It may seem like there are a million steps to the closing process when buying or
selling a home. A title search is just one of the many stages and title problems
may account for almost 10% of closing delays. As a seller, doing a preliminary title
search can help avoid costly delays at the end. So, what is a title search and what
does it disclose?
In the simplest form, a title search identifies who owns the property. This may
obvious, but surprisingly, sometimes the party selling the home may not actually
have the legal right to do so, at least on paper. For example, in the case of a
married couple, the property might be in only one spouse’s name. Another
example would be a property held in trust or probate; it could take some
paperwork to correct title to allow a sale.
A title search also uncovers any existing liens on the property. This would include
any current mortgages and may find old debt or unreleased loans. Items which
must be paid off or removed prior to sale. Finally, a title search will list any deed
restrictions, such as easements or property restrictions.
If the title search does find any issues, the seller will need to remove them before
the closing can occur. Once the sale is closed, title insurance ensures the new
owner against any title issues that were not discovered during the search.
No one wants unexpected delays during closing. A seller can help mitigate title
issues by running a preliminary title search at the time of listing. This gives them
plenty of time to address any outstanding title issues before it costs buyer and
seller valuable time in delays.