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Recording Real Estate Documents

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What is Recording?

Recording is the act of putting a real estate document into the official records at the County Recorders or Recorder of Deeds Office. Usually, the types of documents that are recorded affect title to real property such as a deed, mortgage, easement, judgment, lien, foreclosure, or request for notice of default. These types of documents should be recorded with the recorder's office in the county where the real estate is located.

How Do I Record Real Estate Documents?

The recording process entails:

  • taking or sending the document to the recorder's office & paying a recording fee
  • the document is then given a number and stamped with the date and time of recording
  • some offices microfilm the document before returning it

Why Record Real Estate Documents?

The purpose of recording a document is to provide a traceable chain of title to the property. (Chain of title is evidence that a piece of property has validly passed down through the years from one owner to the next). Thus, recording property interest in the public records effectually gives notice of ownership to the general public.


In fact, recording helps to resolve disputes between multiple claimants (persons with competing claims to the property).  For example:    

  • In terms of mortgages and liens, the date of recording often determines the priorities between competing liens. Priority refers to which lien is entitled to be paid first.
  • In the case of competing deeds, the date of recording often determines priority of title between competing title holders. 

How Is Priority Determined?

Most states have developed Recording Acts (statutes of each state which establish the keeping of official records by County Recorders or Recorder of Deeds). These Acts prioritize recorded documents, which is especially useful when there are conflicting claims of ownership. However, the order of priority depends on the type of statute that the state has adopted. The different types of statutes include: Race, Notice, and Race-Notice.

What Happens in a State that Has Not Adopted a Recording Statute?

In states that have not enacted a recording statute, states follow the common law that says "first in time is first in right" so that  priority is given to the one who is first in line, regardless if it was recorded or not.

Do I Need to Consult a Real Estate Lawyer?

Since the Recording Acts are difficult to understand and the laws of each state differ when it comes to real estate, it may be wise to consult with an experienced real estate lawyer in your area when purchasing an interest in real property. Your lawyer can advise you of the laws in your state, and guide you towards the proper procedures to secure your interest from possible competing claims of ownership.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 02-22-2018 01:53 AM PST

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