When purchasing a new property, it is important to conduct a title search. During this process, public records are reviewed to determine the rightful ownership of the property and identify any financial burdens, such as unpaid property taxes or mechanics liens, that must be resolved before the sale can continue. Doing so ensures that you have all the information you need to clear the title and will not be held liable for any adverse matters related to title. Here are tips on how to do a title search on a property.
Hiring a Title Examiner
The documents used to perform a title search are public, meaning that it is feasible to conduct one yourself but you really wouldn’t want to do so any more than you would want to do surgery on yourself.Without the proper training, it is likely that you will miss some important documents that could present a major liability in the future. When you present your ratified contract to a title company, they will assist you and be instrumental in ensuring that the search is completed.
They will also review the search as presented to them by the title examiner. This search is also what is used to create a title insurance commitment and ultimately your title insurance policy.
Checking Tax Assessor’s Records
Gathering information about the current tax status such as current assessed value and current payment records can be helpful as well. The tax records can also advise of any special circumstances about the property such as ADU status. A property tax record will provide you with the parcel number, lot number, general description, and history of both paid and unpaid taxes for the property.
Searching for the Property Deed
The information found in the clerk’s office will help you find the deed to the property. A title search in Virginia is typically 60 years or longer.
Each deed can reference previous deeds, maps of the property, and any liens. Gathering an extensive history of ownership in this way ensures that the chain of title, or series of owners, has been passed down correctly.
Conduct a Tax and Lien Search
After determining the chain of title, the examiner can move on to the next phase of your title search, which involves checking for liens, judgements, and other financial risks associated with the property. The tax assessor’s records discovered in the first stage of the search should contain information about any outstanding taxes or special assessments, both of which can become your responsibility after purchasing the property. In some cases, excessive past-due property taxes can give the state cause to put the property up for sale regardless of the current owner.
If there are any unsatisfied judgment liens against the property, the title will be considered defective. The seller must eliminate the defect before the property can be sold, as buyers will otherwise be unable to secure financing for the property. If a lien is discovered, the title company will assist in clearing it by contacting the creditor to either pay off the lien or ask for it to be removed if it has already been paid. Judgment liens can be found in the same office as the deeds.
Other Financial Restrictions
Outstanding mortgages, unpaid taxes, and other restrictions can put you at risk of losing the property after purchase.
While it is not the purchaser’s responsibility to rectify liens and other financial commitments before purchasing a home, a real estate attorney can advise you on the risks you can expect and steps needed to clear the property for purchase.
Hiring a Title Search Company For Help On How To Do A Title Search On A Property
Speak with Mathis Title Company for more information about performing a title search on a property. The company’s founder, Robin Mathis, has extensive experience in both the legal and real estate title industries, giving her a comprehensive perspective on how both fields impact your home buying or selling experience. In addition to reviewing title searches, the company can assist with refinancing, settlements, contract review and preparation, and mechanics’ liens.