Q: How do I get a copy of the deed to my house? The mortgage on the house has been paid off but the original deed has been lost.
Anna Shumway, Arnold
A: Congratulations on being able to pay off the mortgage on your house. Since most mortgages run for 30 years, this is a long-cherished dream of most homeowners. Since Maryland is a "record-notice" state -- your deed must be recorded in the land records of the county in which you live -- the fact that you've lost or misplaced your original deed should be of no consequence.
To obtain a copy of your deed, plus the title or recording reference, you can either contact a title company, which can obtain a certified copy for you out of the land records for less than $50, or you may want to go to the land record office at your county seat and see if you can get a copy yourself.
Finally, make sure that you received a written release of the mortgage that you paid off and that this release is also recorded in the land records in the county where you live. This will prove for the record that the mortgage has indeed been paid in full.
Q: I recently bought a house and I'm still unsure whether or not I really needed owner's title insurance. What does a homeowner stand to lose?
Robert DeGroot, Baltimore
A: I always recommend that my clients purchase owner's title insurance. Lenders protect their interest by requiring the borrower to buy a lender's title insurance policy. A lender's title insurance policy does not cover any part of the home purchaser's interest or equity in the home.
A homeowner without owner's title insurance protection could lose the following: the down payment on the house, any accrued equity, any legal costs that result from defending the property ownership, and even the property ownership itself. Also, if you lose your property because someone else successfully claims rights to it, you could still owe the remaining balance left on your mortgage.
Owner's title insurance is a one-time purchase when the house is purchased -- with no repeat premiums -- usually costing in Maryland from $100 to $500 depending on the cost of the house.