Part 1: Help! I’m stuck in an unsellable homeby Lynnette Khalfani-Cox
Consider the residence located near a railroad track or power plant, the outdated house with 1970s decor, or the infamous condo where a death or murder may have taken place.
As bad of some of these scenarios sound, real estate agents say all such homes will sell eventually; they just need the right price and the right buyer to come along.
But imagine being stuck in a home that is literally unsellable because of a dispute you’re having with your title insurance company.
That’s the situation facing Ronald Dean Baxter, a New Jersey homeowner, and his wife, Sandra. The couple desperately wants to move.
Twice the couple found potential buyers after putting their home on the market on two different occasions in 2010, yet the deals fell through each time because of a huge legal problem.
Survey says: ‘You lose’
It turns out the Baxters’ Ringwood, N.J., home encroaches on someone else’s property–a fact the couple didn’t realize when they bought their house back in May 1990. Unfortunately, there were multiple wrong surveys done, and the title insurance company the Baxters paid to do a title search didn’t catch the encroachment problem. That’s where the issue apparently began.
“I would have never purchased this home if I knew this was the situation,” says Ronald Baxter.
Fast-forward to 2012, and the Baxters have now lived in their home for more than 20 years. But for nearly a decade, they’ve waged an on-and-off battle with their title insurer, Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co., a division of Fidelity National Financial Inc. Fidelity operates a group of title companies that collectively makes up the largest title insurance and escrow services company in the world.
The Baxters bought an owner’s title insurance policy from Commonwealth when they first got a home loan and purchased their property. Such insurance is supposed to protect homeowners in the event a problem is found with a home’s title.
When the encroachment issue was initially discovered, Commonwealth “did inform me that they are at fault and would work with me to clear this up,” says Baxter. “I have five or six surveys, documents and letters from the title insurance company.”
But year after year has passed, and Commonwealth and its parent company, Fidelity, have since failed to make good on its promises, according to Baxter.
“I have not only spent my time for the last (eight or nine) years dealing with this, but I have also spent a lot of funds out of my pocket trying to resolve this and I am still stuck in an unsellable house,” Baxter says…
Stay tuned for part two which will be published on Monday.