Recently I took my daughters to our city's library- a trip we make at least a couple times a month. We were chatting in the car and I missed the street, so I pulled down the next road to turn around. Since we'd never been on this particular road before, we drove down a bit to check out the houses. At the end, we were greeted by the sight in the photo, above. The paved road became dirt, there were logs across the road, construction barrels with blinkers, wires, weeds, grass, shrubs, a sidewalk and trees... and a street sign which very obviously pointed out that the "Road Ends."
My kids and I laughed out loud. It was so obvious to us the road ended (where else could you go?), that even my 10- & 11-year old girls found humor in the superfluousness of the sign. They encouraged me to go back later and take a picture. When we were discussing the incident that evening, they asked me why the sign was there. I opined that perhaps we have a local ordinance requiring such signs at the end of roads, even where it's patently obvious- probably to avoid liability. Still, though, they thought it was silly.
So, with that incident still in mind, I gave a presentation for Stewart Title to a networking group about a week ago. After my speech and slide-show (I have a lot to say about title insurance), there was a Q&A session. One gentleman asked me whether he would need title insurance when he refinanced his mortgage, even though he had lived in his home for 20 years. I answered yes, that the lender would require a mortgage loan policy because it would be almost impossible to sell the loan on the secondary market without it. He wasn't happy with my response. He told me, somewhat angrily, "But I've lived there 20 years- I know I own my house!" Nonetheless, he- like just about everyone else who uses their real property as collateral- will have to purchase a title insurance policy.
Having the "Road Ends" sign fresh in my memory put his question in perspective, though. I can see his point and understand his frustration. Living in the same house for a couple decades, he certainly knows if he's ever had any blatant boundary disputes, and he knows if he has any current mortgages. So, to him, having to get a title policy must seem as unnecessary as the "Road Ends" sign at what is so very obviously the termination of the road by my library. And yet, the reasons for the existence of both are nearly identical: the idea of hedging against risk.
Despite the dirt, logs, grass, weeds, wires, trees and barrels, there is a possibility- however slight- that some lost soul might drive off the end of the road without that centrally-placed reflective metal "Road Ends" sign. For the cost of the sign, property damage, injury or even the loss of life (with the resultant litigation) might be avoided. And, despite having resided in his home since the early '90's, for the cost of a title policy, both the homeowner and his lender can enter into a transaction worth hundreds of thousands of dollars without having to assume the risk for liens, taxes, easements, use restrictions, special assessments, misplaced fences, misrecorded deeds or any of the other many issues that can adversely affect title to a property... even if the occupant "knows" it's good. I suppose, using that comparison, the sign doesn't seem so silly after all- and, of course, neither does title insurance!