The Mystery of Title Insurance Revealed

Understanding title insurance through the home buying and selling process can seem like a mystery. This article strives to unveil this mystery and be the source to the source for your answers.

The home buying and selling process can seem like a long and daunting prospect. Title insurance seems to be the most confusing or mysterious piece of the process. You’re not alone in that thought. I get asked many questions surrounding title insurance and who pays for it. Through the course of this article, I dive into this topic and strive to unveil this mystery by being the source to the source for these answers. Because of this, the article is lengthy. You may want to use this as a reference whenever questions arise to quickly skim to an answer you need…

You’ve FINALLY found a buyer or home to buy; and just signed a contract. What happens now? In a nutshell, once a contract is signed by the seller and buyer, the title company typically takes over from there to deposit the escrow, ensure a clean title, and work towards completing a smooth closing. A good real estate agent will also help facilitate or communicate to their client every step in this process in an effort to help provide that “smooth experience” in closing.

The title company’s main responsibilities include:

  • Holding the earnest money deposit in an escrow account — if applicable
  • Running a title search and performing an examination of the title
  • Working to clear any potential title issues
  • Ordering any necessary payoffs, estoppel letters, municipal lien search, survey, etc.
  • Preparing all necessary documents to clear and transfer title
  • Coordinating the day and time of the closing with all parties involved in the transaction
  • Facilitating the signing and notary of all required documents
  • Recording the necessary documents after signing
  • Issuing any title insurance policies

As you can tell from the list above, a good title company is critical in handling the many steps to get to a closing; AND in ensuring a smooth closing transaction meeting.

Who picks the title company to use, the buyer or seller?
Since the seller customarily pays for the new owner’s title insurance policy in many Florida counties, it’s only right for them to be able to select the title company to use.

The buyer customarily pays for and chooses the title insurance company in the following counties:

  • Miami-Dade
  • Broward
  • Sarasota
  • Collier

Whoever is paying, it’s important to do research first in selecting a good title company that will not only ensure a smooth process, but also help keep the costs/fees down. That said, the party not paying for the owner’s title insurance policy can make a counteroffer that includes a new proposed title company if they’re passionate about using a specific closing firm.

Also, sometimes a real estate agent may have a relationship with or preference for a certain title company. As the client responsible for buying title insurance, you may go with that suggestion or select your own preferred title company.

Remember, the goal is to close the transaction. Anything is negotiable. Always keep this in mind in order to work towards a closed transaction, aiming to be a win-win for all parties involved whenever possible. When issues arise, a good real estate agent is seeking for negotiations that will lead to a closed deal. Ultimately trying to SAVE the deal towards an amicable result if possible. They do have your best interest in mind.

Who directs where the earnest money deposit is held?
Same person who picks the title company.

What is title?
Title means ownership. When you are purchasing a home you are really purchasing the title, which means you have the right to occupy and use the space. A party entitled to ownership of the property must be able to show that he/she has acquired such right, or risk losing the property to another claimant. An owner must be able to provide evidence of ownership, which is shown with two methods:

1. Actual notice of ownership is provided by physical possession.

2. Constructive notice, also called legal notice, is achieved by recording documents in the public records. Recording a document has the same power as showing it to the entire world.

Why protect title?
Marketable or merchantable title to real property is title that is free from litigation and defects, enabling an owner to hold it in peace and sell it to a person for its fair market value. As mentioned before, there is only evidence to support the claim. To determine whether or not title is good and merchantable, the record of ownership must be traced back for a period of time necessary to assure that no outstanding or unresolved claims exist against the title.

What is a title search?
Since many types of documents may affect the title to the property, a search of ALL such documents must be conducted. This is performed by the title company selected. All documents that could potentially negatively impact title includes mortgages, judgements, divorces, deaths, births, tax liens, and others. Notations are made regarding any documents that could affect the title. This process is called the title search. A title that is found to be negatively impacted for whatever reason is called a defective title.

How much does a title search cost in Florida?
The cost of a title search in Florida is typically the seller’s responsibility and ranges anywhere from $150 – $1500, depending on the type of property it is – residential or commercial. The fee will be a separate line item on the Settlement Statement, which outlines all the related costs and specifies who pays which fees.

What is title insurance?
Title insurance provides financial protection against losses sustained as the result of a defective title. It is NOT a guarantee of good title and does not give the purchaser of the insurance an opinion of title.

There is no Florida law that requires that title insurance be obtained.

How does title insurance protect me should a claim arise?
If a claim is made against your property, title insurance will, in accordance with the terms of your policy, assure you of a legal defense — and pay all court costs and related fees. Also, if the claim proves valid, and the policyholder should lose the property as a result of the defective title, they’ll be reimbursed for the actual loss up to the face amount of the policy.

Mortgage lenders will insist on a borrower obtaining a mortgagee (lender’s) title policy before making a loan. This policy protects the lender by paying the unpaid balance of the loan if the borrower should lose title to the property as the result of a title defect.

How much does title insurance cost in Florida?
The cost of title insurance varies based on the purchase price of the property. Unlike other insurance premiums, which must be paid annually, a title insurance premium is paid one time only at settlement. Florida’s title insurance premium is based on a promulgated rate calculation, which is determined by the state of Florida.

The link below is a Florida title insurance calculator that should give you an idea of your costs. For a final, more accurate charge please consult the title company you’re using.

Florida title insurance calculator

What is a closing?
Following your final walk-through of the property, a closing, also known as “settlement” or “escrow,” is when all necessary documents are signed, the title to a property is transferred from seller to buyer and the keys are exchanged. The closing is typically held in the title company’s office and involves the completion and execution of all documents to finalize the transaction between buyer and seller.

The Closing or settlement agent is the person handling all the details of your title search and closing. They will be the person to walk you through signing all the needed paperwork at the closing meeting.

In addition, all financial issues are settled at closing — referred to as closing costs — proceeds are sent to the seller and the necessary documents are filed in the public records, which successfully transfers the title.

What are closing costs?
Closing costs (also referred to as settlement fees) are all the fees required to close the real estate transaction. They can include:

  • Loan points
  • Loan origination fees
  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI)
  • Title insurance
  • Attorney fees
  • Closing fees
  • Recording fees
  • Surveying fees
  • Property taxes
  • The balance of your down payment
  • And more

Prior to closing, review your final Settlement Statement to ensure all the calculations are correct, including credits for past deposits and any other agreed upon buyer and seller credits. Also recheck all lender, title and escrow fees to make sure they’re accurate.

This is a high-level overview; the tip of the iceberg, if you will. Again, I’m striving to be the source to the source with this information. If there’s anything else I can add or if you have general questions, please contact me. Otherwise, for any deep-dive type questions please refer to a lawyer or title company for more specifics.


Courtesy of Title Partners of South Florida, Inc., Full Service Title, Florida Real Estate Sales Associate Pre-License book by Warren F. Todd provided by Ed Klopfer Schools (c) 2015.

Why Bother Testing for Radon When Buying a House?

Do I really need to bother testing for radon? The top questions are answered regarding the need to test for radon when buying your next home.

“Radon, really? Do I REALLY need to bother testing for radon or is that some kind of ‘conspiracy’ to spend more of my money when purchasing a house?”

I get asked this question a lot. Usually included with a look of skepticism on my client(s) faces when we get to the inspection period of the home buying process. BUT, believe it or not, this is a test that proves “better safe than sorry”. So let me try to answer the top questions in an effort to unfurl the brows and give you peace of mind in deciding to have this test done before buying your next home (and in honor of January being Radon Awareness month *grin* )…

First, what is it?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can build up anywhere and anytime in the home causing cancer. Typically with folks staying indoors more often during January and the winter months (SW Florida included during their chilly time) the EPA recommends testing your home every two years; AND especially when purchasing a home new to you since this gas can be a silent killer.

Radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. As well as, 58 deaths per day. These statistics show that it’s not to be taken lightly.

Radon is invisible, tasteless, and odorless. Almost impossible to detect on your own. Exposure is entirely preventable and easy to test for any harmful levels that may be present in the home.

Okay, but how does it get there?
As mentioned before, Radon is a naturally occurring gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. It’s usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases well water may also be a source of Radon.

The following diagram indicates how Radon can enter the home:
How radon enters a house

You can also look over the states or Radon zones provided by the EPA to see whether your area lends itself to higher or lower levels of Radon:
EPA Radon Zones (with State Information)

I get it, I get it. So what do I do?
Testing is the only way to know if Radon is present in the home. Testing kits can be purchased at your local hardware store. If you hire a company to test, they MUST be a Florida certified radon measurement business/individual. It usually entails placing the Radon test box in a designated area of the house for a few days and then shipped to a lab for analysis. If the Radon level is 4pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or higher, fix the house. Less than 4pCi/L doesn’t typically pose a concern.

If you’re building or buying a new construction house, you can inquire as to whether radon-resistant construction features were used and the house tested. The following resources are provided by the EPA for home buyers and sellers:
Radon Resources for Home Buyers and Sellers

What if the test comes back with high levels?
If the Radon test comes back showing high levels, it’s recommended to consult a radon mitigator for next steps – typically retesting.

Can high levels of radon be fixed?
Yes. Depending on what the radon mitigator determines, the fix can be as easy as ventilation and sealing of cracks in the floor if lower levels are detected. Other situations may require active mitigation systems, that usually involve soil depressurization, ranging from $1200 to $2000 installed; and in some instances over $3000.

Hopefully this shed some light on this dry topic. If you still have questions, feel free to call or message me.

Florida Health shares that although testing IS recommended, 1 in 5 tests done in Florida are elevated. Have you had an elevated test or a scary brush with Radon you’d like to share in the comments below? Would love to hear the stories.

* Courtesy of ,, and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

12 Tips for Your Final Walk-Through

Lets face it, buying a house is a long, detailed process that can leave you wondering when you can FINALLY move into your dream home. Before walking into the closing meeting, the final step is your walk-through of the house. This is an important step, however, not to be overlooked or rushed.

Most importantly, be sure to take and give yourself time to do a thorough walk-through. Don’t let the sellers or selling agent make you feel pressured to hurry through this important FINAL inspection of the property. This is your last chance to make sure what was agreed upon has been fulfilled and the house is in the condition expected before moving into it.

Believe me, I’ve seen it all. I’ve come into a final walk-through to see ceiling fans mysteriously missing that were never discussed; and even dripping ceilings due to a quick repair that wasn’t completed as promised (with a licensed contractor). So unless you’re willing to settle and do the “fixes” or “replacements” yourself, don’t rush in order to insure the contract has been held to as agreed upon.

The following infographic is a quick aid in what all to look over:

12 Tips for Your Final Walk-Through Infographic PDF

In order to make sure you’re covering everything, it may also be a good idea to print and bring the following checklist with you along with a copy of the contract:

Final Walk-Through Checklist


* Courtesy of Florida Realtors and Closing Corp.

20 Questions to Ask When Buying a Condo

Buying your home can feel like a daunting task. Especially when considering a condo with all their fees, documents and rules. But you don’t have to go it alone or make it hard on yourself. You can arm yourself ahead regarding what questions to ask and what to be informed about BEFORE you sign the closing document…Review the following 20 Questions to Ask When Buying a Condo PDF to prepare yourself for the journey. You’ll be ahead of the game by knowing what to expect with the condo community you’re considering moving into!

20 Questions to Ask When Buying a Condo PDF

And if you’re thinking of buying now or in the future please contact me today to let me have the honor of finding your next home.

You enjoy the sunsets, let me take care of the details!


* PDF courtesy of Florida Realtors Magazine.

10 “Did You Know?” Homebuying Details

In this article we take a look at 10 “did you know?” details about buying a home. If you want to know more or have questions about any of the information below please call or message me. I’m glad to help!…

#1 Getting Pre-Qualified/Pre-Approved     Pre-Qualified
It’s best to get pre-approved/pre-qualified even before you’ve found the dream home. Sellers want reassurance that you can buy the house. There’s nothing worse than finding your dream home, only to find out a month into the process you can’t afford it. Some sellers won’t even entertain an offer without a pre-approval letter! And remember, pre-qualification is NOT a guarantee.

#2 Pay Monthly Debt Timely     Debt Free
Even before you’re ready to house shop, pay your monthly debt in a timely manner. Whether it’s a student loan, credit card debt or even that monthly utility – nothing can negatively impact your credit score like a delinquency. Be timely consistently! A delinquency takes as much as 7 years to get off your credit report.

#3 You Don’t Have to Stress     Stress Free Zone
Home buying doesn’t have to be chaotic. Have a folder where all the items related to your search can be placed. Make a wish list divided into “Need” and “Want” to laser focus the type of house and amenities you want so you don’t settle.

#4 YOU Select Your Mortgage Company     Mortgage App
Interview at least 4 mortgage companies to find the one that will work for YOU. Know what you’re looking for in a loan – Conventional vs. FHA, fixed rate, 30yrs vs. 15yrs, etc. Once determined, get pre-approved and LOCK in a rate.

#5 Penny Pinching Goes a Long Way     Penny Pinching
As soon as possible – save, save, save towards that down payment on a house and the extra expenses after buying a house – setting up utilities, furnishings, etc. Find ways that work for you to save or earn more towards your goal – cutting out cable, eating out, a 2nd job, etc. This will keep you focused on your goal and ways to get you there quicker. Such as creating a budget and sticking to it.

#6 Timing is Everything, Don’t Hesitate     Clocks
Houses in SW Florida can go quickly, especially due to cash buyers and whether it’s peak or off-peak season. The median time on market for June was 56 days. While the best practice is to take your time as a house buyer, once you see the house you want, don’t hesitate. Especially once all ducks are in a row financially, it will go more smoothly and help insure you get the house you want.

#7 Don’t be Shy, Bargain     Bargain
When dealing with home price negotiations, tread lightly. Discuss with your Realtor negotiating tactics and gather all information. This process can be a back and forth battle of wills. Here are a few tips to help your bargain effort:

  • Go into purchase negotiations primed with as much information as you can gather
  • Don’t lowball. The seller wants to know you’re serious
  • Keep a poker face and remain calm
  • Know when to walk away
  • Know when to throw in the towel and accept a price

#8 Consider Life After You Buy     Cash House
The excitement of buying a home can blind the homebuyer to the true expenses of home ownership. Before going into a mortgage, fully understand the terms and break down of what your monthly payment will be and include:

  • Principal
  • Interest
  • Taxes
  • Insurance

Just because you’re qualified for a certain amount, may not mean you want that monthly payment once all the fees, principal and interest are added into it. Make sure your comfortable with the bottom-line monthly payment!

#9 Consider Life After You Buy (cont.)     Moving
Part of the excitement of homeownership can easily overlook expenses needed to move in and set up the home. Don’t forget to factor in (i.e. save towards):

  • Moving expenses
  • Setting up utilities
  • Top priority fixes/buys (if needed)
  • window treatments, needed furnishings, lawn mower/lawn service, and/or stocking the fridge.

#10 Fly Under the Radar     Save Money
Stay off the radar when waiting for a loan to come through (up to the closing). Here’s a few simple ways to stay out of sight:

  • Don’t make any large purchases
  • Don’t apply for any new credit accounts
  • Don’t close any credit accounts
  • Don’t move your money around
  • Don’t skip or miss payments

BONUS TIP:  #11 Ask a Lot of Questions     Questions
Buying a home is a significant purchase that could potentially last you years. So don’t be afraid to ask questions till you become comfortable with the answer. And don’t feel like you’re ever bugging your real estate agent, that’s what they earn commission for – to be there for YOU!


Courtesy of Blue Water Mortgage Corporation

Why Hire a Realtor®?

Are you considering buying or selling your house on your own? There might be more to it then you think. Hire a Realtor® to make it easier on you.

Thinking about buying or selling your home on your own? The option may seem appealing to save yourself commission rates, but are you considering EVERYTHING that goes into the process? As the infographic below shows, it’s more than just spending hours touring homes or holding open houses.

29 Ways It Pays to Work with a Realtor

Let a licensed real estate agent, and better yet, a realtor® take the extra steps to save you time and worry throughout the lengthy process to buy or sell a home. A realtor® is held to a higher level of excellence to not only provide fair and ethical customer service to meet your real estate needs; a really good one will go the extra mile to educate you throughout every step with your best interests in mind.

Even as this brief video shows below, there are details like setting up title or completing a survey that can easy overwhelm a seller/buyer beyond the basics of staging a home to sell quickly. A good realtor® also has access to additional resources that provides a house to be seen by several hundreds and possibly thousands of people than the typical unlicensed person has access to.

“Sticky Notes” Hire a Realtor

Let me take the worry out of buying or selling your home so you can enjoy the process of moving onto an exciting new phase of your home ownership lifestyle. You won’t be disappointed!


* Infographic and video courtesy of Florida Realtors Magazine.