A title search is a means of ascertaining that the person who is selling the property really has the right to sell it, and that the buyer is getting all the rights to the property that he or she is paying for.
Here’s what we look for:
- Chain of Title — This is a history of the ownership of a particular piece of property. It describes who bought it and sold it, and when. The information may be derived from public records—usually a County Clerk or Recorder Office—or obtained from title plants privately owned and maintained by your title company. Even in this day of digitization and computers, property records can still take the form of index cards, punch cards, or tract books. That is why you need an expert who can determine a chain of title in whatever format or media that lists it.
- Tax Search —Protects you, the buyer against loss from unpaid and past due taxes and assessments incurred by the seller.
- Report on Possession — We often send inspectors to look at the property to verify the lot size, check the location of improvements, look for evidence of easements that are not shown of record and check on who is living there.
This on-site report can detect an unrecorded easement or other evidence of outstanding rights not documented in the seller’s title that could possibly affect the value and intended use of the property.
- Judgment and Name Search — One of the most important parts of the title search is to determine if there are any unsatisfied judgments (a general lien against the property for unpaid debts) against the seller or previous owners. The property can be sold to satisfy the judgment if the lien is not otherwise settled.
It is extremely important to be sure that a title is not subject to judgments against the seller or previous owners.
A judgment against a person named Smith may affect the title of a seller named Smith, depending on whether or not they are the same person. So all possible variations of the name must be examined. Easy, you may think. Consider that Smith might be spelled Schmidt, Schmid, Schmidtt, Schmidz, Schmied, Schmiedt, Smid, Smythe, to name just a few variations. First names have to be checked, too. There are 25 foreign forms of John, including Johann, Jehan, Hans, Shaun, Gudi, and Efom.
- Commitment — When these searches have been completed, your title company issues a commitment to insure, stating the conditions under which it will insure the title. The buyer and seller and the mortgage lender can proceed with the closing of the transaction after clearing up any defects in the title that may have been uncovered by the search and examination.