What is a Title Search?

Anbarasan Appavu

A title search is the examination of public records to determine and confirm the legal ownership of a property. Numerous sources, including deeds, tax liens, land records, and court judgments, are utilized during title searches. Individuals and businesses may order searches at any time to determine whether the property in question is subject to any claims or liens. For a real estate transaction to be finalized, a clear title is necessary. A transaction cannot be finalized if a title search reveals a lien on the property.

What is a Title Search?

• A title search is the evaluation of a piece of real property's ownership and claims prior to the closing of a real estate transaction.

• Title searches are typically conducted by title search companies, but individuals and businesses can also conduct them.

• A property's title must be free of encumbrances for the majority of real estate transactions to proceed.

• A title search includes investigating the potential for defects via public records and other sources, such as county courthouses and clerks' offices. • Title insurance can be purchased to protect against financial loss in the event that a title is found to be defective.

How to Conduct a Title Search

As stated previously, a title search determines whether a piece of property has a clean title or whether there are liens or other defects, such as errors in the public record, which prevent it from being transferred between parties. Typically, the procedure applies to real estate transactions, such as the purchase and sale of homes, and automobile transactions.

Typically, a title company or an attorney conducts a title search on behalf of a prospective buyer who intends to make an offer on the property. A lender or other entity may also initiate the process in order to confirm property ownership and determine whether there are liens or judgments against the property. Typically, this is done prior to approving a loan or other credit that uses the property as collateral.

To conduct the search, the requesting entity uses public records and legal documents to recognize the vested owner, liens or other judgments against the property, loans on the property, and property taxes due.

It is possible for a prospective buyer or another person to conduct a title search on their own, but it is not recommended. Legal documents can be difficult to understand, and gaining access to courthouse records can be challenging.

Homeowners who wish to refinance their mortgages have the option of conducting a title search.

Special Considerations

Before you close on the purchase of a home, an attorney or title company will conduct a public records search to determine the property's current owner. Upon completion of the search, you will receive a preliminary title report.

You can inform the seller of any issues or problems with the property's title. Depending on the precise nature of the issue, you can decide whether to proceed with the property purchase.

You should probably include your attorney and real estate agent in these conversations. Some issues revealed by a title search are easily rectified, whereas others may take so long to resolve that they jeopardize your loan commitment.

Clean Title vs. Dirty Title

A title search verifies the legal ownership of a property and identifies any claims on the property. A clean title proves sole ownership of a piece of property or land, whereas a dirty title indicates uncertainty or disrepute surrounding the property or land.

Incorrect surveys and unresolved building code violations are examples of title search results that could lead to a dirty or defective title designation. For example, a dirty title may contain unknown liens. When it came time to register the title, a filing clerk at the county office could have misspelt or misapplied some information.

In lieu of title insurance, certain private transactions may involve a warranty of title, which is a seller's assurance to a buyer that the seller has the legal authority to transfer ownership and that no other party has any claim to the property.

Title Insurance

Even a company or professional with extensive experience conducting title searches can occasionally overlook a document due to a paperwork error or oversight. Mistakes are possible, and they can be costly if you discover a problem with the property after the purchase is finalized. This is why buyers commonly purchase title insurance, that can protect you and your mortgage lender from financial loss if a problem with the title arises during or after the sale.

Title insurance protects against loss or damage caused by liens, encumbrances, or defects in a property's title or ownership. In contrast to traditional insurance, which protects against future occurrences, title insurance protects against claims related to past events.

Typically, a basic owner's title insurance policy covers the following perils:

• Possession by a third party • Incorrect signatures on title documents, in addition to forgery and fraud

• Erroneous recording (flawed records or record-keeping)

• Restrictive covenants (terms that diminish the property's value or enjoyment), such as unrecorded easements

• Property encumbrances or judgments, such as pending lawsuits or liens

Example of a Title Search

This example demonstrates how title searches function. Assume you wish to move to a larger residence. You have viewed several properties, but one piques your interest slightly more than the others. You choose to submit an offer.

As the buyer, you would like to ensure that the property is free and clear of any liens, encumbrances, or other defects that could prevent you from completing the purchase, so you hire a title company to perform the due diligence.

The title company will take a few steps to determine whether the title to your prospective home is defect-free or flawed. This requires sifting through public records and visiting courthouses and county offices to collect legal documents pertinent to the property. The company compiles all information it discovers about you.

If the title is clear, you can move forward with the transaction. However, if any flaws exist, the transaction cannot be finalized. Some defects, such as clerical errors, may be easier to rectify than others, such as liens against the property.

How Does One Conduct a Title Search?

Typically, title searches are conducted by a title company. This firm is responsible for searching through public records to determine if a property is subject to liens. Commonly hired during the sale and purchase of a home, the company may also aid in the closing process. Individuals can conduct their own title searches by accessing public records online or in person at a county clerk's or tax assessor's office.

How Long Does It Take to Conduct a Title Search?

The average duration of a title search can range between 10 and 14 days. However, it may take longer to conduct title searches on older properties.

Can Someone Conduct a Title Search by Own?

Title companies or agencies typically conduct title searches. However, you can conduct a title search on your own. Ensure you have the correct information, such as the street and legal address of the property, before you begin. Once you have this information, search online or in person for public records. You can visit the office where the title is recorded (typically the county clerk's office) and/or the tax assessor's office to determine whether or not the property is subject to any outstanding liens. Remember that this can be a lengthy and tedious process. It can also be expensive.

What Does a Search of Titles Reveal?

A title search reveals the legal owner of a property and whether or not there are any outstanding claims or liens against it. Lenders as well as other financial institutions, contractors, tax collectors, and any other entity with a financial or legal claim on the property may file liens.

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