Sometimes called a “marketable title,” a clear title on a house means that no one will come looking to garnish the property or take it to pay a debt. Banks and companies that sell mortgages often won’t approve a loan unless the buyer or seller can prove the property possesses a clear title.
On the surface, researching a title is a fairly straightforward process, and it can benefit a buyer to understand some of the steps required to ensure a clear title. However, a future homeowner may also benefit from the assistance of a real estate lawyer or a title insurance policy during the buying process.
Conducting a Preliminary Search
Some professionals conduct research on property titles, but there are some steps you can take on your own to discover pertinent information about your home’s title or the title of a house you want to buy.
Here are a few steps that a real estate lawyer or specialist may take in conducting a title search.
- Check With the Tax Assessor – The city or county tax assessor should have records on the property you want to buy, and some offices may even store their information online where you can access it without going to the assessor’s office. Checking with the tax assessor will let you know whether the house has any property taxes due.
- Look at the Official Property Deed – Like the records held by the tax assessor, you may be able to research the property deed online. It’s important to get details on the most recent owner of the property, as well as the past owners. Experts recommend getting anywhere from 50 to 70 years of records if they exist and the property is that old or older.
Hire an Attorney to Ensure a Clear Title
While investigating the status of a title can begin at the City or County Clerk’s office, the small investment of hiring a lawyer to complete the task will provide the best chance of completing the home purchase without delays, impediments, and unexpected costs.
It’s entirely permissible to conduct some of the basic search techniques outlined above, but a real estate lawyer can accomplish each of those steps much more quickly than the average, inexperienced home buyer.
An article on budgeting at The Nest suggests:
“Even though some house sales can close without clearing title, clouds such as mortgage, construction and judgment liens can lead to foreclosures and lost money. Other title issues, such as a property line dispute, can create closing headaches if you decide to resell your property. A buyer should drop into his local lawyer’s office and get some expert advice before agreeing to buy a house without first clearing its title.”
Hiring a real estate lawyer is a simple process, and the lawyer can also assist with other vital tasks during the buying process like the purchase agreement and the negotiations that may occur during the bidding process.
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