Surely, many a first-time homebuyer who has waded through the closing process has come across the line-item charge for something called "title insurance" and has been simultaneously puzzled at just what it is he’s buying and annoyed by its several-hundred-dollars cost.

Homebuyers tend to be only vaguely familiar with title insurance, agrees Jeremy Yohe, director of communication for the American Land Title Association, a trade group for title companies in Washington, D.C.

"After all, people don’t buy it too often — typically, how many times do you buy a home in your life?" he said.

The product, at its most basic, insures that the person or entity selling a property really owns it and that others don’t have a legal interest in it or that other legal circumstances don’t cloud the seller’s right to convey its ownership.

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