What is a title binder? No, it’s not the binder you take to keep your notes in concerning your title and escrow proceedings. It IS something that you should know about to save money if plan on selling your home within 2 years after its purchase. A title binder, also known as an interim binder, is not a title insurance policy, but is, instead, a commitment to issue a title policy. The key to the title binder is asking yourself, “How long do I plan to keep this property?”
The title binder is a cost saving tool for people (i.e. investors) who intend to “flip” a home or for those who are subject to frequent relocation or who just find themselves not wishing to remain in a specific home for more than two years. Every time you sell and buy a home, you incur costs to have the title searched. Title insurance protects the buyer of a property or the lender for the property against unknown defects in the title. For a one-time premium, the title insurance company, which is in the business of examining public records, preparing title abstracts, and selling title insurance, issues the insurance after doing a title search on the property.
By purchasing a title binder up front, you can save hundreds of dollars in title fees because it allows the purchaser of real property to resell the same property and have a policy of title issued to his/her buyer at fraction of the cost. For example, if an investor purchases a “fixer upper” they would purchase a title binder as soon as they bought the property, knowing they plan on fixing up the property and selling it within a year. When they go to sell the property, they use the same title company they originally used and avoid having to incur the costs of having the title searched again for the new buyer. The binder was designed for a special purpose and cannot be used in every real estate transaction. The standard term for a title binder is two years. However, some title companies do offer an extension for another year at an additional cost of another 10% of the Owners Policy Cost. It is very important to note, the same title company that issued the title binder must be used when the property is sold.
Sometimes, the listing agent for the former buyer (now the seller) was not aware of the title binder purchased at the time the property was purchased. Under normal circumstances in California, the seller of real property pays for the buyer’s title insurance. The interim binder provides a method to avoid duplicative costs. An Interim Binder gives its holder the option to obtain coverage during the period set forth in the Interim Binder, sell the property, and provide a title insurance policy for the new buyer, all at the cost of a single owner’s policy plus a “binder fee”, usually 10% of the premium for the owner’s policy. Accordingly, where a buyer or developer intends to resell the property within a defined time period (usually two years), an interim binder may constitute a useful and cost effective alternative. It is important to repeat, however, that an interim binder is not insurance, it is a commitment to issue an insurance policy.
However, if a claim arises during the interim binder period, the person to whom the interim binder was issued may convert the interim binder to an owner’s policy of title insurance naming him as insured and tender that claim pursuant to the policy. Title binders are only for buyers, not lenders and are issued in lieu of an Owner’s Policy. More information about the legalities of title binders can be found here.
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