A real estate title search is a detailed examination of the historical records concerning a property, including deeds, court records, property and name indexes, and other documents. The purpose of a title search is to verify the seller’s right to transfer ownership and to discover any claims, defects, and other rights or burdens on the property.

Key Steps in a Real Estate Title Search:

  1. Gathering Records: The search involves collecting records from various sources such as county clerk’s offices, local courthouses, and sometimes federal and state agencies. This includes any documents affecting the property in question, such as past deeds, wills, trusts, divorce decrees, bankruptcy filings, court judgments, and tax records.
  2. Reviewing Historical Ownership: The title searcher reviews the chain of title, which is the sequence of historical transfers of title to the property. This review helps to ensure there is a clear “chain” of ownership and that no previous transactions have occurred that might affect current ownership.
  3. Identifying Liens and Encumbrances: The search will reveal any liens (such as mortgage liens, tax liens, or mechanics’ liens) and other encumbrances on the property that might restrict the use of the property or obligate the new owner to pay a debt.
  4. Checking for Easements: Easements may be in place that allow other entities or individuals the right to use a portion of the property for specific purposes, such as utilities or a shared driveway.
  5. Survey Review: A survey of the property might be examined during a title search to verify the boundaries and dimensions of the property, ensuring that there are no encroachments or discrepancies.
  6. Final Assessment: The final part of the title search is preparing a title abstract, which provides a summary of the findings from the title search and highlights any issues with the title that could affect the buyer’s use and enjoyment of the property.

Importance of Title Searches:

  • Preventing Future Legal Issues: A thorough title search can prevent future legal issues by ensuring that the property is free of undisclosed heirs, past due real estate taxes, unsatisfied mortgages, and other liens.
  • Ensuring Valid Ownership Transfer: It confirms that the property owner has a legal right to sell the property, free and clear of any undisclosed encumbrances or liens.
  • Protection for Buyers and Lenders: Title searches are crucial for both buyers and lenders to protect their interests. It is often required for issuing title insurance, which protects against losses from defects in the title.

Title searches are a fundamental aspect of due diligence in real estate transactions and are crucial for avoiding costly and complicated legal troubles related to property ownership and rights.