FAQs / Useful Links

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is title?
A: Title is a collective terms that makes up your legal right to own, possess, use, control and dispose of real estate. Title takes into account all previous ownership, uses, and transfers. In order to properly transfer real estate, a title search should be performed to verify that the title is free of any defects or encumbrances.

Q: What is a title defect or encumbrance?
A: A title defect is something which is missing from, or wrong with, the recorded chain of title. Examples of this are improperly executed documents which appear of record or an undisclosed spouse who could make a claim against the land. An encumbrance is a claim made upon the land by someone other than the land owner. Examples of this are easements or mortgages which burden the real estate.

Q: Why is transferring the title to real estate different from transferring the title to other items, such as my car?
A: Land is permanent and the ownership and use of the land can change many times over the years. A land owner can transfer to third parties various rights in the real estate, such as mineral, water or utility rights. Restrictive covenants may be recorded against the real estate which limit, or in some cases prevent, the use of the property. Even if the real estate is vacant, it will have a history which will not be known without a title search.

Q: What is title insurance?
A: Title insurance is an insurance policy that protects against future loss, should the condition of title be any different than when the policy was written.

Q: Why do I need title insurance?
A: There are two types of title insurance: a lender’s policy (also called a loan policy) and an owner’s policy. The lender’s policy provides protection to the lender typically in the amount of the loan. The face amount of coverage for a lender’s policy does not usually represent the full value of the real estate. Your mortgage lender will generally require that a mortgage policy is issued to protect its mortgage. An owner’s policy protects the land owner and is usually written for the full value of the real estate. If you are purchasing real property, the requirement of an owner’s title policy is typically included as part of your purchase agreement.

Q: What is a title search?
A: A title search is a detailed examination of the public records concerning a property. These records include deeds, court records, property and name indexes, tax records and other public documents. The purpose of the search is to verify the seller’s right to transfer ownership of the property and to discover any defects or encumbrances on the title.

Q: What kind of problems can a title search reveal?
A: A title search should show all defects and encumbrances, as well as land use restrictions. Common examples are unpaid taxes, unsatisfied mortgages, judgments or other liens against the land owner and recorded restrictive covenants or agreements which limit the use of the land.

Q: Are there potential problems that a title search cannot reveal?
A: Yes. There are some hidden defects that even the most diligent title search will not reveal. For example, a prior owner could have incorrectly stated his or her marital status when conveying homestead property, potentially rendering the conveyance void. Other examples of hidden defects are fraud and forgery, mental incompetence, failure to have actual authority to sign a conveyance and clerical errors in the public records. Hidden defects can arise after you have purchased real estate; can be costly to correct; and in some cases can jeopardize ownership of the real estate.

Q: Is a recorded deed proof of ownership?
A: No. A deed is used to convey an interest in real estate. A recorded deed is evidence that real estate has been conveyed by the Grantor to the named Grantee. The deed conveys to the Grantee only the rights and interest in the real estate which were held by the Grantor. A deed does not eliminate title defects or encumbrances and the deed will not disclose these matters.

Q: I am buying property from an owner who already has title insurance. Why do I need a new policy?
A: A title policy which insures your seller does not protect you, as the policy was written in favor of the seller. Also, many things could have happened to the title to the real estate since the date on which that policy was issued. Any liens, defects or encumbrances affecting the title and arising after the date the seller’s policy was issued would not be covered in the existing owner’s policy.

Q: How much does title insurance cost?
A: The cost of title insurance varies from state to state. The premium for an owner’s policy is calculated based upon the value of the real estate. The premium for a mortgage title policy which is issued at the same time as the owner’s policy is flat simultaneous issue premium. You can estimate the cost of your title policy by using our rate calculator contained in this web site. The premium for the owner’s policy is paid at the time you obtain title to the real estate and the premium for a lender’s title policy is paid at the time the mortgage is taken out. Title insurance is different from other forms of insurance because the premium is paid only once and there are no additional future premiums due to keep the policy in force.

Q: How long does the average title insurance policy last?
A: The lender’s policy lasts until the insured mortgage is paid in full. An owner’s policy of title insurance lasts as long as you or your heirs have an interest in the real estate, or an obligation relating to title warranties given as part of a conveyance of the real estate.

Q: How does title insurance protect my heirs?
A: An owner’s title insurance policy provides coverage from the time of its effective date back to the origin of the title. After the real estate has passed to your heirs, if any defect prior to the effective date of the policy should arise, the title insurance company would defend the title for your heirs just as it would for you if you were alive.

Q: Where can I get title insurance?
A: You can obtain title insurance from any licensed title insurance company or its agents operating in your state. When choosing a title insurer, it is important that you look for a company with expertise and experience, as well as the financial strength to protect you should a claim arise. Your real estate broker or attorney can recommend such a company.

Q: Can I decline having title insurance?
A: Yes and no. While your lender will likely require a loan policy of title insurance, the purchaser can choose whether or not to obtain owner’s protection. This decision is usually made at the time an offer to purchase is drafted and that document usually defines the type of owner’s title insurance coverage and who will pay the premium.

Useful Links

Racine County Register of Deeds – http://racinecounty.com/government/register-of-deeds
Racine County Treasurer – http://racinecounty.com/government/county-treasurer
Racine Clerk Of Circuit Court – http://racinecounty.com/government/clerk-of-circuit-court
Racine City Clerk / Treasurer – http://cityofracine.org/Clerk/
Racine Chamber Of Commerce (RAMAC) – http://www.racinechamber.com/

Kenosha County Register of Deeds – http://www.co.kenosha.wi.us/522/Register-of-Deeds
Kenosha County Treasurer – http://www.kenoshacounty.org/589/Treasurer
Kenosha Clerk Of Circuit Court – http://www.kenoshacounty.org/118/Clerk-of-Courts
City of Kenosha Clerk / Treasurer – https://www.kenosha.org/departments/city-clerk-treasurer
Kenosha Area Chamber Of Commerce – http://kenoshaareachamber.com/

Wisconsin Transfer Return – https://www.revenue.wi.gov/Pages/RETr/Home.aspx
Southshore Realtors Association (SRA) – http://www.sswra.com/Default.asp?t=10
Racine Kenosha Builders Association (RKBA) – http://rkbabuilders.com/