What is a Property Title Search and How to Do It

By: ROS Team

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Unlike shopping for a home, buying a home is not a one-window operation. It involves a process consisting of several steps that may take weeks to several months to complete. From finding a home to getting an appraisal and inspection, there are many things that you need to ensure. One thing that must be done is a title search.  This will help provide peace of mind that you own the property free and clear and there are no liens on it.

Property Title Search

Here is everything that you need to know about conducting a property title search.

What is a Property Title Search?

A property’s title will provide information about any claims, loans, liens, or other issues that could affect the sale of the property. The title company goes through public records and legal documents looking for anything related to the property.

It’s especially important if you are getting a home with a home loan because the lender requires title insurance before the loan can be approved. The title company conducts the check to make sure that their investment is safe.

How to Do a Title Search

During the purchase of the home, a title company or attorney conducts the title search. The length of time for the process may vary given the unique circumstances around the property.

On the eve of the closing, the attorney orders the title search which is mostly conducted by independent title companies. The title company searches and submits the report to the seller’s attorney. The seller’s attorney then works with the title company to provide clarification if there are any pending issues related to the title search.

How to do a title search

A title company usually reviews the following for any possible issues related to the property:

  • County land records
  • Deeds
  • Tax liens (federal or state)
  • Bankruptcy court records
  • Divorce cases
  • Construction liens

They also look into details about any mortgages taken out on the property in question as well as any taxes or other title problems.

Real Estate Title Search

The title company does not only look at current data but also historical data to confirm whether there are any pending issues involving the property. They make sure they can clearly follow every sale of the property to ensure it was free of any aliens or issues.

After checking all the facts, the title company creates a report containing all the facts and findings which is regarded as a real estate title search.

Steps Involved in the Title Search:

The following steps are the major areas that are considered during the real estate title search:

1. Chain of Title

This is the order in which property transfers from one owner to the next. It provides a historical trail of who held the property and when. To obtain this information, you can simply visit the local county clerk or recorder’s office and look in the public record.

It is laborious and intensive work to research the chain of title. In some cases, the chain may go back over fifty years. The chain begins with the current property owner and goes back in history using maps. Maps also provide insight into how the property has changed over time.

If the chain of title is not complete it could create some uncertainty if not stop the current transaction altogether until the issue is resolved.

2. Tax Search

After a chain of titles, a tax search is conducted. A tax search would reveal whether there were any taxes levied against the property recently or in the past.

Tax Search

It is risky to buy a property with unpaid taxes as it creates a lien on the property. There are chances that the government can later confiscate the property and list it on the market for sale.

3. Site Inspection

Inspection of the property is equally important to determine the legal standing of the property. The first thing to note is whether or not there are any property encroachments.  Additionally, location and lot size need to be confirmed as well as if anybody is living on the property and claims any rights to the property. From a lender’s perspective, everything needs to be assured before approving the loan.

4. Judgment Search

Property remains subject to feud, especially when the property is inherited. In those situations, people may keep pursuing claims in the courts and there could be judgments of sale restrictions or any other assessment.   If such judgment is found against the property, the seller is responsible for removing those pending issues to close the sale.

Judgment Search

Any issue or defect is found during the real estate title search, it is mandatory that those issues are resolved before the transaction can be finalized. If you have prior experience in dealing with official records feel free to conduct the search on your own. Otherwise, let the experts do their job.

Finally, How do you Conduct a Property Title Search by Yourself?

If you can spare some time and energy and would rather not pay the title search fee. You can conduct a home title search by yourself. You can do this by visiting the county clerk’s office to confirm the necessary facts about the property.

However, it is always recommended to utilize professionals to complete the property title search. Most people don’t understand the real estate requirements and lien periods. It is even complex to go through the official data and court records. So it’s best to leave that to the experts.