Buying Land

When Purchasing Rural Land, Should You Buy Title Insurance?

When Purchasing Rural Land, Should You Buy Title Insurance?

When purchasing rural land for sale, should you buy title insurance? My answer to that is ALWAYS “Yes”. You may not be familiar with title insurance and what this type of insurance policy covers, so we will hit the high points of title insurance for rural land purchases. Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and this is my personal opinion, not legal advice. I am trying to provide practical information from a real estate broker’s perspective. All of the information in this article is provided from sources that I believe to be reliable, such as title companies themselves.

“Title” is the legal record of ownership of the rights associated with a particular piece of real estate. Once an agreement is reached between Buyer and Seller, and the contract is signed, the contract is then provided to a closing attorney or title company. The closing attorney will either perform, or engage an abstractor, to search the history of the legal record for the subject property. In my part of Alabama, the local custom is for the title search to go back 60 – 65 years to make sure there are no problems in the chain of title. The title search will often include documents such as: deeds, death certificates, Power of Attorney, mineral rights, timber deeds, or recorded easements. A title abstract is different from a title search, in that an abstract takes into account everything pertaining to a property from the time of the original patent from the state to present day. Abstracts can be much more expensive than a title search. Once the title search is completed, the attorney will review the documentation and will issue either a title opinion or title binder. The opinion or binder will set out for the client the findings of the title search, and will identify any issues of record that may be of note. The attorney will then submit the documentation to the title company for underwriting review and issuance of a policy. Typically a title insurance policy is issued for the purchase price of the property.

The first title company was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1876, as a result of the landmark case of Watson v. Muirhead in 1868. The buyer, Watson, purchased a property in good faith, but the title search performed by Muirhead left Watson in jeopardy with lien holders on the property he was purchasing. Watson sued Muirhead, but the courts ruled that Muirhead was innocent. This case revealed that there was risk involved with a real estate purchase, even if all parties acted in good faith.

Most lenders will require a Buyer to purchase a mortgagees’ policy which protects the lender from defects in a title. This policy may or may not protect the Buyer, so it is often recommended for the buyer to purchase an owner’s title policy which directly protects the new owner. Title insurance is a one-time purchase that protects the Buyer from what may have happened in the history of the property. Should some claim arise that was before the policy was issued, title insurance should protect the new owner for up to the face value of the policy. The price of a title policy is directly tied to the face value of the policy. Many title companies will have a title insurance calculator available to estimate what your policy will cost. In my area, most of the title companies are members of ALTA, American Land Title Association. ALTA has strict guidelines and best practices to ensure the title search and policy issuance is done to the highest standard. They have a feature that allows you to search through the ALTA registry for their members in your area.

Several years ago I represented a seller in the sale of a property in a rural county in Alabama’s Black Belt. My client learned that he was a child born out of wedlock to a man that owned about 120 acres. When my client asserted his claim to the property to the son who had inherited the land after his father passed away, the other son denied my client’s claim to the property. My client successfully petitioned the court to exhume the body of the deceased father, so that my client could prove paternity. The court granted his request, the father’s body was exhumed, and my client’s contention was proven to be true. He was awarded 1/2 interest in the property. The son that had owned the property before had a title insurance policy, and he was awarded payment for the loss of 1/2 of the interest in the land. This is a highly unusual case, but it illustrates well the types of issues that may arise that necessitate title insurance.

Title insurance is a common sense purchase when buying a piece of rural land. You can often obtain an owner’s title policy for about 0.5% to 1% of the purchase price of the property, and be protected from anything in the history of the title. To me this is a wise investment and provides the peace of mind to allow you to use the property without worry. My hope is that this article has been helpful to explain the concept of title insurance, how it works, and why you need it. For more specific questions about your particular situation, consult your local attorney or title company.

This content may not be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, in part or in whole, without written permission of LANDTHINK. Use of this content without permission is a violation of federal copyright law. The articles, posts, comments, opinions and information provided by LANDTHINK are for informational and research purposes only and DOES NOT substitute or coincide with the advice of an attorney, accountant, real estate broker or any other licensed real estate professional. LANDTHINK strongly advises visitors and readers to seek their own professional guidance and advice related to buying, investing in or selling real estate.

About the author

Jonathan Goode

Jonathan is passionate about helping people buy and sell land. He is an associate broker with Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. Jonathan is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), working with Southeastern Land Group (AlaLandCo) since 2008, serving Alabama and Mississippi. He is a member of the Alabama and Mississippi chapters of the Realtor’s Land Institute (RLI), and is currently serving as Vice President of the Alabama Chapter. Jonathan specializes in marketing rural properties online, and is a contributor for, writing articles focused on helping people buying and selling rural land.


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  • Title insurance is a must when you buying a piece of rural land. This article helps to explain the concept of title insurance, how title insurance works.

  • I purchased a 1.6 acre heavily wooded plot of land across the road from my home in the state of Georgia at a tax lien sale two years ago this November. I am trying to clear the title with a deceased, intestate owner. I located some heirs (all are nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great- nephews etc.) They are spread out in Indiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, with the latter being where the descendant lived and died. I see this as not too complicated as far as steps to take but I’m uncertain as to the actual correct execution.

    Should I: File a Suit to Establish Heirs in the county and state where she died (as per MS law as decedent lived and died there). If heirs come forward in the allotted time and want the property, they can reimburse me the tax lien plus expenses and we’re done.

    OR: If there is no interest, heirs can sign off on it, I’ll have the title investigated, purchase title insurance and have an attorney draw up a new deed.

    OR: I do the above in the state of GA (as per GA law as the property is located in GA).

    I don’t see a reason to retain an $attorney$ if it isn’t any more complicated than this. My problem is knowing without a doubt as to the correct action. Both states are quite, quite clear with resultant conflicting laws; my fear is doing the above actions with the wrong state and having it blow back at a later date after developing the property.

    I know I need to file a Bar the Right to Redeem also, but, again not sure exactly at what point. I apologize for this being so long, this is the first time I have done this. While it is time consuming, I’m retired and actually enjoy the research. Thank you for any thoughts on this.

  • Jonathan, I purchased 7.8 acres in Cuba Mo. from a owner all cash sale in August of 2020. I went through a title company in Rolla Mo. to do the closing, title search,title insurance filling the deed at the county courthouse. The deed was e filed at the courthouse on October 5 2020. It is now January 22 2021 and I have not received a copy of the deed or title insurance. I have called the title company several times and they said that they were working on it or it is going in the mail the next day. The sellers have already been paid. What can I do to get my title insurance policy and a copy of my deed? Any help would be greatly appreciate. Sincerely Alvin L. Tanner

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