A Fistful of Dirt
Back in the day, the sale of land was consummated by a ceremonial act: the buyer gave to the seller a fistful of dirt from the property being sold. It was beauty in its simplicity. And, what could possibly go wrong? Either the buyer delivered the dirt or she didn’t.
Well, for one, the parties might have different understandings of the tract represented by the symbolic act. Legend has it, for example, that when an opportunist from Saxon (think, Norway when it was peopled by Thor and his cousins) exchanged some of his own baubles for a clump of dirt from Thuringia (think, Narnia, but less — much less), the Saxon saw the transaction as the sale of a country and promptly mounted an invasion. The hapless Thuringian, of course, had only intended to sell the “back nine” of his yard — you know, past the outhouse, where the kids throw the pet wolf droppings and the abandoned carts are turning to rust.
(Prime Minister Frederiksen, take heed: don’t track mud from Greenland into the White House.)
Today, we are more sophisticated. (Well … excepting certain real estate developers turned politicians — most of us are). Buyers and sellers located continents apart may negotiate and close deals for land that they’ve never seen, much less, held the dirt of. (Yep, you caught us: a dangling preposition.)
How is this possible? Through intermediaries, like brokers, lawyers, and escrow agents. Middlemen who serve as functionaries of a modern day economy. They are reliable and trustworthy, aren’t they?
Well, it turns out that they aren’t. Nor are all buyers and sellers. Thankfully, there are the title insurers. They make right things that go wrong. Title insurers might not stop an invasion but, sure as Skippy, they’ll be there with a claims check to cover the damage.
Join the team from Failure - the Podcast as they explore the wild world of title insurance with Ethan Powsner, Vice President of Market & Technology Development, for the Fidelity National Title Group. You might just yearn for the day when a fistful of dirt meant something.