FAQ: What Is A Title Report?

Key Takeaways

  • No home purchase is complete without receiving a title report that properly identifies the home’s current owner.
  • It is in your best interest to know everything you can about the property title before closing on a deal.
  • What is a title report? Quite simply, it’s one of the easiest things you can do to avoid making a huge mistake.

Of all the things that have been deemed “important” to real estate investors and home buyers over the course of a transaction, none may carry more weight than the title report. At the very least, the title report is specifically designed to disclose a property’s most important information: everything from the rightful owner and vesting interests in the property to the minute details of liens, encroachments, or easements. It is safe to say the information contained in a property’s respective title report isn’t only important to familiarize yourself with, but also necessary.

Title reports are, after all, the best and most efficient way to ensure a property is free of defects — legally, defects refer to “anything attached to the land, such as another person’s rights, that could affect how you use the land or decrease its value,” according to Rocket Lawyer. The last thing you need to worry about buying a home is whether or not you are the rightful owner. That said, do yourself a favor and get a title report before you close on a deal; it could be the smartest decision you make.

How To Get A Title Report For A Property

It is entirely possible to get a title report for the property you intend to buy on your own. However, title reports are a complicated matter, and those that aren’t well versed in the lingo offered in each report may as well be reading another language. If you are confident in your ability to read a title report, there are two things you can do to glean more information on the property in question: visit the property’s local courthouse or County Assessor.

Courthouses contain a wealth of information on local properties, not the least of which includes chains of title and deed information. That means there’s a good chance your property’s information can be found a few blocks away, if you know what to look for. Better yet, this type of title search is free.

In addition to the courthouse, the County Assessor could have what you are looking for — for free, nonetheless. Most states now have additional tools available for free property title searches, and there’s a good chance it is stored at the County Assessor’s office. Just know this: the information isn’t always complete, so take what you glean with a grain of salt.

While it’s easy to take the free route, I don’t recommend doing so unless you are completely confident in your ability to decipher records without error. While visiting your courthouse and Assessor can net you some great information, these methods are only reserved for professionals. For those of you that are, well, less versed in conducting title searches, I recommend working with a professional.

If you don’t know how to get a title report for a property you are interested in buying, I highly recommend hiring a title officer. As the name would lead you to believe, a title officer is someone that has been professionally trained to identify the defects of a home — again, defects are those discrepancies that could call into question a home’s true owner. Otherwise known as a title agent, title officers are responsible for confirming whether or not a piece of real estate is, in fact, legitimate and that there are no issues with its title. In doing so, title agents will investigate the status of a property over the course of an impending real estate transaction, ensuring the buyer of exactly what they are dealing with. That way, buyers can commit without the threat of ownership issues creeping up in the future.

How to get a title report

How To Order A Title Report

Ordering a title report is as simple as enlisting the services of a title company to perform a title search. There are plenty of reputable title companies ready and willing to perform a title search on any particular property. Simply look under “title search” in the Yellow Pages or type a similar search online. Either way, it should be relatively simple to find a trustworthy company willing to investigate the title of a property in question.

If you would rather not hire a company and, instead, do the title search yourself, simply take a trip to your County Assessor’s office or courthouse. At these locations you can find a great deal of information on the property. It is worth, noting, however, that their records may not always be complete.

As I already alluded to before, performing your own title search carries massive implications. I recommend leaving this particular task up to a professional.

Who Provides The Preliminary Title Report?

According to Redfin, “an attorney or title company will review the home’s title to look for any problems that might prevent the home from being legally sold.” The results of their findings are, therefore, written up in the form of a preliminary title report and given to the impending buyer.

Title reports, as their names suggest, represent an official documentation of a home’s history of ownership. In other words, a title report is a fancy way of identifying a home’s previous owners. A complete report will document a lot more things than previous owners —  liens, encroachments, and easements, just to name a few.

Preliminary title reports are usually given to buyers within a few days of reaching an agreement with the seller to buy the property

How To Run A Title Search

Again, the easiest and safest way to run a proper title search is to enlist the services of a title company. The title company will assign a title officer to anyone that inquires about a property, and it’s their job to investigate the status of a home. In other words, title officers will do all the work for you if you hire them. It is worth noting, however, that you can conduct your own title search.

If you are inclined to conduct your own title search, the first thing you will want to do is head down to the closest courthouse, or the one you have identified to be holding the subject property’s title documents. Once there, ask the clerk which direction the title information is stored (navigating some courthouses can be confusing and time-consuming, so don’t be afraid to ask for direction). Once you have found your way to the area of the courthouse holding the title information, you will either have to request the info on a specific property from another clerk, or you may have to go through the different papers by hand (each location will have different procedures). At this point, you will want to pay special considerations to anything and everything regarding past ownership. In particular, take diligent notes on past transfers of title, and anything that may look questionable. While time consuming, this method is completely free.

After visiting the local courthouse, plan a trip to the County Assessor’s office. Otherwise known as the County Clerk, a County Assessor could have additional tools for uncovering chains of title and deed information.

It is entirely possible that the information you come across at the courthouse or Assessor’s office is incomplete, which is why I always recommend hiring a title officer. That way, you can be certain that you have all the information you need to move forward. What’s more, working with a title officer will also award you the opportunity to acquire title insurance.

Property title

How Long Does Title Work Take?

The amount of time it takes to gather information to put together a title report is entirely dependent on the person gathering the information. More often than not, an attorney or title officer can get the information to a buyer a few days after they have come to an agreement with a seller. However, inexperienced buyers could take much longer to gather the information they need if they decide to neglect the services of a professional.

How Much Does Title Work Cost?

The cost of a title search isn’t all that expensive, especially when you consider the cost of everything else over the course of a real estate transaction. Nonetheless, a title search can run somewhere in the neighborhood of $100, according to FinancialWeb. It is worth noting, however, that the title search typically comes with title insurance. As its name suggests, title insurance will insure the results of the title search. “If any claim is brought against the property as a result of a pre-existing problem with the title, title insurance can cover the expense,” according to Financial Web. Not surprisingly, title insurance will come at an additional cost. According to the Federal Reserve, “a lender’s policy on a $100,000 loan can range from $175 in one state to $900 in another.”

Who Pays The Preliminary Title Report?

The cost of the preliminary title report is typically included in the closing costs of a deal. As a result, the buyer is typically expected to pay the fee for the title report. There are, of course, exceptions, and just about everything can be negotiated, but for the sake of this article, buyers are going to be expected to pay the closing costs (which will include the title search/report).

Common Property Title Problems When Buying A House

A number of issues have the potential to show up on a title report, but some of the most common are those outlined below:

  • Liens: A lien is a legal claim of ownership listed on the title of a home. It is worth noting that anyone owed money by a homeowner can file a lien on a home, not excluding utility companies, contractors and tax departments.
  • Easements: Easements represent another person’s right to use the land for a specific purpose. While not as common as liens, and may not eve prevent a property from selling, you must keep an eye out for easements.
  • Encroachments: As the term suggests, encroachments identify pieces of property that encroach on other people’s land. That means the property you are looking to buy might encroach on another person’s land, or vice versa. Either way, a title report will bring these issues to light.

Have you ever had any issues with a title report? Better yet, do you have any suggestions for your fellow readers? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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