The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

It may seem like an unnecessary cost. But title insurance is important, and here’s why.

Title insurance is not a gimmick. You are not buying a newspaper. You’re making a sizable investment, so protect yourself. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)
3 min

Reader comment: You recently had a column with reader’s comments. This prompts me with two stories for you.

I am an attorney. A client recently sold a building, and, as we approached the closing, the sale had a bump because there was an old utility bill outstanding from before he bought the property 10 years ago. In this local municipality, utility bills are like real estate taxes; they are a lien on the property and even have priority over a mortgage.

He was furious; he said it should have been paid prior to the closing (he was right). When I asked him who his attorney was, he said he relied upon the bank’s attorney. I told him the bank’s attorney is not his attorney!

His attorney was probably from out of town and didn’t realize the municipality’s subtle utility expense status. There was a title insurance policy, but it was only a lender’s policy and only benefited the lender. He could have been paid for an owner’s policy for a small premium, which would have protected him, but “why pay for such an expense when it is just a gimmick?”

More Matters: Crunching the numbers to determine whether a senior should buy or rent a home

Title insurance is not a gimmick. You are not buying a newspaper. You’re making a sizable investment, so protect yourself. I do only the occasional closing, but when I personally buy real estate, I get an owner’s title insurance. It is a little expensive where I live (and states should review these companies), but they provide a necessary expense. Don’t be cheap!

Second story: About 40 year ago, a bankruptcy trustee conducted a trustee’s auction. There was a vigorous auction and one party was the winner. After taking care of a couple of procedural matters, the bankruptcy trustee went up to the successful bidder to discuss execution of documents for a closing within an acceptable period of time.

The bidder, to the trustee’s surprise, said he was willing to pay the cash price there and then, and took out a wad of Confederate dollars! The Trustee, with some fast footwork, was able to get the second highest bidder to step in.

That Trustee made sure that all future auctions were published with a required payment in “U.S. Dollars.”

Our response: Thanks for sharing some of the highlights of your career. (We couldn’t make this stuff up.) And you’re absolutely right about title insurance. Owner’s policies are worthwhile, but in some states, it is more expensive than it needs to be. We always recommend that home buyers obtain an owner’s title insurance policy when they buy a home.

More Matters: Red flags to help you determine if the house you’re buying has had unpermitted work

On the cash at closing, thank you for that story. That adds to what we wrote about a couple of weeks ago with most closing and settlement agents only taking wire transfer funds for purchases of homes or, in other cases, bank checks. These days with currency regulations, we don’t know of any settlement or closing agents that take cash for the purchase of a home.

Reader comment: In a recent column, you wrote that the power of attorney for financial matters and health care carry through death. But, in fact, powers of attorney for financial matters and health care are only valid until the person dies. So, the executors and trustees are the only ones with access.

Our response: You’re correct. We should have been clearer in our column. A power of attorney is good so long as the person who signed the power of attorney is alive. Upon that person’s death, the power of attorney is no longer valid. If there is a will, the executor listed would take over. If not, the would-be heirs would need to petition the court to name an executor of the estate.

Thanks for your letters.

Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (Fourth Edition). She is also the CEO of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them through Glink’s website,

Read more in Real Estate:

How buying a new car can affect your ability to purchase a home

When refinancing your home, don’t jump at the first offer

Options for paying to fix a faulty septic system