Who Owns My Home?

Community Contributed

By Eileen M.S. Nims, Esq.

This is a question I get asked all the time. Homeownership can be a bit confusing. After you buy a home on Molokai with a mortgage, you often don’t see the actual deed, or the title to the house. It gets sent to the bank or the escrow company after recording. You may even be told that “The bank owns your home until it has been fully paid off.” However, this is not true! Once you have signed the paperwork, the house is yours. Your name is on the deed as owner. Of course, you owe a big chunk of money still to the bank and you have to pay that off over time. But the bank does not own your home – only you do. 

So how does this work then? The bank has lent you money to purchase the home. They want to make sure, however, that you continue to re-pay them the money they gave to you for this purchase. So the bank says, “We will loan you the money, but if you stop paying us back, then after a while we have the right to go to court and ask the judge if we can take over ownership from you so we can sell the home and get our money back.” This is called a foreclosure procedure. If the bank owned the house all along, they would not have had to go through that court process.

Because the house is yours, you have full control over what you do with your house. You can add or take people off the deed; you can put the deed in a trust; or you can sell your home. 

An important concept to understand is equity. This is the best part of buying a home (unless there is a huge dip in the housing market like in 2007). Equity is the difference in value between the current market value of your home and the amount you still owe to the bank for purchasing your house. For example, if you could sell your home today for $500,000 and the mortgage amount left on your home is $150,000, you receive $350,000 cash in hand upon the sale. So you still have to pay the bank their $150,000 back, but you get to keep the equity, which in our example is $350,000. 

If you want to look up your own deed, you can do so by going to the website of the Bureau of Conveyances at bocdataext.hi.wcicloud.com/login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f. You can log in and search by your first and last name to find a copy of your deed. 

If you want guidance with deed-related matters and receive individualized legal advice with regards to deed transfers on Molokai, please feel free to contact Eileen M.S. Nims, J.D. at eileen@nimsesq.com or by phone at (808) 664-1834. Please note we do not handle foreclosure cases.

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