and historical records
    • For example, an unforeseeable discrepancy in the property or fence line can cause confusion in ownership rights.

What does owner’s title insurance cost?

The one-time payment for owner’s title insurance is low relative to the value of your home. In Texas, rates are based on the sales price of the property and are set by the Texas Department of Insurance. You can calculate title insurance premium rates using the insurance calculator found on our website.

How long am I covered?

Your owner’s insurance policy lasts for as long as you or your heirs* own your property. Your life will change over time, but your protection never will.

What happens at closing?

Closing is the final step in executing the homebuying transaction and involves signing the documents that allows the creation of your new loan (if applicable), and transfer of ownership to occur. Upon completion of the closing and funding process, you get the keys to your home!

 

*This offers a brief description of insurance coverages, products and services and is meant for informational purposes only. Actual coverages may vary by state, company or locality. You may not be eligible for all of the insurance products, coverages or services described in this advertising. For exact terms, conditions, exclusions, and limitations, please contact a title insurance company authorized to do business in your location.