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What is the Purpose of a Property Title Search?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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A property title search is a public records investigation that is often done before buying or making an offer for a home or piece of land. Property title searches can turn up valuable and important information about the plot in question that can give insight about the history of the property. Perhaps more importantly, a property title search ensures that the seller can legally sell the property and that there are no liens of any kind.

Doing a property title search may seem unnecessary in a simple property transaction, but many legal and real estate experts recommend doing one any time ownership is being transferred. Even sellers working with reputable estate agents may try to sell a house or piece of land they do not truly own by hiding title information. To ensure protection against fraud, it may be best to hire an independent property title search company to turn up records, or to undertake the investigation personally. Since most title information is a matter of public record, it may only take a few hours of research to turn up the necessary information that shows if a property is free and clear to be purchased.

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When dealing with foreclosures or bank-owned real estate, a property title search may become even more important. Banks that give home loans often sell these loans to third party companies, which may even sell them again once the house goes into foreclosure. Finding out who truly owns a house that is being sold after foreclosure is often a murky process that can take serious research. In addition doing a personal search through government offices, request documentation from the seller that proves full ownership.

A property title search is not only important in determining the rightful owner, but can also help establish if there are any liens on the property. A lien is a legal claim that can make a piece of property collateral against a debt. One type of lien that can disrupt home sales is known as a construction or mechanic's lien, which indicates that some construction or improving work has been done on the property, but not paid. A new owner may be unable to purchase a house with a lien, or may find him or herself responsible for the debt if the purchase goes through.

One other reason to do a property title search is to check the legal description of the home or land against what actually exists. If the title search refers to the house as having two bedrooms and one bath, but the actual property has four bedrooms and two baths, it is possible that an illegal addition has been built that may disrupt financing and resale value. Though it may seem basic, it is also important to make sure that the address and lot number of the deed match those on the legal documentation; some fraudsters will try to unload less valuable property by showing buyers one house and giving them the deed to another.

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