LIVINGSTON, NJ — Linda Percoco, who for the last 15 years has independently owned and operated Max Title Agency of Livingston, believes that many homebuyers and homeowners are unaware of the value offered by independent title agencies. In fact, there are probably quite a few who are in the dark about what, exactly, independent title agents do, she said.

Percoco, an authority on the subject, hopes to impart to the uninitiated why she believes title insurance is a must-have for homeowners.

"An independent title agent remains a neutral third party," said Percoco. "They earn your business through the quality of work they provide. Some of the benefits to using an independent title agent are: We care more, and we are another set of eyes. One-third of recorded titles are incorrect, and you often need a third set of eyes to figure this out."

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According to Percoco, if there are any inconsistencies or discrepancies, a title agent will be able to discern that.

"It’s our job to make sure you have clear title to your property,” she said. “A home is the biggest purchase of your life. We make sure that you actually own your property, and the actual metes and bounds description is correct."

The consumer should hire an attorney, to  review the contract on a prospective property and provide legal representation throughout the process; but an independent title agent handles the validity of the prior ownership, the mortgage documents, the closing and escrow services and provides the insurance, Percoco explained.

"No one understands really what we do and the amount of work that goes into it," said Percoco, who used to work as a realtor. "A good realtor will contact us first and ask us to run a judgment search on a prospective seller so they can be proactive and mitigate and issues at closing at a minimal cost. We order the searches and research to find missing deeds and missing mortgages. Someone could have a lien on a property that we’re not aware of.

“There can be an open doctor bill that a collection company filed a judgment, and you wouldn’t know until you did the judgment search.”

According to Percoco, descriptions attached to the deeds are frequently wrong, but title agencies “take the time to review the description and make sure what is on your lot and that nothing of the neighbors' is encroaching on your property.”

“There are a million little things we check out to make sure,” she said. “We review your mortgage documents and make sure all of it is submitted correctly and insure that the money is disbursed correctly at the closing.”

Before she launched Max Title Agency in 2004, Percoco started as a settlement agent for other title companies in 1996. She considers her knowledge of real estate, the banking industry and the title industry an asset that facilitates a smoother transaction process.

"We have seven people at Max Title Agency: a person who does the research and chain of title; others who take that search and clear it and make sure to clear judgments and talk to attorneys; another who only handles closings with the least amount of aggravation for the buyer or seller  Your attorney reviews your contract,  our closing department handles all bank documents (mortgage, note, etc.); another person handles all the money in the escrow part of closing,” she said. “We are under the auspices of the Department of Banking and Insurance in the State of New Jersey and audited by them and our insurance underwriters.”