What Does a Title Agent Do and How to Choose the Right One When Selling Your Home
The process of completing a real estate transaction is something that happens in communities around the country. Yet many buyers and sellers aren’t seasoned veterans when it comes to the steps, jargon, and requirements.
Title agents play an important role in helping buyers and sellers navigate this process. Not only is it important to work with experienced professionals that you trust, but it’s equally important to educate yourself on the basic steps involved. The more equipped you are, the more prepared you’ll be to make significant decisions on the spot.
We thought it was important to know what a title agent does, why you may need one, and how to choose the right one when it comes to buying or selling your home.
What is a Title Agent?
A title agent is responsible for certifying the validity of a title on a piece of real estate, which includes guaranteeing proper ownership of a clean title, as well as securing title insurance to protect the buyer from undue harm after a sale.
Title agents typically work alongside other members of a buyer or seller’s real estate team. This might include the real estate agent, certified lender, closing attorney, and other individuals involved in the sale. In locations where the title agent is responsible for ensuring that the actual transaction happens smoothly, these professionals work one-on-one with banks and lenders.
What is a Real Estate Title?
The term “title” describes the right of a person or group to own a legally defined piece of property, most often a residence, business property, or land parcel. To earn this legal right, the owner of the property must be in possession of documents that accurately describe a property’s ownership and history. A title also includes important definitions about physical boundary lines and usage rights.
A title agent can help you navigate both the legalities of property ownership as well as the organization of important paperwork that must be on file when you buy or sell.
What Does a Title Agent Do?
A licensed title agent plays a significant role for both buyers and sellers, particularly in the final stages of a home or property sale. Even as they’re working behind the scenes, title agents help move the entire process forward toward the closing date.
Here’s an overview of what your title agent will be diligently working on in the final days and weeks of a sale:
- Verifying records. The title company or individual agent will comb through real estate records in your city or county to determine the validity of your property title.
- Checking any unpaid expenses. There are certain things that prevent a title from being “clean” by default. These might include unpaid property taxes, liens, old mortgage loans, and other financial factors. These balances must be clear in order to legally transfer a title.
- Clearing legal restrictions. If the property has easements, restrictions, or leases, it may impact a final sale. An agent works to clear these before legally transferring the title.
- Providing insurance options. Title insurance protects the new owner in case any questions or disputes come up after the sale is complete. Title agents can facilitate the insurance process through an established title insurance company.
How Does the Experience Vary by State?
Since the closing process varies by locale, it’s important to check with your own jurisdiction to see how the title process is managed. In some regions, the title agent works directly for the title insurance company. In other places, the closing process is handled by a settlement agent, attorney, or other party.
Why Do I Need a Title Agent?
Working with a title agent that you know and trust can provide numerous benefits. In addition to simply having a better all-around experience, you can ensure:
- Peace of mind through one of the largest purchases of your life
- A smoother closing process free from delays or inconvenience
- Possession of a clean title, without any surprises or roadblocks
- Comprehensive insurance to cover discrepancies after a sale
Title agents can also help prevent fraud, discover defective land titles, and inform the buyer of any surprises during the sale. As a result, working with a reputable title agent could make or break an exchange that looks fine on the surface, but poses big problems down the line.
How to Choose a Title Agent
It’s very rare that a buyer or seller has a long list of references when it comes to specific title agents. This is understandable, as the amount of times that you’ll need to work with a title agent are relatively few.
Most buyers and sellers receive recommendations for title agents from their real estate agent or lender. During the buying or selling process, these professionals generally have title agents that they trust and work with frequently. Opting to use a preferred title agent may even come with certain incentives or perks.
That being said, you always have the freedom to choose which title agent or company that you want to work with throughout the closing process.
Characteristics of a Good Title Agent
As with any professional role, particularly those involved in real estate transactions, there are defining traits that distinguish the best title agents apart from the rest.
Some qualities to look for in an excellent title agent are:
- An ability to communicate clearly and professionally throughout each step of the process
- Access to modern or helpful technologies that make the transaction easier
- Strong coordination and customer service skills to put your mind at ease
Characteristics of a Bad Title Agent
On the other hand, buyers and sellers should be aware of any red flags that come up when first connecting with a new title agent. Since a real estate purchase is one of the most significant transactions that most people will undertake, not following your gut could be detrimental.
Here are a few characteristics to watch out for:
- An inability to communicate clearly or according to set dates and deadlines
- Failure to provide you with accurate information at each stage in the process
- Consistent negative reviews or testimonials from previous customers
Title Agents vs. Closing Attorneys
Depending on state or county requirements, some buyers and sellers may need to work with a settlement agent. In some locations, the settlement agent is a licensed attorney. The biggest difference in these two roles is that the title agent is responsible for certifying the validity of the title as it is transferred.
The settlement agent, on the other hand, manages the extensive process of paperwork that actually transfers ownership from one party to the next.
In some situations, the title agent and settlement agent work for the same organization, but in others, all parties are hired separately. In the end, the buyer and seller always have a choice when it comes to which agents they hire to finalize a sale.
Take the Next Steps in the Buying or Selling Process
If you’re currently in the process of buying or selling a home, chances are good that you may be experiencing some level of stress. After all, real estate transactions can be one of the most significant events in a person’s life. Rest assured, however, that there are several ways to alleviate some of the burden and worry surrounding the real estate sales process.
As an eClosing customer, you can take advantage of several benefits that eliminate the tedious steps involved in a home sale. Manage paperwork electronically, access important legal documents whenever you need to, and go from negotiation to a closed deal in less time.
Check out eClosing’s time-saving, innovative, and flexible options today!