A Deed Worth Remembering: Why Not an Owner’s Title Insurance Policy?

April 5, 2016

By Philip S. Janny NTP

Reading the morning newspaper and seeing an article titled “A Deed Worth Remembering” certainly caught my attention. The neighboring city to my hometown, the city of Bethlehem, placed on display for one day—exactly 275 years after it was signed—the 1741 deed shows the original 500-acre deal for land that would begin as a small, religious settlement and grow into the city of Bethlehem.

Reading some of the comments about the deed really struck me the most. A city resident said viewing the deed “was awe-inspiring.” Another resident stated “all that Bethlehem has achieved dates back to this one document.”

Many of us in the title industry—from searchers, appraisers, real estate attorneys, title insurance agents and underwriters—see deeds every day. How often do we pause and think about the important role we play in writing history? To say the least, the title industry is certainly going through many changes, but amid all the changes, we continue to be the gate keepers and custodians of documents. We continue to facilitate the final link to the chain of history being created in our hometowns all across this country.

Just as the City of Bethlehem displayed their deed from 275 years ago, we as the title insurance community memorialize history when recording a deed in a real estate transaction. You are telling the story of that property. 

More importantly, to really tell the whole story of a property, how cool would it have been to have an owner’s title insurance policy on display next to the deed to the City of Bethlehem, showing all of the covenants, conditions, easements and restrictions of the property. As we all know, the labeling of owner’s title insurance as “optional” on the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure requires our industry to improve our game and educate consumers about the benefits of the product. ALTA has provided many vehicles to help market owner’s policies, including the Homebuyers Outreach Program and the more than 60 resources available at www.alta.org/homebuyer. In addition, ALTA provides live events throughout the year (HOP workshops), webinars and its consumer education website www.homeclosing101.org.

One thing that many of us should never forget in the selling of owner’s policies is the importance of providing to the consumer the real option to see in writing—memorializing if you will—the status of the real property that they have just purchased. While the deed certainly shows and describes the property, it is really the owner’s title policy that provides the “history” and “paints” the clear picture of what affects the property described in the deed.

As the title industry grasps the winds of change—from TRID rules and the integrated mortgage disclosures, technology advances, new lender processes, etc.—never forget the one thing that is constant: the recording of documents and the recording of a deed in the local courthouse. As another Bethlehem resident stated when she viewed the deed on display, “it’s fascinating how this deed goes back to 1741 and when you look at it, you feel how you’re part of history.”

What a great sense of pride the title insurance Industry should feel as the gatekeepers and custodians of deeds all across this great country, of being privileged in every town across America to memorialize the real estate transaction and make history by recording the deed. I for one, consider all of us fellow historians. The next time you record a deed, celebrate being part of history. Celebrate that the deed you recorded has become part of history. Coupled with the production of the owner’s title policy for that particular property, you have now painted the clear picture of that transaction.

We can only hope that over the course of the next 275 years, when a deed is put on display for the public to view, an owners title policy is on display right next to the deed as well, illustrating the illustrious history of that particular piece of real estate and the protections offered by the policy. 

If a deed is worth remembering, why shouldn’t an owner’s title policy? While tackling the many challenges facing our industry today, don’t forget the benefit of what you do every day creating history when conducting a title search and issuing an owner’s title policy. The ALTA Owner’s Title Insurance Policy is the canvas for the picture we paint for every title insured real estate transaction across this country. 

You never know. It may be an owner’s title policy that you created on display. Have no doubt, future residents will truly be “fascinated” and “awe-inspired” by your work because we play a vital role providing peace of mind and protecting property rights.

Philip S. Janny CLTP, NTP of the law firm Plunkett & Graver PC can be reached at 610-432-1590 or philj@plunkettgraver.com. Janny serves on ALTA’s Government Affairs Committee and Research – Abstracter/Agent Subcommittee, and a past president of the Pennsylvania Land Title Association.

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.