How do I perform a title search on a property before investing?

Learn how to perform a title search on a property before investing. Understand the title search process, potential issues, and the importance of due diligence in real estate investments.

Conducting a Property Title Search: Due Diligence for Investors.

Performing a title search on a property is a critical step in real estate investing to ensure that the property has a clear and marketable title, free from any encumbrances or legal issues. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to perform a title search:

  1. Start with the County Clerk or Recorder's Office:

    • Visit the county clerk or recorder's office in the jurisdiction where the property is located. In some areas, you may be able to access records online.
  2. Request a Property Record or Title Search:

    • Ask for assistance in conducting a property record or title search. Some offices may have dedicated staff or online search tools to help you access records.
  3. Gather Property Information:

    • Provide the property's address or legal description to the clerk or use this information in the online search tool to locate the property's records.
  4. Examine Deeds and Chain of Title:

    • Review the deeds associated with the property. Start with the most recent deed and work backward. Look for a clear and unbroken "chain of title" that traces ownership from the current owner back to the original grantor.
  5. Check for Liens and Encumbrances:

    • Examine the records for any outstanding liens, mortgages, or encumbrances on the property. Liens can include tax liens, mechanic's liens, or judgments against the property owner.
  6. Verify Ownership and Legal Description:

    • Ensure that the property's legal description matches what you expect. Confirm that the person selling the property is the legal owner and has the authority to do so.
  7. Look for Easements and Restrictions:

    • Check for any easements, restrictions, or covenants that may affect how you can use the property. These may include utility easements, homeowners' association restrictions, or zoning regulations.
  8. Review Past Sales and Transfers:

    • Investigate past sales and transfers of the property to identify any irregularities or disputes related to ownership.
  9. Search for Unpaid Taxes:

    • Verify that property taxes are up to date. Outstanding property taxes can lead to tax liens and potential issues with ownership.
  10. Check for Title Insurance Policies:

    • Review the records for any existing title insurance policies. Title insurance helps protect buyers from title defects or claims.
  11. Request a Title Report:

    • Consider requesting a title report from a title company or a professional title search service. Title reports often provide a comprehensive overview of the property's title history and any potential issues.
  12. Consult with a Title Professional:

    • If you are unsure about any aspect of the title search or encounter complex issues, consult with a title professional or real estate attorney for guidance.
  13. Ensure Title Insurance:

    • When purchasing a property, it's advisable to obtain title insurance to protect your investment. Title insurance policies help safeguard against undiscovered title defects and provide peace of mind.

Performing a thorough title search is crucial to uncover any potential title issues that could affect your real estate investment. A clear title ensures that you have legal ownership of the property and minimizes the risk of disputes or complications in the future.