Red Flags in the Title/Escrow Process – Part II

A “red flag” is a signal to pay attention! Below are some of the items which may cause delays or other problems within a transaction and must be addressed well before the closing.

  • Bankruptcies
  • Business trusts
  • Clearing liens and judgments, including child or spousal support liens
  • Encroachment or off record easements
  • Establishing fact of death–joint tenancy Family trusts
  • Foreclosures
  • Physical inspection results–Encroachment, off-record easements
  • Probates
  • Power of Attorney–Use of, proper execution
  • Proper execution of documents
  • Proper jurats, notary seals
  • Recent construction
  • Transfers or loans involving corporations or partnerships
  • Last minute change in buyers
  • Last minute change in type of title insurance coverage




AGREEMENTS: These commonly take the form of road maintenance agreements, mutual easement agreements (like a shared driveway) or improvement agreements, and will bind the owner to certain actions. A copy of the agreement should be requested from title and provided to the buyer. It is the buyer’s responsibility to contact their own counsel if they do not understand how the agreement would affect them.

These are common. Escrow will order a demand from the lender(s) which will allow the title company to pay off the existing loan(s) using the proceeds from the new buyer’s loan (or proceeds if all cash).

small-red-flagRED FLAG: Watch out for old trust deeds from a previous owner (or sometimes the current owner if he has refinanced). If you find a trust deed listed that has already been paid, or that looks like it was taken out by a previous owner, call your title officer immediately. He will research the trust deed, and take the necessary steps to either remove it from the public record (by working with escrow to get release documents) or by acquiring an “indemnity” from the title company who paid off the old loan. Old trust deeds with private party beneficiaries (individual people acting as lender, such as an old seller carry-back) are difficult to get removed, especially if several years have gone by since the loan has been paid off. A bond will sometimes be necessary in order to clear title of an old trust deed. These bonds must be covering twice the face value of the deed of trust, and will cost upwards from 1% of the bond amount (usually around 2 or 3 percent, more for higher risk bonds), depending on how much supporting documentation is provided to the bonding company. Note: If you have a client/buyer who is getting financing from the seller, or any individual, advise them to contact you or their title officer when the loan is being paid off. The release documents are much easier to get now rather than in a few years when the lender may no longer be around.

ENCROACHEMENTS: Sometimes a structure (commonly a fence or driveway) encroaches upon a property. This usually means that a client will have to take the property subject to the encroachment. Contact your title officer if you see encroachment language in your prelim.

small-red-flagRED FLAG: The lender will usually not want to lend on a property where encroachments exist. In some circumstances, an endorsement to the lender’s policy (usually with an extra charge) can allow the lender to close. These are determined on a case-by case basis. Again, contact your title officer


For Smooth Sailing…


If you find something on your prelim that is not listed in this series here, it is probably a red flag and you should contact your title officer. He (or she) will be happy to provide you with copies of recorded documents and advise you as to what is needed in order to remove the item (if necessary). Sometimes, though, removing an item is so time consuming, costly, or both, that it becomes a decision on the part of your buyer. We cannot advise you regarding the risk in making such a decision. You should contact your own counsel if you have these types of concerns.

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