What Investors Should Know About Title Commitments

What is a Title Commitment and Why Do Investors Need One?

The title commitment for insurance is the insurers promise to issue title insurance after closing and should be carefully reviewed and understood. It is essentially a disclosure document that outlines any issues/requirements that need to be addressed prior to closing as well as any liens, obligations, and defects affecting a property. This is a snapshot in time looking backwards. Your title commitment will not ensure any title issues that arise after this date (ex. liens put on the property after the commitment is issued, etc.) and expires six months from the effective date seen on Schedule A of the commitment. After closing, your title company will issue your official Title Insurance Policy using the commitment previously provided. This document is important as it protects you should any disputes arise regarding ownership and provides coverage against losses due to title defects.

Loan Policy and Owner’s Policy

There are two types of title policy’s: the loan policy and owner’s policy. The loan policy is usually a requirement of any lender and will protect their interest in the property they are loaning money on. This policy is usually written at the loan amount. It does NOT insure the owner should any title issues arise. A separate owner’s policy can be purchased that will insure you for the full amount of the property purchase price (not just the loan amount) and will remain in place as long as you have an interest in the property.

Title Commitment Sections

Each title commitment is made up of three parts: Schedule A which covers the basics of the transaction, Schedule B Section I which lists all requirements that must be addressed prior to closing, and Schedule B Section II which addresses exceptions to coverage.

How to Read a Title Commitment

Schedule A

This part of the Title Commitment covers the basics of your transaction. It is imperative that all information here is correct. You will want to check your effective date, the name of the person who currently holds title (verify that this is your seller), the legal description (title companies do not insure addresses only legal descriptions and it must be correct), the proposed buyer and sales price (coverage amount for the owners policy), and the name of the lender and loan amount (coverage amount for the loan policy). You will also want to check that the commitment is countersigned by the insurance company.

Schedule B Section I – Requirements

This section outlines requirements to be addressed prior to closing in order to obtain coverage. You can expect to find information regarding paying off the sellers existing mortgage/lien, obtaining release of liens on the title, recording new loan documents, Taxes and HOA dues past due and current, and correcting errors in title. Fulfilling these requirements are sometimes as simple as providing documentation to the title company.

Schedule B Section II – Exceptions

This section lists things that will not be covered under your policy such as HOA restrictions, mineral and water rights, utility and access easements, encroachments, plat restrictions, liens not found in public record, etc. Most things you will find here are pretty standard however, you must review this section carefully as it may impact the way you use your property and ownership.

Investing in real estate is an important decision. When choosing a lender, be sure to select an experienced one that will walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Investor Loan Source is happy to assist you along the the way.

ARV, LTV and LTC: What Does it All Mean?

Lenders often use these acronyms to define their loan products. Understanding these terms will help you to choose the right lender for your project.

ARV: After Repair Value

This term is used by appraisers to tell the value of a structure once all items on the scope of work (SOW) have been completed. Most lenders will loan a percentage of this valuation to a borrower and then hold the repair funds in escrow.

LTV: Loan to Value

This term is used to define the amount a lender will loan on a particular property in reference to the valuation. For instance, if you are looking to buy an investment property that has an appraisal of 100,000 and your lender loans 70% LTV, then you can expect a loan on this property for 70K. If your contract for purchase is for 80,000, then you must bring at least 10,000 to closing. If it is under, you may be able to cash out.

LTC: Loan to Cost

Some lenders use this to tell us the percentage of funding one can expect on a purchase. Sometimes this is regulated by the state. For instance, if a lender tells you that they loan 90% LTC, you can expect to receive a loan of 90,000 when your purchase price is 100,000. This means you will have to bring the difference to closing.

How They Work Together

Let’s imagine that Sam has a rehab property under contract for 60,000. He needs to invest 20,000 into this property for repairs, bringing his total loan amount to 80,000. His ARV appraisal states that after his work is done on the property it will be worth 100,000. However, Sam’s lender only loans 70% ARV and 90% LTC. Since the property is under contract for 60,000 the lender will only loan 90% of that amount which is 54,000. In this scenario the lender agrees to loan 100% of the repairs (which will be held in escrow) up to the after repair value of 70% which is 70,000. Since the contract is for 60,000 and the loan amount on the contract will be 54,000 there is 16,000 left to use towards repairs, meeting the 70% ARV or 70,000. Remember that Sam needs 80,000 total and that is what the appraisal was based on. Therefore, Sam must bring the difference to closing which is 10,000.

Let’s look at another example. Imagine that Mary has a rental property she is looking to refinance. The appraisal comes in “AS IS” at 80,000. Mary still owes 30,000 on her lien leaving her with 50,000 in equity. Her lender agrees to loan 70% of the LTV an 100% of the LTC. In this case she would get a loan for 56,000. Of that 30,000 would pay off her prior lien leaving her with 26,000 to cash out on. In this scenario Mary is only paying her closing costs. Please note that in some cases lenders will allow you to roll in closing cost fees.

Find a Lender You Can Trust

Finding a lender you can trust is essential in this business. Understanding their loan thresholds can help you to evaluate deals before you invest a significant amount of time into a project that may ultimately not work for your circumstance. Be sure to choose your lender that will explain the loan terms and any items that you don’t fully understand.

Debt vs. Equity

With so many options out there for real estate investors to choose from, understanding the pros and cons of debt vs. equity deals will help you make an informed decision.

What is a Debt Deal?

When investing in a debt deal you are the lender on a property. In exchange, you are promised a set rate of return dependent on your investment amount. Principal is either paid back throughout the life of the loan or in a balloon payment after a pre-determined amount of time. Examples of debt deals are real estate notes/mortgage-backed securities and real estate debt funds.

Pro’s of Debt Deals

Less risk – You become the lien holder and are granted certain rights, such as foreclosure, in the case your borrower defaults on the agreed upon terms

Steady Income – debt deals are great for those investors who depend on the income. They have a predictable payment schedule (usually monthly or quarterly) and pay the pre-determined rate.

Shorter lock-in periods – Most debt instruments have a life span between 6 and 24 months or until project completion. This is an ideal time-period for persons not willing to tie up their funds in any one asset for extended periods of time. 

Con’s of Debt Deals

Capped Rate – Since your earnings are pre-determined there is no chance to profit more if the project is uber successful. Less risk equals less return.

Pre-Payments – There is always the chance that your borrower may pay off the loan early. This can leave you looking for a place to re-deploy funds sooner than expected. You also risk the chance of not recouping your investment fees and interrupting your expected income.

Higher Fees – Most debt investing opportunities include a fee for bringing you the opportunity. They could potentially pass the origination fees on to you in addition to legal document prep of the transfer documents and recording fees.

No voice – As a lender you have no say in how the project is run. The owner retains this right.

What are Equity Deals?

Equity deals are real estate investment opportunities where you take part ownership in the project. Returns can come in the form of cash flow produced by the asset such as rent, and your share of that return is dependent on your investment amount. When the property is sold or refinanced you too take a percentage of profit. Equity deals can be offered as one-off opportunities, equity syndications, REIT’s, etc.

Pro’s of Equity Deals

No cap on returns – Investors can generate higher returns than they might in a debt deal since returns are based on the performance of the asset.

Hedge against inflation – Real estate appreciates over time and keeps pace with inflation. When the cost of living goes up your cost of ownership does not. Rents are raised and the value of your property investment rises as well. As an equity holder you share in the profit spun from this. Be sure your investment takes advantage of the buy low, sell high mantra!

Tax advantages– You can dramatically reduce your tax liability each year through depreciation. Real estate owners (not lenders) can benefit from this. Always consult your CPA for the pro’s and con’s of any investment and how they might personally effect you.

Con’s of Equity Deals

Risk – Higher reward equals higher risk. There is no guarantee your asset will perform well or even as expected. You run the risk of losing some or all of your investment.

Holding Period – Equity deals are usually accompanied by lengthy hold times and no liquidity.

Before committing to any investment, you should do your research. Learn everything you can about the investment and those offering it. Have your attorney help evaluate the legal paperwork and point out risk. Ask your CPA what the tax implications are for this investment in direct correlation to your situation. Do not be afraid to ask questions to those offering the investment. You want to be well versed in your investment so you can have peace of mind.

In addition, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my tolerance for risk?
  • Am I dependent on this income and need to know exactly what to expect and when?
  • What is my need for liquidity?

There is no blanket right or wrong answer to these questions. However, truthfully answering these questions can help you to decide what type of real estate investments you should be considering: Debt, Equity, or both!