Saturday, May 08, 2010

query: I recently found out that a piece of property I bought had a strawbuyer on it back in 1955. How does this affect my title?

I wouldn't worry.  A strawbuyer does not necessarily mean that a crime has taken place.

For readers who do not know what a strawbuyer is, let me give you my definition.  Think of a strawbuyer as a fake buyer, like a scarecrow made of straw, who stands in the place of the farmer in the field.  A strawbuyer stands in the place of the real buyer to hide the identity of the buyer.

We think of strawbuyers as being illegal because they were used in recent years to defraud mortgage lenders and others, sometimes as part of a fraudulent flip.

We all know that guns do not commit crimes but a criminal can use a gun as a tool.  Likewise, criminals can use the strawbuyer as a tool.

I always hope that folks who buy property also buy an owner title insurance policy.  If so, an illegal transaction - perhaps involving fraud - that causes the property owner to suffer a loss, would be covered by the title insurance.  So to my inquiring reader, if you have an owner title insurance policy don't worry about fraud in the chain.

Now, I am sure some are asking WHY parties might use a strawbuyer at all?  The query dates the transaction back to 1955.  That was a time during which some property sellers felt very comfortable discriminating against Jews and blacks and lots of other people for lots of other reasons.  Strawbuyers were a commonly used tool in those days to assist homebuyers in acquiring property where they felt the price or availability would be altered if the identity of the actual seller were known.

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