Deeds are legal documents which are used when ownership rights in real property are transferred from the current property owner to a new property owner. There are several different types of deeds which may be used, each with their own requirements.

In general, a deed is required to include at least the following elements:

  • A description identifying the property being transferred;
  • The names of the parties who are taking part in the deed transaction, such as the grantor and the grantee; and
  • The signature of the individual who is transferring the deed. This signature is required to be notarized by a notary public.

Deeds are commonly used to transfer ownership in real property during a purchase or sale of a home. They may also be used when an individual inherits property from a family member.

In addition, deeds may be used to:

  • Transfer a gift;
  • Transfer contents of a trust; and
  • Transfer certain property rights, such as with a sheriff’s deed or tax deed.

If an individual receives a property deed, it is essential that they remember to record it with their local county recorder’s department where the real property is located. Failure to record the deed may lead to legal consequences.

What Does it Mean to Record a Deed?

As previously noted, when an individual receives a deed, it is essential that they record it, or file it at the county recorder’s office in the county in which the property is located.

Although an individual is not required by law to record a deed, failure to do so may lead to legal consequences. For example, if the purchaser of a new home does not record the deed to that home, it may be difficult for them to prove that they are the true owner.

If an individual cannot prove that they are the true owner of their home, they may not be able to sell that home or they may lose the ability to refinance their mortgage. In addition, recording a deed is required in order for the deed to be valid.

Recording the deed puts the public on notice that the holder of that deed owns that property and is the rightful owner of that piece of real property. In order to record a deed, the deed holder should go to their local recorder’s office.

At the recorder’s office, a clerk will file their deed. It is important to be aware that there may be a small fee associated with filing the deed, which may vary by jurisdiction.

The fee usually starts around $10. After the processing time has passed, the recorder’s office will return a copy of the recorded deed to the holder of the deed, often by mail.

It is also important to be aware that each state has their own laws called recording acts. These laws govern the process of how and when an individual should record their deed and may also be used to help settle disputes which arise regarding ownership.

What Type of Deed is Most Commonly Used?

The general warranty deed is the type of deed which is most commonly used in real estate transactions. This type of deed offers the most protections for buyers.

General warranty deeds typically contain six promises, called covenants, part of which include:

  • The individual transferring ownership, or the grantor, is the rightful owner of the property and can legally transfer its title;
  • There are no liens, debts, or encumbrances on the property, neither prior to nor during their ownership period; and
  • If a legal issue does arise, the grantor will be responsible for resolving it.

It is important to note that whether or not a covenant will be included in the general warranty deed depends upon the laws of the state in which the property is located. Therefore, the terms of this type of deed as well as what it guarantees may vary.

What is a Recorder of Deeds?

The recorder of deeds is an office that serves the public by recording and registering deeds as well as titles to real property. A recorder of deeds maintains a central location where records of property deeds are indexed.

This registry of deeds, or index, can be searched by individuals or parties who are interested in obtaining title to the piece of real property. Typically, the recorder of deeds operates at the county level and may also be known as the county recorder.

There may also be offices which perform similar functions, including the registrar of titles or the register of deeds. Documents which are typically recorded by a recorder of deeds include:

  • Deeds;
  • Mechanic’s liens;
  • Mortgages; and
  • Releases.

As previously noted, the registration and recording of deeds are governed by each state’s recording acts. These laws regulate:

  • Recording;
  • Title searches; and
  • Deed contests.

It is especially important for an individual to have a recorded deed if a property dispute arises wherein multiple parties are attempting to record a deed for the same piece of real property.

Why Should a Deed be Recorded?

It is extremely important to record real estate documents. Deeds should be recorded for two main purposes, including title searches and certainty of title.

Title searches are conducted when an interest party needs to examine the title to a piece of real property. The interested party will typically attempt to locate the deed or title and the county recorder’s office.

If the deed is filed there, the document will provide important information regarding the property. For example, it will typically list the chain of ownership in the property as well as any encumbrances on the title, such as liens.

How Do I Find Deed Information?

There are several ways in which an individual can find deed information. Some of the most common ways to find deed information include:

  • A deed index;
  • State archives;
  • Deed books;
  • Microfilm copies of deeds;
  • Libraries; and
  • A title search.

A deed index is an index which is kept by the office of the register of deeds. It will contain full copies of the deeds as recorded by the clerk.

Deed indexes are typically kept at a county wide level. It is important to note that different jurisdictions will have different formats and systems for their deed index.

Many states have state archives to preserve public records, including deeds. These records are typically kept on microfilm at a state library or state historical society. In some cases, the microfilm may be provided for sale.

There are also a number of commercial deed books which are offered for sale. These contain abstracts of recorded information.

As previously noted, some organizations rent or sell microfilm copies of old deed records. In many cases, an individual will be able to view them at the facility but may be required to pay a small fee for copies.

There are many libraries which house microfilm copies of county records, including deeds. An individual can contact their local library to determine if these types of records are available.

A title search involves an examination of county records in order to determine the title history of real property. These may be conducted by commercial agents, including:

  • Title companies;
  • Attorneys; and
  • Escrow officers.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Research a Deed?

It can be extremely helpful to have the assistance of a real estate lawyer when you are researching a deed. Deeds are very important documents that affect ownership rights and interests in real property.

Your attorney will ensure that all of the proper locations and venues where deed information may be located will be searched. They will also assist you in understanding the terms of the deed as well as assist you with defending any attacks on the title to your property.