Psst. Mister want to buy the Empire State Building? Cheap!

Would you buy the Empire State Building from a stranger?Empire State Building LED live election results Obama Romney Spire Close-up

If you answered yes, then I hope you also bought title insurance.

To show how easily a con artist can defraud a buyer, a reporter a few years ago “stole” the Empire State Building. Armed with a deed that anyone can prepare and a twenty dollar fake Notary Public stamp, a reporter gave a deed to the Manhattan clerk charged with handling deed recording. Proving that there are no safeguards, the clerk rubber stamped the deed transferring title to one of the world’s most famous buildings. Lost on the clerk was the notary named for that famous bank robber Willie Sutton, famous for the truism: I rob banks because that’s where the money is.

Now, the new owner sells his building to you, being careful you go to the clerk’s office and see that in fact he owns the Empire State Building, because you see the deed. But, when you attempt to sell, your buyer, more savvy that you, discovers the fraud, and you are left with a red face and no building.

Clearly, this is a ridiculous example meant to make a point. You wouldn’t buy the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge, but you would buy that house around the corner. How do you know? You know because you would hire a real estate lawyer who would then order a title search, and at the closing give you title insurance. Title insurance is a policy of insurance that covers you against such frauds. You buy it once and are covered for as long as you own your home.

The moral of the story is speak to a qualified and capable real estate lawyer before embarking on probably the most important purchase of you life.