When you purchase a property in New York, you get more than just the land; you acquire a set of rights, restrictions and obligations that specify how you can use or enjoy that land, now and in the future. These are legally attached to the property, and are passed forward from owner to owner. With every successive possession, title can be affected by events as simple as refinancing or failure to pay taxes, or as complicated as an easement granted to a utility or a neighbor, or a reservation made in a life estate.
Sneeringer Monahan Provost Redgrave Title Agency, Inc., is upstate New York’s oldest, largest and most respected title agency. Our mission is to provide you with a secure title for a secure investment. How do we accomplish this?
- We search backwards in the chain of title to uncover any and all known title issues that could impact your wallet or your enjoyment of your property;
- We work diligently with all parties to collect payment for back liens, taxes or judgments, and clear title issues before you close on the property;
- We provide you with title insurance that covers you in case unknown title issues still exist that might jeopardize your finances or your ownership now or in the future;
- We maintain a title plant covering thousands of local titles, compiled throughout our 50 years of servicing the region; and
- We are here to facilitate your title needs today; and we will be here to answer your questions and address your needs if a problem occurs in the future.
- We are agents for the largest title companies, underwriters, in the United States. This matters to you because the money to defend and settle any claims is based on their financial strength
The Searching Process
Our work begins with a detailed examination of historical public records to find unpaid taxes or liens, outstanding mortgages, judgments, utility or other easements, and any other restrictions jeopardizing your use or enjoyment of the property. To uncover these, we start with our own historical records. We have been in the area so long, chances are good that we searched your property in the past. We carefully note any special circumstances such as past incorrect indexes, multiple spellings, and other issues. We then search state, county and municipal records, online and in person, looking for any details in public records that might affect you. These are then set out in our title commitment (title report), which notifies all parties of the steps that need to be taken to clear title issues prior to closing. Many of these are common, such as:
- securing a mortgage satisfaction or payoff figures to clear the seller’s mortgage lien against the property;
- identifying funds needed to pay off taxes, judgments, liens, warrants, or other items that have attached to the property; or
- correcting deeds or other documents requiring corrective measures
At the closing, we verify the identify of all parties, proofread all documents to be recorded, ensure all appropriate funds have been collected to record or file the documents, and record those documents immediately with the appropriate clerk or agency.
Hidden Defects and Hazards
All the searching we do is intended to find and clear known title issues. But no matter how thorough the title searching process is, there is always a chance that hidden defects or hazards in title could surface to challenge your ownership in the future. These are items that could not be found in public records, and are only discovered if someone brings forward a claim of ownership or other rights to your property. These are disturbingly common, especially in these troubled times, and can include:
- Human error
- Incorrect recording or indexing at the county clerk’s office, resulting in liens against your property not yet attached to the property
- Open taxes that were misreported as paid
- Mortgages and deeds indexed under an incorrect spelling
- Incorrect deeds that neglected to show reservations of life estates, easements, restrictions, or exceptions carried forward from previous deeds
- Errors, confusion, or fraud regarding similar names (such as Jr., III, Sr., etc.)
- Forgery of a spouse’s signature
- A fake death certificate presented to hide a living heir or part owner
- A counterfeit will
- Use of an expired or voided power of attorney
- Changes in Status
- A challenge to the mental competence or legal age of a prior seller
- An unrecorded private mortgage or lien brought forward by the lien holder
- The sudden appearance of unknown heirs (people presumed dead, illegitimate children, stepchildren)
- Discovery of a will of a person presumed to have died intestate
- Legal technicalities which might reverse or void a judgment upon which title rests
In addition to searching title, correcting known defects, and recording the documents, SMPR offers title insurance policies to protect your investment. Only a policy of title insurance can protect you from financial damages due to hidden defects and hazards such as those noted above. Without such a policy, defending any claim to your ownership can be prohibitively expensive and extremely complicated; but with an owner’s title insurance policy, you receive free expert legal defense of title; and in case of a loss, the title insurer (Underwriter) will reimburse you up to the full value of your policy.
Title Insurance Policy Types
Mortgage or Loan Policy
When you purchase a property In New York, your lender requires you to purchase title insurance that covers the lenders’ equity in the property. As the loan is paid off, the value of the policy declines to zero. The mortgage title policy assures only the lender that they will suffer no financial loss due to any title claim.
Owners or Fee Policy
An owner’s policy protects your equity up to the full sale price of the property. A separate market value rider can also be purchased to insure the inflation-adjusted full market value of the property as the amount rises over time. Unlike the mortgage policy, the owner’s policy value does not decline over time; and it never needs to be renewed. Your owner’s policy insures your secure title to the property for as long as you own it, forever. That means if a title claim were to arise on the property and an action was initiated against you, even long after the mortgage was paid off or years after you sold it, you and your heirs would still be covered by your original owner’s policy.
Too many people, including some attorneys, believe that the front-end title search work that clears known issues from title, and the purchase of a mortgage policy for the lender to insure against hidden defects and hazards, together sufficiently cover the buyer from risk of a title claim. Sadly, they do not realize the gravity of this error until a title claim has arisen. The truth is most title claims do not rise to the bank’s concern. A neighbor’s encroachment, the discovery of an easement or restricted use, improperly indexed tax records, and many other title claims, may affect your financial interest in the property, but not the lender’s.
If a challenge to your ownership does cause the lender to file a title insurance claim, you may benefit from the free defense mounted on the bank’s behalf; however, if the defense were to ultimately fail, the underwriter would reimburse the lender’s mortgage; but the underwriter could then take over the note; in such a worst case scenario, you could lose the property yet still have to make payments on it!
Furthermore, without an owner’s policy:
- You become a self-insurer of your property’s title
- You would become financially responsible for defending or initiating a claim, and would further be responsible for correcting title prior to selling or refinancing the property
- You will need to find expert legal representation for any title claim, as your real estate attorney may know little about complex title claims
Fraud, past bankruptcies, multiple refinances and human and computer errors impact so many real estate transactions, that a one-time purchase of an owner’s policy of title insurance is one of the least expensive yet most important forms of insurance you can buy. And if you purchase it at your closing concurrently with the mortgage policy, you get a very significant discount.
Are your prices competitive?
Rates for all title insurance premiums in NY are filed with and approved by the State. There is little or no variation in rates between underwriters. However, the quality of the service performed varies greatly. Why not choose the best title insurance company to protect your most valuable asset? Quality Matters.
If you’re insuring title to the property, it must be clear, right?
We search a property to discover all known defects. If they can’t be cleared, you can choose to either live with the known title issue, or walk away from purchasing the property. If you purchase the property, only title insurance protects you against any mistakes made in searching, and any hidden defects and hazards that were not in the public record.
My seller has an owner’s policy. Does that protect me?
No. The seller might have encumbered the property many times since the policy was issued. And if the title issue affecting you predates the seller’s ownership, the title company would actually be required to defend the seller in any action you bring.
What if I have no equity in the property?
Your policy still covers your free expert defense of any and all title claims; and as your equity grows, so does the value of your policy, up to the original purchase price.
Am I safe from a title claim if the property I’m buying has been in the same family for ages?
Some of the most tangled title claims arise in such long-held assets from split interests, unrecorded private mortgages, newly discovered wills or heirs, and frauds and forgeries stemming from divorce or other family arguments.
Can my bank or my attorney require me to use their affiliated title firm for searching and insurance?
No. Even if you purchase only a mortgage policy, you retain the absolute right to choose the title company and agent.
Make sure your title insurance provider performs their own title searches, will be around in the future should a claim arise, and is large enough to be able to deal effectively with the underwriters in the event of a claim. . This will ensure that you get the best title product for your money, since all title rates are regulated in New York.
What makes SMPR Title better?
When comparing title agencies, ask others how long they’ve done title, how many title specialists they employ locally, and how many title policies they wrote last year. SMPR’s own employees search records in over fourteen county clerks’ offices, dozens of municipalities, state archives, and our own archives; our title professionals carefully read title documents and review the title commitment; our own staff produces all title reports and policies. We continuously work with buyers’ and sellers’ attorneys to explain and clear known title issues, and prepare quality title commitments and policies. SMPR closes thousands of transactions per year.
We’ve been doing title for nearly 50 years; and no one knows the land title issues in this area better than we do. Our expert knowledge and excellent work greatly reduces our claims rates, which is why four of the largest title underwriters in the United States compete for our business on every file. This means you can rest assured because:
- All known title issues have been raised and brought to your attention prior to closing;
- In case of a claim the defense provided by the underwriter will be assisted by SMPR, experts whose only business is title; and
- You are backed by an agency that has long standing relationships with the nation’s largest underwriters, whose substantial financial resources will fully compensate you in case of financial loss.
Quality matters, and Sneeringer Monahan Provost Redgrave provides the best title services in upstate New York. For more information, visit us at www.smprtitle.com or call us at one of our area offices listed below: