A deed is a legal document that typically transfers real property ownership or conveys the legal rights associated with a particular piece of property from one person to another. Most jurisdictions maintain that in order for deeds to be valid, they: 1) must be in writing and 2) must be recorded in the county where the property is located.
A deed search is the process of locating deeds that are associated with a certain tract of land, a house or other type of building as well as the surrounding that also belongs to the property owner. Deed searches can unfold the historical ownership of a property.
Why is a Deed Search Necessary?
While conducting a deed search can be an interesting glance back in time at the past ownership of a property, more importantly, a proper deed search will also shed light on any potential issues regarding ownership of the property. This is especially important when purchasing real estate.
Possible problems that can be unearthed while conducting a deed search may include:
- Liens on the property that were never cleared;
- Vague or inaccurate changes of ownership;
- Unpaid taxes on the property; and,
- Property encroachment issues.
It is best to clear these potential issues up before the purchase of a property so that the deed is accurate and does not reflect any financial encumbrances.
What is the Difference Between a Deed and a Title?
A deed is an actual document that transfers property from one owner to a new owner. The transfer can be for all interests in a property or for part of the interest in a property. A title is not necessarily an actual document but rather is a concept wherein
an owner of real property has the rights to use the property they own and has legal ownership to that property. A deed is proof of title to a property.
Where are Deeds Kept?
Typically, a recorder of deeds maintains documents such as property deeds and other information associated with real estate. In some jurisdictions, the recorder of deeds is known as the clerk of the court. The recorder of deeds is usually an elected county official that works at the local municipality level. All the real estate deeds are filed and housed with the recorder of deeds within a particular county or jurisdiction. The documents may be kept in paper form or scanned and saved electronically.
How is a Deed Search Performed?
Once a real estate deed is recorded it becomes public information. Therefore, recorded deeds must be searchable by anyone with an interest to do so. How a deed search is performed depends on how a municipality stores its recorded deeds. More and more jurisdictions now have online real estate deed searches available. Other counties across the United States have paper documents to view and still others use a microfiche system.
Who Can Perform a Deed Search?
Since recorded real estate deeds are public information, most anyone can search them. However, if the purpose of the deed search is to confirm that the deeds associated with a particular piece of real estate have a free and clear chain of title, it is a good idea to work with someone that is experienced with conducting such a search. In most states, it is up to the buyer to conduct the deed search. This structure is called the abstract system. Oftentimes, under the abstract system, the buyer works with a title company to conduct the deed search.
There are some states that operate under the Torrens system. Under the Torrens system, a potential purchaser of real estate goes to the recorder of deeds and asks them to conduct the search and confirm a free and clear title. The buyer receives a certificate from the recorder that proves clear title to the property.
Should I Call a Real Estate Attorney to Assist Me With My Deed Search?
Purchasing and selling real estate involve major financial commitment and consequences for both the buyer and seller involved in the transaction. It is imperative to make certain the real estate deeds are accurate and without any issues that may arise in the future. A local real estate attorney is familiar with the jurisdictional rules and regulations as well as the proper way to conduct a deed search in the area that the real estate is located.
They will be able to assist you with any deed problems that may arise, such as: liens on the property, inaccurate deed information, tax anomalies as well as property encroachment complications. Whether the jurisdiction you are in uses the abstract system or the Torrens system to conduct a deed search, it is important to work with an experienced and knowledgeable real estate attorney that will expedite the process without jeopardizing the accuracy of the transaction.