Foreclosure Myth Buster #2
Myth #2: Buyers can't get clear title or title insurance on foreclosed homes. When the foreclosure robo-signing scandal first hit, there was widespread concern that buyers would not be able to get clear title on foreclosed homes, because the former foreclosed owners might be able to come get their homes back when the improprieties in the bank's foreclosure documentation processes came fully to light. At the same time, several of the country's largest title insurance companies publicly balked at issuing policies on bank-owned homes until the issue was resolved. At this point, the banks claim they have revamped their processes, and all banks have stated that they have found not a single borrower whose home was repossessed without them having missed the requisite number of mortgage payments. Nevertheless, a number of governmental investigations are still in progress.
The fact is, buyers of bank-owned properties in nearly every jurisdiction are protected from later title attacks by foreclosed homeowners by the bona fide purchaser rule, under which courts would prefer to simply award cash damages to be paid by the culpable bank to a wrongfully foreclosed-on homeowner, rather than reversing the sale or ownership to the new, innocent buyer. Additionally, the title insurers have now changed their tune and restarted issuing insurance policies on bank-owned homes which protect buyers' interests, after working with the banks for them to take responsibility in the event a former homeowner prevails in a wrongful foreclosure suit.
While there are still many intricacies of title to be resolved for foreclosure buyers who purchase homes at trustee sales and auctions, or for cash buyers who often went without title insurance in the past, on the average, listed bank-owned property purchased with an average mortgage and title insurance, the chances a buyer's title will later be successfully challenged by the foreclosed homeowner on the basis of robo-signing? Exceedingly slim.
We'll discuss more foreclosure myth busters in the next few days.