By Glenn Mananeng
It’s important that when buying a potential investment property, there are no legal issues that may arise after it is purchased. With that in mind, properties with a clear title is very important. Unique Wealth Education is here to let you know the ins and outs of a title search.
Who does a title search?
Title company – they conduct extensive research on the property using public records and legal documents to identify the owner, liens, and if there are any loans and property taxes due.
Lender – they conduct a title search to verify ownership of the property and any other judgements for or against it before approving a loan that uses the property as collateral.
A buyer can also do a title search on their own, although it’s not usually recommended. Not only is the process time-consuming, you’ll be prone to making some kind of mistake along the way if you don’t have the knowledge needed when it comes to legal matters. However, this should not hinder you from wanting to know the basics of a title search. After all, you want your purchase to have no strings attached as much as possible.
Understanding the basics of a title search
This will minimize the chance of you regretting the property after acquiring it. The process won’t be as complex and tedious as it usually is if you do it the right way.
STEP 1: Chain of Title
The “chain” refers to a sequence of transfers pertaining to the historical ownership of the property. This will show the list of owners from the current one back to the original owner when the property was first built. This can be obtained from your County Clerk’s public records.
Back then, this step took too much time cause you had to check records dating back to almost 100 years in order to complete the search.
The importance of this step will determine the credibility of the property title. If you happen to pass by a “cloud” or any missing part of the chain, this might indicate that an incorrect deed was done during somewhere along the way. This could also mean that the owner changed their name to reacquire the title. In this case, a quiet title suit is done as a security measure.
Quiet title suit – this is done in order to settle any dispute over the ownership of the property. Think of it as reinforcing the weakest part of the chain so it won’t break. The owner goes to court and describes all of the title defects with an attorney. The judge will “fix” these defects with a court order declaring that the claimant (in this case, the current owner) is now the true owner of the property.
STEP 2: Tax Search
The second step of the title search determines whether the property is up to date with its taxes. Any overdue or unpaid taxes can create a lien against the property. Let’s say that you finally purchased the property and you skipped this step, this can lead to the government placing it up for sale again just to cover the unpaid taxes.
Title insurance – this is done to prevent any overlooked late or unpaid taxes on the property and make it as clean as possible. Without this, the financial burden will be transferred to you as the buyer.
STEP 3: Site Inspection
Inspecting involves a lot more than just dropping by and checking if the property is ok. This should be done to make sure everything matches the records of the property such as the lot size or any signs of an easement. When you are granted an easement, this means you have the legal right to use or enter the property of the owner without possessing it. These are typically granted for utility companies and are usually not removable.
STEP 4: Name and Judgement Search
Any judgement or state and federal tax liens against the current or previous owners must be looked up. It’s up to the current owner to settle any of these judgements or state and federal tax liens found while owning the property. Judgement decrees, unpaid taxes, and liens can have claims over the property. In other words, these defects can complicate your ownership even after purchasing it. A title insurance policy is a good preventive measure against these judgements and insures these items are removed at the time the policy is issued typically at the closing of the sale.
STEP 5: Closing the Deal
The final step is the green light for the buyer to begin the process of purchasing the property with a clear conscience knowing that all legal hurdles have been cleared. Once the deal has been closed, the title company issues a title policy.
Title policy – is the title company’s guarantee that protects you as the new owner in the event that any unknown issue affecting the property comes up after it’s purchased.
Following all of these steps will ensure a smooth transaction between you and the seller. Although we mentioned that a third-party entity usually does this on your behalf, it doesn’t hurt to know the legal aspects of this very important process. Contact us by phone: (734) 224-5454 or email: [email protected]. We also invite you to our monthly meet-up every first Thursday of each month to share experiences and hopefully do business with fellow real estate investors.