The Pennsylvania you know today came about in 1681 when King Charles II gave the land to William Penn as payment for a debt. Even before that time, people have owned land in the state. When you purchase a piece of property or a home, it may be new to you, but it probably changed hands numerous times since at least 1681.
Why the history lesson? Well, you need to know that when you buy property here, you need to make sure you actually own it. A search of hundreds of years of land records could reveal problems with you receiving legal ownership of it.
Make sure you own the property you want to purchase
Title insurance helps ensure that no one can make a claim to the property once you purchase it. It provides you with insurance against events in the past, instead of events in the future as other insurance policies do. Before a title company will issue a policy to you, someone will conduct a thorough search of the records regarding the property you want to buy.
Unfortunately, these searches don't always reveal every problem that could arise. Old mortgage loans, undiscovered heirs and even typographical errors could come up at some point in the future. This is where your title insurance policy kicks in and helps cover the cost of correcting the problem. Your mortgage lender will also want a separate policy to protect it as well.
Should you purchase title insurance?
Even if you never become involved in a car accident, you still purchase insurance just in case. Title insurance is the same way, except it doesn't require periodic payments. You pay for it one time, usually as part of the purchase, and you never have to worry about it again, unless someone does attempt to challenge your ownership of the property.
How will you know if the title has a problem?
If it turns out that a problem with the title does exist, you need a thorough understanding of what the problem is, how it can be fixed and what your rights are. A lot of Pennsylvania home buyers go through the process allowing realtors, mortgage lenders and title insurance companies to run the deal for them. Considering the fact that this is the largest transaction most people will ever be involved in, doing so could be a mistake since none of them is directly looking out for your rights.