Clarifying a common misconception: title insurance premiums

We've said it before, and we want to make it absolutely clear because we continue to get questions about title insurance premiums. Title insurance premiums are NOT created equal.

While you no doubt have heard that title insurance underwriters are legally required to file their rates with the local insurance commission, underwriters do not file identical rate schedules.

It is true that title companies who are agents of the same underwriter must charge the same title insurance premium. But sometimes title companies become agents of multiple underwriters, using one title insurance underwriter for one jurisdiction and a second underwriter in another jurisdiction, etc.

Federal Title is a prime example of this. We use different underwriters depending on the jurisdiction, allowing us to pass extended savings on to our homebuyers.

We receive calls fairly regularly from confused agents and lenders who are wondering why our Quick Quote reflects a title insurance premium on a Maryland property that is hundreds of dollars less than the other quotes. It's not because our quote is incorrect, it's because our underwriter charges a lower premium.

That title insurance premiums are created equal is a common misconception we wish to clarify for our agents and lenders, because we believe they are our best ally when it comes to looking out for the best interest of our homebuyers.

Headlines: The studio stigma; top DC suburbs for young workers

Here is a look at what's happening in real estate in and around the District of Columbia.

What you should know before buying a newly constructed home

Plan the details of your new home’s infrastructure and finishes, allocate your budget for the features and amenities that will make it uniquely yours, and monitor its construction with a builder who stands behind their work. -Washington Post

Title insurance: A friend in deed

After a house goes into contract, a title company searches public records, typically going back a number of years, to look for any problems with the home’s title. More than a third of all title searches reveal a problem, according to the American Land Title Association (ALTA). -Wall Street Journal

The studio stigma

Those who live in studios are staying in them longer and learning to make their peace with it and those newly entering the market, regardless of their age and status, are becoming more open to the idea of living in a studio. -New York Observer

10 best DC suburbs for young professionals

So, you're in your 20s and have a great job. The next question is: Where do you want to live? If big-city life isn't for you, there are plenty of suburban offerings surrounding the District. -Washington Business Journal

The essential guide to being an amateur landord in DC

We recommend consulting directly with DC’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) if you’re confused or unsure whether your unit needs a particular certification. -Urban Turf

Headlines: On the brink of a housing boom in NoMa; 67 condos coming to Logan Circle

Here's a look at what's happening in real estate in and around the District of Columbia. 

The Union Market housing boom is about to explode

In May, the neighborhood’s first mixed residential/retail space will break ground. If all goes well, eight more development projects will follow. -Washingtonian

Massive Tyson's project rebranded, final development plans filed

One of the few massive Tysons overhauls remaining in the Fairfax County pipeline has a new name and a clear vision for the initial phases of development. -Washington Business Journal

67-unit condo project on site of Logan Circle car wash will deliver in 2016

The development will consist of studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms. There will be five inclusionary zoning units, as well as 27 parking spaces and 26 bicycle spots. -Urban Turf

Concerns rising over new affordable housing law

The Disposition of District Land for Affordable Housing Amendment Act (DDLAH) requires residential buildings built on land formally owned by the District to allocate 30 percent of their units to affordable housing. -Curbed DC

Wary homeowners offered new ways to finance their next move

Now, rising home values are drawing homeowners back into the market, but many remain hesitant. They worry about not being able to find another home in their price range — especially if buying a new one is contingent on selling the one they have.-Washington Post

Racing to buy homes sight unseen

With the low-hanging fruit from the housing bust mostly picked, Wall Street-backed buyers of real estate are increasingly turning to quantitative data analysis as a way of accelerating their search for a dwindling supply of available homes that can be transformed into rental properties. -Wall Street Journal

Maximum VA loan county limits for 2014 released

The Department of Veterans Affairs Loan Guaranty Program recently published county "limits" to be used for VA Loans effective January 1, 2014.

Please note, these limits do not reflect a maximum amount that an eligible veteran is permitted to borrow, but rather, reflects the VA’s maximum guaranty amount for a particular county.

The maximum VA guaranty amount for loans over $144,000 is twenty-five (25%) percent of the 2014 VA limit. For example, an eligible veteran may borrow up to $692,500 to purchase a property in Washington, DC (2014 VA limit), with the VA guaranteeing twenty-five percent (25%) of the loan amount, or approximately $173,125.00. These amounts have decreased dramatically in most area of the DC Metro Area compared to the 2013 VA limits.

The limits listed below are for some counties in Maryland and Virginia, as well as for the District of Columbia. To get a complete list of the county limits for 2014, please click here. [Please note, if your county is not listed on the county limits chart on the VA website, the 2014 limit is $417,000.]

State County 2014 VA Limit
DC District of Columbia $692,500
MD Anne Arundel $500,000
MD Frederick $692,500
MD Howard $500,000
MD Montgomery $692,500
MD Prince George's $692,500
VA Alexandria $692,500
VA Arlington $692,500
VA Fairfax $692,500
VA Falls Church $692,500
VA Fauquier $692,500
VA Loudoun $692,500
VA Manassas $692,500
VA Prince William $692,500

Condo fees and closing: Why do we care?

If you're buying a condo, Federal Title needs to make sure condo fees are collected and paid current by the seller at closing.

This is because a new owner is personally liable for a prior owner's unpaid fees, and unpaid fees can even be a lien against the property. Condo associations in DC, Maryland, Virginia and Florida have the right to foreclose against these liens.

In Florida the practice is for the title company to obtain what is referred to as an "estoppel" certificate from the condo association prior to closing, setting forth all moneys owed by the unit owner. Any person (other than the owner) who relies on the certificate is protected by Florida law.

Did you know that in DC, unpaid condo fees are automatically a lien against the property? The condo association does not even have to file a lien in the property records.

In Maryland, Virginia, and Florida, a lien does need to be filed in order for it to become an encumbrance against the property.

From the new owner's perspective, whether or not there is a lien, if any amounts were owed at closing, the new owner would be responsible for those amounts, along with the prior owner. If there were a lien, the new owner would have to take title to the property subject to the lien, which lien would not be considered a commonly accepted restriction on title under the GCAAR Regional Sales Contract.

From the lender's perspective, a lender requires us to issue title insurance insuring that its loan is in first position. If there were a condo lien or there were amounts owed that created the risk of a lien, we could not be sure that the loan would be in first position, and we therefore could not insure the title.
  • Ways to save at closing

    Title charges are the largest chunk of closing costs and can vary by hundreds of dollars.

    Learn more

  • What are closing costs?

    The real estate closing process involves loan steps, legal steps and title steps.

    Learn more

  • What's title insurance?

    Insure your legal ownership just like you'd insure the building, but for lots cheaper.

    Learn more

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Our blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. Rate tables and figures that appear on our blog are deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For current rates & policies, refer to our Quick Quote and Consumer Guide. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on our blog.