BUYERS & SELLERS
The decision to buy a home or property is one of the biggest and most important financial decisions you may ever make. Title Insurance and the Escrow Process are designed to make sure when you close on your purchase, you are the legal owner, and no one has liens, claims, easements or restrictions on the property — other than the mortgage you agree to pay. It also ensures all funds are properly transferred and the seller pays any outstanding expenses.
Choosing a Title Insurer and Escrow Agent
The choice of which Title Insurer and Escrow Agent to use is up to you. Under federal law, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), the seller, your real estate agent, or your mortgage lender cannot require you to buy title insurance from any particular company. You may also choose one company for escrow services and another company for title insurance.
If your seller insists you use a certain title or escrow company, or threatens to cancel the transaction if you use another company, he or she is violating RESPA. To find out more about RESPA, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You may also file a complaint with HUD or with the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).
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Title Insurance and Escrow Services
Beware of illegal rebates and incentives from title insurers
An unlawful rebate occurs when a title insurer offers you a rebate, discount, or other valuable benefit as an incentive for you to buy title insurance, or as a reward for steering title insurance business to their company. This type of activity inflates title insurance premium rates for all consumers. It is also unlawful for a title insurer to offer you a lower premium rate than what they filed with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. The filed rate schedule is used as a basis for comparison between companies.
If a title insurer offers a rebate from the filed premium rate, it results in a discriminatory practice, which is unfair to all consumers. Like rebating, it is illegal for a title insurer to give any prizes or goods worth more than $25 to any person, per year, as an incentive to generate a referral or actual business with that company.
If a title insurer offers you or your real estate agent rebates or incentives, report this activity to the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner at 1-800-562-6900.