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What's the big deal with title searches? Are they really needed?

Once you choose a home and the seller accepts your offer, you may get anxious to get through the process as quickly as possible. Your primary focus may be on paint colors, curtains and starting a new life in a new home.

However, you must go through several steps before taking possession of the property and obtaining the keys to your new home. One of those steps involves a title search. You may wonder why it matters who owned the property 50 or 100 years ago and become impatient with the process. Well, that title search could reveal problems that may keep you from actually fully owning the property.

Title issues come from a variety of sources

The sources of title issues vary widely, but the following represent some of the most common title problems:

  • Deeds signed by minors, immigrants who entered the country illegally and people of unsound mind invalidate those deeds, which could affect your right to own the property.
  • If a deceased owner's will turns up after the state allowed the sale of the property, heirs could make a claim to the property. In addition, if a previously unknown heir of a prior, and deceased, owner arises, he or she could also make a claim on the property.
  • If any of the title documents turn out to be forgeries, it could disrupt the chain of title, which could mean you don't own the property or the seller may not have legal authority to sell the property.
  • Even something as simple as a typographical, clerical or filing error could put your ownership rights in jeopardy.
  • The title search may reveal prior liens that remain on the property. These liens could include tax liens, mechanics' liens or judgment liens, along with mortgage liens. In any case, someone must deal with them before you can take possession of the property.
  • The legal description of the property may be incorrect. This could result in disputes regarding the boundaries of your property. You may think you purchased a property of a particular size and composition, but your neighbor may disagree, and an inadequate, insufficient or incorrect legal description may be responsible for the error.
  • The title search may reveal easements that allow someone else to use a portion of your property. In some cases, this won't be an issue, but if an easement interferes with your use of the property, it could present a problem.

As you can see, a title search represents a crucial part of your real estate transaction. Any discrepancies found require your attention and resolution before you complete the transaction and attempt to take possession of the property. It could turn out that you may not really own it otherwise.

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