Came across this excellent article today regarding title insurance and refinancing:
Title insurance is a safeguard against defects in the title of real property. This phenomenon came out of the era of non-computerized records (since the 1500s, basically), when it was very easy to impersonate someone, forge documents, or otherwise muddy the waters when it came to proving ownership of a property. Title insurance (coupled with title abstracts) basically come into play when there is a defect in title, such as an old lien on the property or a claim by a previous owner.
In New York, particularly in Manhattan, title insurance is rarely used. Some 80% of available residential units are co-ops, which are not considered real property, and therefore rarely involve title insurance. Title insurance is mostly applicable to real property ownership - including condos and townhouses or buildings of any kinds. In fact, mortgage companies require a title abstract - and usually also title insurance - before they will agree to the mortgage loan.
The author of this article - Mr. Guttentag - has highlighted a possible cost savings for owners of condos and townhouses who wish to refinance - namely, a discount on the reissue of title insurance. If you are thinking about refinancing your condo or house, this is required reading!