Your home is the center of your world. For most people, our house is our biggest investment and a key piece of our future. Aside from just having shelter from the weather and wickedness of the outside world, it stands as an asset for retirement and your overall financial stability. You may have seen commercials advertising for home title protection, but is it something you should consider? Is stealing your home as easy as the advertisements would make it seem? Understanding home title protection and deed theft will go a long way in helping you protect your future.
Understanding Home Title Protection
Deed theft is something that occasionally happens, but it is quite an involved process. Stealing someone’s home takes time, but it’s possible if you aren’t keeping a close eye on things. Initially, a thief would need to file a transfer deed with the county in order to change the title over to their name. Secondly, if a mortgage is present, the criminal would need to forge a discharge of the mortgage before any loans could be taken out against the property. If they managed to successfully discharge the mortgage, they could even sell your house outright. This is quite an undertaking, but it can be extremely devastating.
Older individuals are the most common target of deed theft because their homes often have the most equity or are paid off. Vacation or second homes are also common targets because owners may not keep close watch over the mail delivered there.
Experts say, deed theft is not a common form of real estate fraud. So should you invest in home title protection? We don’t think so. Home title protection is essentially just a monitoring service that keeps an eye on new loans, deeds, liens, etc. against your property. Title protection advertises that for $10-20 a month, you’ll be provided with round-the-clock monitoring. This isn’t actually possible due to the fact that counties don’t update records that frequently. They have normal Monday to Friday working hours, so no updates will be made outside of those hours.
Does home title protection prevent any sort of deed theft? No. In fact, you can monitor your deed just as well as they can.
How To Monitor For Deed Theft
- Monitor the deed. Check your county website to see if deeds are posted online. If not, you can visit the county courthouse to conduct a title search.
- Keep an eye on your bills. Have you stopped receiving utility bills or mortgage statements for a property you own? Red flag. This could be an indication that the title has been changed. Also, if you receive notices regarding a lien or new debt that you don’t recognize, this can be an indication of shady activity.
- Check your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report per year, per credit bureau. There are three main credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax), so you can receive three free credit reports a year. If you receive one every four months, you can monitor your credit throughout the year.
- Check the mail daily at all of your properties. If you have a property that is outside of your area, find a trusted ally that can assist you in checking the mail.
- Check in on vacant properties frequently. Vagrants may inhabit properties that aren’t surveilled regularly leading to possible issues with squatters rights.
- Inquire about possible free notification service through your county. If this is something your county offers, sign up for notifications.
As you can see, understanding home title protection is simple, but it’s important. Can these services be beneficial? Absolutely. Are they worth paying a fairly hefty monthly fee for something you can do yourself? That’s a question only you can answer. Either way, make sure your most important asset is being protected.