To quickly answer your question: Yes, you can get a title search before you buy. Whether you mean before you close on the property (during the contract time) or before you make an offer, a title search can be a valuable exercise. If you're referring to before you make an offer, I'm curious why you would find this necessary. Is the property in foreclosure or is there another issue that has raised your concern?
That said, there have been instances in which someone has come forward and claimed ownership of the property...in whole or part. Although rare, I am aware of a few of these claims in my relative small world of exposure. These claims can sometimes take years and money to resolve. I say again, this doesn't happen often.
The rest of my response is directed to Antolin Du Bois. Antolin made a few good points. A very FEW. Antolin's response seems almost angry but definitely accusational. Personally, I resent the implication that agents would suggest spending money that isn't necessary. I understand that a very small minority may refer business to others (even when not necessary) in the hopes of lining friends' pockets or of getting business referred back. I suppose unscrupulous agents exist just as in every other profession and industry. I DO NOT run my business that way nor do I treat anyone in my life (client or friend) in such an unconscionable manner. A title search can offer invaluable protection against other unscrupulous people who would choose to take advantage of others...with or without true claim. I also think your answer was a bit off topic. Lily's question was about a title search (which is relatively inexpensive) and your answer is more about title insurance.
If there is reason for concern, a title search first COULD save you money and time. If you wait until you're under contract for the search and THEN learn of a problem, you will have already spent money for the contract preparation and tied money up in escrow. Although this is the typical timeline for the process, if you're aware of or concerned about the ownership history of a particular property, then why not do a search first?!? Antolin is right in one aspect: much of the search can be done by you for little or no money. You may be able to find enough information on your own to either keep you from proceeding or give you peace of mind to move forward.
A title search (and possibly insurance) is another way to protect yourself. Why wouldn't a buyer want to take advantage of every tool for protection?!?
John R. Wuertz
Vice President, Associate Broker
The Corcoran Group
Windermere Real Estate
If you email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I would be glad to provide you with a list of title companies who can do a title search or prepare an abstract of title for you.
Title insurance is such a scam.....so why pay it twice? Basically, it is so that some extinct Manhattan Indian's phony great great great grandson won't come along and claim that you took his antecedent's property, and it now belongs to him. And by the way, since the bank is lending you most of the money to buy this, this is one risk that normally in business they would either take on themselves or due diligence to figure out the truth, but in purchasing a home, they neither want the risk, nor want to pay for due diligence- which is why they have you do pay for it. I have NEVER EVER EVER heard of anyone getting sued over a title issue after purchasing a house through legitimate means: two lawyers, two agents, a bank, etc; and with modern technology it is so easy to check the court's records anyways, but unfortunately you need to get this insurance, which mainly protects the bank, and then often need to purchase the same DUMB insurance over again if you ever refinance. (Now of course, if you buy the deed from Joey the drug dealer down the street for a 90% discount, buyer beware.)
But wait, I can hear all the real estate pros here screaming that this is somehow not true. Well, lets not forget that they do so many closings, they know many of the title agents, and if some are their friends, well, what's the harm in pushing business their way- especially when it is required on almost every deal. Who knows if money slips back under the table, but I wouldn't put it past anyone, especially when you are overcharged so much for that STUPID insurance.
But wait, there is more. Many buyers THINK that this insurance protects them against all fraud, since there have been cases of people getting their property swindled right out from under them, by savvy operators who pretend to own the property but then either sell it for a nickel to some fool or quit claim the property over to some greater fool for a dime. (Nor will it help clearing up your credit or name should this happen.) But guess what- Title Insurance does not protect against FUTURE fraud- only past fraud, so again I ask, how Manhattan Indian decendents have made claims recently?
Exactly my point. From the insurers' pov, their buddy the real estate agents' pov, and the banks' pov, Title Insruance is the dining car of the gravvy train: its what every client 'needs', what every client pays for (hopefully to the agent's friends), and what will NEVER be collected upon, but is in place- at the customer's expense- just in case some guy with a mohawk and a headress should, ever, possibly, even remotely, show up.
Go to the courthouse, pull the file on your property, and see who were the previous owners. If you are really worried about further back, do a little research to see what Indian tribe sat on your land, so if the impossible happens, you will at least know if the decendent is telling the truth.
Not only is it possible but it is essential if you are planning to purchase a non REO foreclosure. Even if it is not a foreclosure, you will benefit by learning whether or not the seller is upside down on his mortgage which will require a short sale. You can also get a lot of the info yourself from the County Clerk's office. Most have websites that anyone can access. Remember the saying, forewarned is forearmed.
I would contact your attorney about this as you will need an experienced NYC real estate attorney to prepare a purchase contract and buy real Estate in New York. Contact me at joliemuss@joliemuss .com or 212 721-3301 if you would like a list of qulaified attorneys