Many of our clients deal with property titles on a daily basis, and they may have a vague idea of what’s involved in the process, but they don’t know the finer details because they’ve never had to conduct a title search themselves. If you’ve ever wondered, “How does a title search work?” keep reading to understand more about the process and why title search services are so important.
The Title Search Process
A title search isn’t anything like a Google search – you can’t input an address into a search box and pull up all the information you need. There are multiple steps involved, and often more than one person performing the work. (Here’s how to search for a title searcher.)
Here’s what happens when you order a title search:
Checking Tax Assessor Records
The tax assessor’s records provide crucial information, such as the property’s current and past deeds. These records are held at the tax assessor’s office in the county or city where the property is located. For some locales, this information is now available online, but it’s also common to have to call and request the records needed for a title search, and sometimes a title searcher needs to visit the tax assessor’s office. Pippin Title has a nationwide network of title searchers for those times when records must be retrieved in person.
Like tax assessor records, some deeds are available online these days, but we may need to contact the deed recorder’s office for instructions. There is sometimes a charge to access deed information, or the service may be free. The current deed, which should include the name of the individual or organization that currently owns the property, is the first deed we look for. This deed will reference the previous deed, which will reference the prior deed, and so on. It’s recommended that you find all of the deeds for a property’s entire existence, if possible, so it’s important to know the title searcher you hire is thorough.
Looking for Gaps in Ownership
With all the deeds in hand, a title searcher will examine them to ensure that the prior owner on each deed matches the previous deed and that there are no gaps or periods of time when ownership is unknown. Any interruptions in the chain of ownership can lead to the property not being free and clear, which opens up the possibility of claims on the property.
Checking Tax History
Next, we circle back to the tax assessor’s records to find information about the property’s tax history. Is there a lien on the property due to unpaid taxes? Even if the current owner doesn’t owe these taxes, it could allow the state or county to seize and sell the property to pay the outstanding taxes owed by the previous owner.
Looking for Judgment Liens
If the current owner owes a debt, a judgment lien can be imposed on the property; this means the property in question can be used as collateral. Even if the present owner did not incur the debt, the judgment lien is against the property, not the owner, and the judgment stands regardless of the current owner, which is why these records must be found before a transaction moves forward.
Finding a Title Search Company
As you can see, there’s a lot involved in a title search, but at Pippin Title, we do all the legwork for you. An innovator by nature, our founder wanted to find a better way to perform title searches and thanks to a combination of proprietary technology and a robust network of on-the-ground title searchers, we’re now able to offer that to our customers. (Read more about how technology improves title search.)