Why is the title company so interested in my marital status? They are making me uncomfortable!

Posted January 16, 2021 in Real Estate Trends

Scott Hogan, Clark County WA real estate agent

Is my title company flirting with me? That thought may occur to a real estate buyer in Washington State. Why? We’re always asking parties to transactions whether they are married or unmarried—and no, it’s not because we are prying or personally interested. We have dating websites for that.

Because Washington is one of 9 community property states (unlike Oregon, which is not), we need to determine if an owner or buyer’s interest is community property. It’s not enough to look at a deed filed at the courthouse or a Purchase and Sale Agreement signed by only one person—if the owner or buyer is married, their spouse may be a co-owner. If a buyer wishes their purchase to be their separate property rather than co-owned by their spouse, we’ll have that non-buyer spouse sign a deed that allows that to happen.

When is property owned by a married person NOT community property? It gets complicated, as any divorce lawyer will tell you, but here are some general guidelines: property purchased prior to a marriage, or after a legal separation, is usually separate property. Property received only by one spouse by gift, probated Will or inheritance is also usually separate rather than community property. If you pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance and repairs on that separate property out of a joint account, that’s the tricky part.

That’s the reason we ask if you’re married, or ask how long you’ve been married, or ask if your spouse is willing to sign a deed.

Here’s another reason we’re so nosy about your past: if you have judgments or liens against you for unpaid taxes, unpaid child support, or unpaid debts, those liens and judgments become “attached” to your property when you become the owner. That means a person or entity that you owe money to could try to satisfy that debt with your property. If your name is common, there may be dozens of such debts se discover in our title search. To make sure it’s not you, we may ask you to complete a Similar Name Affidavit that asks you past addresses, etc. Please don’t be offended—that’s how we rule out these liens so we don’t list a child support lien owed by another person and leave you to explain that to your spouse.

Clark County Title is ready to help you and your clients with whatever you are doing in real estate: buying, selling, or refinancing. Our staff is the best in the business, having mastered title and escrow since our start in 1980. And we’re looking for experienced title and escrow professionals to join our team! Call or email me if interested!

If you have questions or concerns about real estate or title insurance, please call! If we don’t know the answer, we can refer you to one of the many local experts in all areas of real estate to get you the information you need.

We sincerely thank the many people that have entrusted us with their transactions in 2020, including the best Realtors and lenders in Clark County. We wish you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year!

From your friends at Clark County Title,