Even homes that have been in the same family for years could create title issues when the seller brings them to market. If you are considering a home purchase, it is important that you thoroughly vet the title of the home to ensure that no issues will arise later. A title search on a property can reveal any information that you need to know before you commit to the purchase. When considering a property for purchase, conducting a title search on the property is always a good idea, and here’s what you can expect from the process.
What Is A Title Search?
A title search is an in-depth evaluation of the history of a property, such as who has owned it in the past and whether there are existing debts associated with the home. You can do a little bit of title searching on your own, but the most comprehensive evaluations are usually conducted by a real estate attorney or a title company. Specifically, this is completed by someone called a title abstractor, whose job is to verify all ownership of the house and view all of the information available to ensure that everything aligns properly.
During this process, the abstractor may discover any variety of potential issues that could cause a “title defect” or “cloud on title” which are problems that could impact your ownership. These issues could include, among many other things:
Liens – When the owners of a home create a debt or fail to pay their property taxes, a lien may be placed on the home; those debts are then tied to the home. If the owners sell the home without paying off the lien, the new owner will be responsible for the balance, even if they had no part in creating the debt in the first place.
Break in the title chain – A robust and accurate title history should show who has owned the house from the time that it was built until the present without any breaks. If this information is not demonstrated, it could indicate that the home was not sold properly or that someone else may truly own the home. If you buy the home from a seller who did not have a right to sell it, you do not have a right to own it either—even if you have paid for it.
Judgments and hindrances – Sometimes, a home may be gifted or bequeathed to someone in a will or settlement. However, for whatever reason, that person may not be able to be located at the time. A title search can help to identify if such a party was ever contacted and whether they could come back to contest their ownership of the property in the future.
Performing A Title Search On A Property
The title search process is fairly straightforward. First and foremost, be sure to enlist a title professional for this purpose. Not only will they have an easier time accessing data, but they will also have the required skills to interpret it. They can identify issues that an untrained eye may miss.
Next, the expert will view the public records relating to the house. If all of the information is satisfactory in this step, they will proceed to tax records to ensure that all taxes have been paid on time and that no liens are present.
After these assurances are met, the professional will examine the deeds for the property over the last 50+ years. They are checking to ensure that there has been no break in the chain of title over this time. They will then prepare an abstract of the title that thoroughly summarizes everything from easements to inheritances related to the property. You should have this document present with you to negotiate for the property.
It is possible that during this investigation, your real estate attorney or title expert may identify a problem. If an issue is found, it can often be corrected before closing. Human errors such as data entry mistakes on a deed can be corrected with the proper supporting documentation. More nuanced challenges can be navigated with the assistance of a real estate attorney. At this stage, you may also decline to purchase the home if there are unexpected liens for which you are not willing to assume responsibility.
Trust The Experts To Safeguard You Against Title Issues
Whether you are just starting your home buying journey, or you are nearing the closing date on a particular property, do not neglect a thorough title search. This will help to keep you safe from unexpected issues, and the experts at Mathis Title Company would be happy to help you with this process. Contact our team of experienced professionals to learn more about title searches and title insurance for lasting protection, or to schedule an appointment.