Frequently Asked Questions

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Question:

from Cara S.

My partner and I are in the process of buying a house and we found your website while trying to educate ourselves as to title insurance and the settlement process. Our real estate agent gave us a quote from the company that he would like us to use, but there wasn’t much detail and he wasn’t very clear if it included all of the fees or not. Their title insurance premium alone was over $200 higher and when we questioned that he told us that his company quotes the Enhanced title policy and if we wanted to know what the differences were between the Standard & Enhanced policies that we should call his title company directly. We’re not getting a very good feeling about our agent’s title company. Would you suggest that we purchase the enhanced policy?

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ALT's Response

Hi Cara, great question! Title insurance is unique in that it protects you from things that have occurred in the past. If an old mortgage or judgment or delinquent real estate tax bill not paid by a previous owner were to surface, those items would most likely be covered with both the standard and the enhanced policy. Along with unpaid municipal bills, estate taxes, water/sewer etc., that’s where most of the title claims occur. If you’re purchasing new construction, or a property where you’re concerned as to whether all or part of the structure was built with the approval of the municipality or part of the structure might be encroaching onto your neighbor’s property, then you might want to consider the Enhanced Homeowner’s Title Insurance policy. If you’re purchasing a townhouse, condominium or single family home in an established neighborhood where the property lines are clearly defined and you’re reasonably sure that no part of the structure encroaches onto the neighboring properties, you’ll most likely be fine with the standard policy.

Here are a few things to consider….

  1. Your lender does not require an enhanced policy
  2. We have never had an attorney request the enhanced policy for their client
  3. The person selling you the policy keeps up to 85% of the additional premium

If you have specific questions about your transaction, feel free to text, email or call us. Good Luck!

Question:

from Beth R.

My husband and I recently sold our house and purchased another. At the advice of a friend, who has worked with your company on three other transactions, we went to your website for a title insurance quote. When we compared your quote to the fees that we were being quoted by our xxxxxxxxxxx agent and her title company, ALT will save us close to $1,000. <br><br>First our agent told us that it was a RESPA violation for a title company to waive miscellaneous fees, but when we spoke with our lender who disagreed and we asked our agent for proof, she quickly back tracked. She then told us that if we didn’t use her title company that she wouldn’t coordinate the purchase of our new home with the listing agent and the seller, and that we would have to pay your company to order the payoff, tax and other municipal certifications on behalf of the seller. <br><br>My husband and I are bothered by the recent tone that our real estate agent has taken with us over this title insurance issue. We’re paying her a very generous commission to sell our house and she’s making a second commission on the house that we’re buying. Is she being truthful that we’ll need to pay ALT to coordinate things with our seller?

ALT's Response

Hi Beth, we’re sorry that your agent is burdening you with this nonsense. As you know, RESPA (Real Estate Settlement & Procedures Act) gives you the right to choose your own title company. It’s baffling that someone who relies on referrals for their livelihood would take such a position and systematically destroy the rapport that they should have been working to build over the course of your transactions.

We blocked out the name of the company that your agent works for since we’re only hearing one side of the story, but we know the company well and they have their own in-house title company. Part of their business model is to allow their agents to purchase shares in the company so that they can receive profits. As a result, sometimes when the broker and/or the agent have a financial interest in who you use the lines can get blurred a bit.

Now, to answer your question…No, you will not be charged an additional fee for ALT to coordinate your transaction. In fact, in southeastern PA it’s customary for either the seller’s agent or the title company to order the payoffs and certifications at the seller’s expense. Once you place your order, we’ll reach out to the seller’s agent, your agent and your lender to make sure that everyone is on the same page and on track to meet your desired settlement date. You can click here to see a list of services that we include as part of the one-time title insurance premium that you pay at settlement. We also provide you with an estimate of what many local real estate broker’s charge over and above the title insurance premium for performing a fraction of our services. Thanks for your great question and we look forward to working with you!

Question:

from Lynn:

I’ve recently sold my townhouse in Montgomery County and my real estate agent informed me that her company charges $495 to order the payoff, tax certifications, water & sewer certification &resale certification from the homeowner’s association. When I pushed back a bit because I was already paying a 6% sales commission, she told me that I was free to either do it myself or find someone who would do it for less money. Could you tell me how much ALT charges for this service?

ALT's Response

Hi Lynn, Is $495 the total price or is it $495 plus the cost of the certifications?

Lynn: I just confirmed that the $495 is the administration fee, the actual certifications will be an additional charge.

ALT: Ok, thanks for clarifying. Yes, we can provide this service for a charge of $200 plus the cost of the certifications. If you’re purchasing another house and hire ALT to provide the title insurance and settlement services for that transaction, we can waive the $200 for the sale of your house and you would just need to pay for the certifications. If you’re not purchasing another house, you should have a talk with your real estate agent and ask them to include this service and waive the administration fee. If you’ve agreed to pay a six percent commission, I think that this would be more than fair. You’ll still need to reimburse them for the actual cost of the certifications, but that cost will be the same even if you handled it yourself. Good luck and let us know if we can be of further assistance!

Question:

from Trish:

My boyfriend and I bought a house together in our 50’s. We were both divorced and we used the money from my divorce settlement as a down payment and we were both contributing 50% of the monthly mortgage payment. He recently passed away suddenly and I’m being told that because the deed has us listed as tenants in common rather that joint tenants with the right of survivorship, his interest in the property doesn’t go to me it goes to his estranged children who he hasn’t seen in close to ten years. Is this accurate?

ALT's Response

Response: First of all, we’re sorry for your loss. Without knowing all the facts or whether or not your boyfriend had a last will & testament, what you’ve been told might be accurate. I would suggest that you give us a call at the office and we can put you in contact with our in-house real estate attorney who will need more information before he can offer a legal opinion.

For anyone in the process of purchasing real estate where there will be more than one person in title, it’s very important to make sure you discuss and understand your options as to how you would like to hold title to the property. Our standard business practice is to provide the buyer with their options prior to settlement and then confirm their selection on the purchaser’s affidavit that gets signed at closing.

Question:

from Rick:

My former girlfriend and I bought a house when we were engaged and now we decided to split up. She doesn’t want the house, but I’d like to keep it. Someone told me that we would have to pay transfer tax to transfer the property, even though I’m already one of the owners. Is this true? By the way… The property is in Montgomery County PA.

ALT's Response

Yes, unfortunately for you this is true. There would be an exemption for a married couple transferring the property as part of a divorce settlement, but there is no exemption in your situation. The transfer tax in Montgomery County is 2%, in most cases divided equally between the buyer and seller. Because you’re only transferring 50% of the property and it’s going to someone already in title, you’ll only need to pay 1%. To calculate the amount of transfer tax that you’ll need to pay, multiply the county assessed value by the common level ratio (currently 1.78% in Montgomery County ) and you’ll need to pay 1% of that amount as transfer tax. Good Luck! If you’re refinancing the mortgage please visit our website for a title insurance quote. If we prepare the new deed as part of the refinance, we do not charge a fee to prepare it.

Question:

from Denise:

We’re selling our house and have agreed to credit the buyer $7,500 towards closing costs at settlement. We’re being told that the bank will only allow a credit of $6,300, what happens to the other $1,200?

ALT's Response

If you’ve signed the standard PAR agreement of sale, nothing happens. The agreement clearly states that the seller will pay either a fixed dollar amount or an agreed upon percentage of the sale price towards the buyer’s costs, as permitted by the mortgage lender. The seller is only obligated to pay up to the amount or percentage which is approved by the mortgage lender. If the buyer is working with a knowledgeable real estate agent and/or lender, they will have structured the agreement to avoid this scenario. Best of luck and if you’re buying a new house, please visit our website for a title insurance quote?

Question:

from Cara:

We’re considering placing an offer on a property and the seller owes more than the property is worth. We’ve been told that the lender will consider a short-sale, but the seller’s real estate agent is asking us to pay $3,500 to negotiate with the bank and complete the transaction. Is this customary?

ALT's Response

Fees like this have become more common over the last five years or so, but in our opinion they’re way too high. As a matter of practice, a lender will provide the seller of the property with a list of requirements that must be met in order for the lender to consider a short-sale. The process is somewhat time intensive, but if you know what you’re doing it’s not too bad. We typically charge the buyer an administration fee of around $500 for this same service. Finally, be patient… some banks are quicker than others when processing short-sale transactions. If your seller is just starting the process from scratch, it might take a few months. Thanks for your question and feel free to visit our website for a title insurance quote!

Question:

from Jason:

We’re in the process of buying a house privately, but my wife and I are represented by a real estate agent who is a friend of ours and the seller has agreed to pay them a commission. Our agent has informed us that the seller would like us to write our $10,000 deposit check directly to the seller. Is this right?

ALT's Response

No. If the seller is not represented by a licensed real estate broker, you can ask your agent to hold the deposit money in their broker’s escrow trust account, have your title company hold the deposit or have an attorney representing one of the parties hold it. Under no circumstances would we advise you to write the check directly to the seller. Thanks for your question and let us know if we can assist you!

Question:

from Tim:

I recently signed an agreement of sale on a bank owned property and the bank told me that if I used their title company that they would pay for the owner’s title insurance policy. I thought that they were giving me a deal, but I’m looking at my CD and the total for title insurance is $2,583 and they’re paying $428 of that. The balance of $2,155 is listed as lender’s title policy, endorsements, closing services letter, as well as over $400 in other fees. They told me that if I could get the lender to list everything under the owner’s title policy that they would pay for everything. My lender refused. Does this sound right?

ALT's Response

Unfortunately we have seen this scenario before, but not often. In PA when you buy a house we issue a simultaneous title policy that insures the lender for the loan amount and the owner for the amount they paid for the property. Suppose you purchase the property for $200,000 and have a mortgage for $160,000, the total premium would be $1,870 and breaks down as follows:

Lender’s title insurance:   $1,367

Owner’s title insurance:   $   228  (Standard Policy)

Total:                                   $1,870

Due to Federal guidelines your lender is required to clearly disclose the lender’s coverage and the optional owner’s coverage as such on your closing disclosure. Although they may want to help you out with this, they can’t if they want to remain compliant. When you’re the buyer, this might appear to be a little deceiving. If you’re represented by a real estate agent or an attorney, they should have advised you to question it. Thank you for writing and best of luck!