It may not be a term you’re familiar with but it’s a critical part to the successful ownership of your new home!
What is a Property Title Search?
The property title must be clean for ownership to change hands. That’s the whole purpose of the search, to confirm that the current owner does own the property and there are no claims on the property.
How Does a Property Title Search Work?
At Lilly Title & Settlement, once we’ve received a title request, we order a title exam.
We research public records at the courthouse and the clerk’s office. For example, we search deeds, tax liens, court judgments, and land records, to name a few, to confirm the current owner’s legal ownership of the property.
Then we review the information and write a title binder. This document is the one that is sent to the lender.
If there are any liens on the property, defects, title issues, unpaid real estate taxes or payoffs to be made on the property, we work to get those resolved immediately.
A Clean Property Title vs. A Dirty Property Title
Erroneous surveys, unresolved building code violations, or the misspelling or misapplied information by the filing clerk are all further examples of a dirty title.
How long Does It Take to Complete a Property Title Search?
If the search requires us to obtain legal records from multiple sources, that can increase the time it takes if an office is slow to respond.
Once we’ve submitted the title binder to either the lender or the attorney, it can take as little as a few hours or as much as a few weeks to thoroughly review it for any outstanding legal claims.
Typically, though, most property title searches take between 1-2 weeks. Newer homes will have fewer documents to research than an older home.
What A Property Title Search Can’t Protect From
If any encumbrances are found, those must be cleared before ownership can be transferred. According to Bankrate, one in three real estate title searches finds a title defect that must be resolved before the new owner can take possession of the new property.
But a title search cannot protect you from hidden defects. For example, spousal claims, fraud, undisclosed heirs, forgery, lost wills, adverse possession, and illegal trusts, to name a few.
It’s for that very reason that lenders require the buyer to purchase lender’s title insurance. Lenders want to protect their investment, not yours.
Why? Because even the most thorough property title search cannot find these defects because they do not appear in legal records.
Is it any wonder lenders want further protection?
For the buyer, homeowners title insurance is an optional purchase. If it is not purchased and there is a problem with the title, the buyer has very few legal recourses.
A one-time purchase that lasts for as long as you own the home, homeowner’s title insurance is like car insurance—you hope you never need it.
A property title search is a critical part to ensuring the successful transfer of home ownership. It ensures that the title is clear.
However, a title search cannot protect you from what isn’t recorded. That’s why we always encourage buyers to get complete peace of mind and purchase homeowner’s title insurance.
When you’re ready to close on your new home, turn to Lilly Title & Settlement. We’re a woman-owned title and settlement company in Staunton, VA. We’ll quickly and efficiently close on your property. And we’re easy to work with!