If you’re buying or selling a home, there’s a lot of talk about titles. There’s the title search, contacting title insurance services to secure a policy, and then there’s the deed too. What is all this stuff? And what does it even matter? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about titles.
What is a property title?
A property title gives a party rights to something—in this case, a home or property. Title allows you to use and modify a property however you like (within legal limitations) and transfer your interest in the property to others. When you’re purchasing a home, you’re purchasing its title.
What is a title search?
The title search occurs after a seller has accepted an offer on their property. The purpose of the search is to ensure that there are no other parties who have rights to the property before the title is transferred to the buyer. The title search is a tedious process that involves searching deeds, state and federal tax liens, divorce cases, county land records, and bankruptcy court records. A clean property title search means there are no pending lawsuits, liens, or claims on the property.
Can you perform your own title search?
Yes, you can perform your own title search instead of hiring a title search company, but because of the amount of research involved, it’s generally recommended that homebuyers use a professional instead.
How do you do a title search on a property?
The first step in how to do a title search is to check the local tax assessor’s records; these are often available online, otherwise you will need to call your local county tax office. Next, search for the property deed—this may cost a small amount of money and it may be online or you may have to visit the deed recorder’s office in person. You will need to have deeds for the past 50 to 70 years and ensure that title was passed correctly from each owner to the next—this is called the chain of title. Finally, search the tax assessor’s records again for potential liens and the Registrar of Deeds to see whether there are judgment liens against the property.
With all the work involved, it’s easy to see why most homebuyers simply hire a title search company!
How much is a title search on a home?
Title searches range from $75 to $150, depending on your location and the title search company you hire.
Is a deed and a title the same thing?
The deed is the name for the physical legal document that transfers the title from one owner to the next.
What is title insurance?
Although the title search is meant to be thorough, there’s always a possibility that there are claims on a property not found during the search. Title insurance offers protection in such cases.